How to spend the day in Osaka, Japan

From visiting one of the country's most recognisable landmarks to sipping a Japanese brew, here's what not to miss in this metropolis.

photographs by Ben Weller
Published 11 Oct 2020, 08:00 BST, Updated 10 Aug 2021, 16:27 BST
Osaka Castle, originally commissioned by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583.

Osaka Castle, originally commissioned by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583.

Photograph by Ben Weller

9am: Breakfast at Endo Sushi

Sushi for breakfast may seem an odd choice for some, but you’ll be glad you did it. Set on the grounds of the Osaka Central Fish Market, you won’t get cuts any fresher than those served up at this legendary establishment. Endo Sushi has been in business for over a century, and specialises in five-piece plates called maze that feature seasonal selections. Open: 6am-2pm. 

11am: Visit Osaka castle

Commissioned by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583, the moat-enclosed, five-storey castle is one of Japan’s most recognisable landmarks. For a modest 600-yen entry fee (£4.40), you get a terrific view of the park and surrounding city. And if heights aren’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with a stroll around the expansive castle grounds. 

1pm: Lunch at Kuromon Ichiba Market

Nicknamed ‘Osaka’s kitchen’ due to its popularity with local chefs, this covered market comprises hundreds of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meats, dried fish, pickles and sweets, along with a staggering variety of fresh seafood. And with over 25 dining outlets to choose from, you can sit down for a single meal, or just happily graze on the move. 

Dining on noodles in Kuromon Ichiba Market, also known as 'Osaka's Kitchen' thanks to its abundance of produce.

Photograph by Ben Weller

3pm: Cruise the Dotonbori Canal

This waterway cuts through the heart of Osaka’s Dotonbori tourist district, a sightseeing hub best enjoyed by boat. Lined by colourful signs, the canal encapsulates Japan in minature; an exercise in both serenity and neon stimulation. Departing from the dock next to Tazaemon-bashi Bridge, the 20-minute cruise is a terrific way to soak up the vivid scene that is central Osaka. 

4pm: Sip a pint at Kamikaze

The first thing that hits you when you walk through the door of Kamikaze Craft Beer Works is the decor: the exposed concrete walls, stainless steel tap cooler, subdued lighting and gleaming wooden bar. But the real star of the show are the 22 beers on tap. While the emphasis is on Japanese brews, international selections are also well-represented, making this the perfect place to spend an afternoon sampling some of Osaka’s best hoppy concoctions.

6pm: Catch a ball game at the Osaka dome

Baseball in Osaka is more than just a game: it’s an often raucous party of fight songs, cheerleaders, dried squid, and rivers of draft beer served from backpacks. Local team the Orix Buffaloes have some of the league’s most fervent fans, and you’ll find it hard not to get swept up in the action as they leap to their feet to cheer on their hometown heroes. Win or lose, a ballgame in Osaka is a terrific way to witness first-hand the warm, raw spirit of the town. 

9pm: Rock out at TNT Craft Beer Pub

Just a stone’s throw from the Osaka Dome, this bastion of punk Americana was hand-built by co-owner Jesse Theriot. The result is a friendly little wooden pub that oozes rock ’n’ roll charm. Another bonus is that TNT doesn’t charge a table fee, unlike most of the other bars in the Taicho neighbourhood. It offers up nine craft beers on tap; Jesse won’t hesitate to explain the finer points of each while punk anthems blast from the speakers. 

11pm: Nightcap at Bar Shinka

Located at the end of a residential alley in Chuo Ward, this compact little bar is a steampunk vision come to life. It’s fitted out in actual 1930s submarine parts, including vintage rivets, gauges, meters, circular hatches, tubes and ducts. Savour a late-night cocktail, or sample a shochu (a Japanese, vodka-like drink) on the rocks in the dimly lit, nautically themed, metallic splendour of one of Osaka’s most unique nightlife experiences. The place is tricky to find, but the interiors alone are well worth the effort.

Published in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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