If you love “big-city” flash with a plethora of authentic street food choices and plenty of people watching opportunities, then you’ll love Osaka, Japan. Guaranteed.
To make sure you don’t miss out on any highlights, here is my itinerary recommendation.
The first two days, I explored Dōtombori, the entertainment area famous for its neon signs. I also strolled different streets back to the hotel to discover new surroundings, because I arrived on the weekend and didn’t want to fight the crowds while sightseeing. Plus, after a 20-hour flight on @british_airways from Washington Dulles to Osaka, I wanted to explore the city at a leisurely pace.
Funny thing: As I was updating my tour on Instagram, some followers thought I was in Europe. But in actuality, I was walking around Chūō-ku, Osaka. I shared a florist storefront image and my audience thought I was in France or Italy when I was in Dōtombori. Maybe it was the beautiful flowers.
Osaka is a very cosmopolitan city, and it was lovely to see western-style architecture infused in the neighborhood. I also saw western fashion as well, but that is another article for another time.
Day 1 Tour
Laying claim as one of the oldest shrines in Japan, Sumiyoshi Taisha in southern Osaka dates back to 211 AD. I wanted to take the tour before the rain, except I got on the express train which does not stop at Sumiyoshitaisha Station. Please check before hopping on. ッ Luckily no rain came as forecasted. Also, make sure to pack insect repellent. Bugs love Japan, and I encountered a friendly mosquito, or two.
There are incredible photo ops as the shrine architecture is quite grand while the vibe and setting are tranquil. There were about 50 people in the entire place.
Tip: When is the best time to tour Sumiyoshi Taisha?
Tour this shrine during weekdays to have the place to yourself.
Day 2 Tour
No doubt that Tsurumi-ryokuchi Park was a highlight for me. I was hoping to catch Holland in Japan, but they were just planting the tulips when I visited. If in Osaka, you may catch the 🌷 bloom in June.
Tsurumi-ryokuchi Park is located at the site of The International Garden and Greenery Exposition 1990, a world exhibition that featured the beauty of flowers. The site was turned into a memorial park which was designed to have flowers in bloom in every season.
If you love flowers like I do, you will want to stroll through this lovely garden. Eighty-three countries participated in the Greenery Exposition. My favorite garden is located at Republic Austria. Make sure to visit early in the a.m. as it gets hotter later in the day. I spent two hours here, but you could probably spend an extra hour or more. It was a bit warm and humid by 1 p.m. as I ended my tour.
Truthfully, the facilities are a bit run down and there is no A/C in the restaurant area, otherwise I could have spent an entire day at this enchanting place. I wish I had walked completely around this gorgeous park. Spent two hours here taking many photos. After a while, however, you hit your saturation point of being a touristッ.
The Tsurumi-ryokuchi Park garden is not to be missed! Love the tranquility and gardens, and there are many great photo ops. The train station to get off is called Tsurumi-ryokuchi. (Easy, right?)
Where is the best garden in Osaka and best time to go?
Go to Tsurumi-ryokuchi Park garden early in the morning for cooler weather.
Day 3 Tour
Osaka Castle is a Japanese castle in Chūō-ku, Osaka. The castle is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. I saw this on my last visit but did not have the opportunity to tour the tower.
Good to know tip: Where to find the best Instagram spot at Osaka Castle?
For unique photo angles, go to the top floor to scout out a favored composition. I saw a pond that would complement the architecture. However, there was a champagne stand on my way… so this is just a perfect view for me. Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Day 4 Tour
I finally made it to Fushimi Inari Taisha on my third visit to Japan. You may not know the name of this iconic location, but I’m sure you’ve seen pictures. This Shinto Shrine is in southern Kyoto and known for its more than 5,000 orange torii gates lining a path in the hills.
Here’s a picture of kimono-clad me on under some of the tori gates. Isn’t this a brilliant mix of colors?
Rent a kimono for your fun stroll through Fushimi Inari Taisha. Here are some tips on renting and wearing a kimono: Kyoto, kimono, and Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine – Here’s a How-To
Where to eat in Oaska?
Even after a week in Osaka, I thoroughly enjoyed Japanese cuisine. I appreciate the artistry and love that is presented in the food. I loved the convenience of picking up food at the Takashimaya Department store, as it reminds me of Harrod’s in London.
After 5 p.m., the vendors put their food on sale to get rid of the inventory for the day. You can find great deals at the market. The food is beautifully gift wrapped as if you are attending an afternoon tea. You really can’t have a bad dish if you love Asian food. I get the sense that customers are quite particular, and your business will not survive without excellence in service and taste. Yes, of course, most businesses won’t survive with inferior products, but the caliber of Japanese food sets a new and high standard when it comes to freshness and presentation.
Additionally, there is great Italian food with local chefs, and I ate at this incredibly authentic Italian restaurant, Vinoteca (the chef was from Birindissi, Italy). I also ate at this one Italian restaurant run by Japanese owners. I ordered a Ham Carbonara dish and as I was stirring up my plate, I found an egg buried within. I stirred it up and the heat from the plate cooked the egg. I didn’t think it was odd as I normally add an egg when I order ramen noodles. It was super delicious, and I will ask for the extra egg on my next Ham Carbonara entrée.
I picked up a BLT sandwich at the Osaka Hard Rock Cafe. I thoroughly enjoyed it because I guess you do gravitate back to your roots. I mention this because some followers had questions about food choices besides the local cuisine. There are also plenty of street vendors for sampling. I felt this area had some of the cleanest street vendors out of all my travels. I could really relish the local flavor. FYI: Because I don’t consume raw fish nor eat a lot of meat, I was a bit more of a particular eater than on most other trips.
Speaking of a taste of some good ol’ Western food, what comfort-food staples do you miss when you travel?
Osaka is a must
According to the United Nations, the population of Japan is 126,878,802 as of June 4, 2019. Most of the population is urban (94.1 percent) and the median age is 46.7 years. Though not as well-known as its big sister Tokyo, Osaka is Japan’s must-see destination. It’s the perfect blend of Old Japan Serenity and Modern Japan Technology. The scenery is beautiful, the history lesson is long and rich, the food is divine, and the arts are alive and well.
I opted to spend my last day shopping and people watching instead of cramming in another tour. It was a great and healthy balance. In previous trips to Japan, each day was packed with a tour or two. But yet, this Osaka trip provided the most content and contentment. Funny how less can be more.
I hope my itinerary and excursion tips will benefit you.
Thank you @british_airways for my best visit yet to Osaka, Japan with you.