Go beyond Tokyo to its cool laid-back cousin, Osaka. Here’s where to eat, explore, and drink.
For travelers to Japan, Tokyo no doubt gets all the hype. But in-the-know voyagers who are savvy enough to leave the glamorous Tokyo skyscrapers behind and trade them in for a more laid-back vibe? They head straight to Osaka. There, they’ll find winding alleys full of hip bars and restaurants with endless treats to sample in one of the best food scenes in Japan.
If you are traveling to Japan for cherry blossom season or the Olympics, or just stopping over on your way to Southeast Asia, make sure to stop for at least a weekend in Osaka and sample the many excellent things to do in Osaka.
And take note that even if you are just stopping over for a day, most train and bus stations in Japan have baggage lockers. Store your large duffel there and you can get away with just a backpack or crossbody bag while you tour around the streets of Osaka.
What to Eat in Osaka’s Foodie Paradise
Osaka is no doubt a foodie’s paradise, so you will have no shortage of options. From street stalls, to alleyway-hidden gems, to Michelin-starred restaurants, you can find delicious options to suit every taste and budget. Below are a few must-try Japanese dishes when you’re in Osaka.
Takoyaki: One of the most popular snacks for foodies in Osaka is takoyaki, which are fried balls of dough and octopus. Even though it might not sound that appetizing, it’s actually delicious and usually topped with a tasty sauce. Sample this snack from a street vendor or at the famous Self Takoyaki Bar IDUCO, where you can learn to make your own.
Okonomiyaki: When in Osaka, another must try food is okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake that you can grill yourself. There are tons of restaurants in Osaka with endless combinations of ingredients to try. One budget-friendly option near Dotonbori is Mitsuno, which has been making this special dish for more than 70 years. You can even sample a special version here made from yam.
Kushikatsu: As you tour around Osaka, be on the lookout for restaurants and stands specializing in kushikatsu, or fried skewers of vegetables and meat. This delicacy is a specialty food in Osaka, and you may come across versions that include pork, octopus, shrimp, eggplant, or onion. Dip it in the specialty sauce—but only dip once. More than that is forbidden.
Where to Drink in Osaka
Drinking culture is alive and well in Osaka. Whatever your style, you are sure to have a good time. You can spend your nights sampling some of the world’s finest high-end cocktails, or find alleyways full of Izakaya stands with beer for business and budget travelers.
Tachinomi Bars: A unique option if you are looking for a bar crawl is to head to the Tenma neighborhood and look for tachinomi, or standing bars. You can identify them because you’ll just a few stools outside. Have a drink (these usually offer cheaper options than high-end spots) before moving on to the next stop.
Kita Ward: If you’re heading into Osaka via JR rail, you won’t need to venture too far to find dozens of alleyways with funky and delicious sips and bites.
Hana Sake Bar: Sample different types of sake at this friendly bar. You can order a flight of sake or try Japanese whiskey here.
Take note that Japan is also an extremely safe country, but if you are going out drinking at night in Osaka, be sure to stay safe and hydrate.
Things to Do in Osaka
Dotonbori District: You can find endless entertainment here, in what feels like the “Times Square” of Japan. Follow the bright billboards and stroll along the canal, take in the skyscrapers from a ferris wheel, and enjoy the nightlife until the late hours.
Beyond Dotonbori District, you might visit Osaka Castle, but note that it’s the food and drink that bring most travelers to Osaka, so come hungry and you’ll leave happy and ready to set out to explore Japan’s stunning nature .
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
6 Ways to Explore Tokyo Like a Local
Why Hokkaido is Japan's Most Exciting Destination Right Now
By Jane Chertoff on February 25, 2020
Jane Chertoff is a freelance lifestyle writer who enjoys traveling and exploring with her Chihuahua, Cesar. Follow her adventures on Instagram.