Osaka is one of Japan’s biggest cities and most popular locations for visitors. In fact Osaka is giving the expansive Tokyo a run for its money as tourists are attracted to its proximity to World Heritage sites and an addictive food scene.
This guide to Osaka is aimed to give you everything you need to know to tackle this exciting city. Everything from weather, language and popular sites is covered below. And to allow a more in-depth look at topics such as transport, we’ve got additional guides linked below.
Let’s explore Osaka!
What is the currency in Osaka, Japan?
The yen. ¥
Paper money starts at ¥1000 and the coins go as low as a single yen. ¥100 coins are useful is you’re a fan of gachapon and arcade machines. They’re good for vending machines too but the smaller change can add up quickly so keep spending if you want to avoid bags of change!
Currency converter tip – ¥100 is roughly $1 If the US dollar is your home currency or just something you’re familiar with, you’ll find might yourself referring to prices in dollars to make it easier.
Japan is a “cash based society” which means that you’re not always guaranteed to be able to pay by credit or debit card. Taking cash out with you is an essential.
What language do people in Osaka speak?
A common question regarding Japan is “How much English is spoken in Japan?” or “Do I need to learn Japanese before I go?”
The answer to this is a little complex. While you should never let fear of a language barrier stop you from seeing the world, there are some things you may wish to know before you go.
What’s the weather like in Osaka?
Osaka is in the southern half of Japan where the summers can be very hot and the winters are fairly mild. There can be snow in the winter but if there is any it tends to be minimal.
Something to look out for is the potential for rain. Don’t let this stop you from enjoying the city though. Either pack some waterproofs or visit a conbini for a cheap umbrella if you wake up to a wet day.
When is the best time to visit Osaka?
Spring and Autumn are typically the best times to visit. The weather is pleasant in spring and if you’re lucky you might get to see the cherry blossoms. Cherry trees line the river and during cherry blossom season there are street food stalls and celebrations.
Autumn has equally nice weather and if you’re not a fan of crowds you might find it preferable to the spring. The autumn isn’t missing out on attractive sites either as leaves turn fabulous shades of orange, yellow and brown.
Transport. How to get to, from and around Osaka
How to get to Osaka
Most major international flights land in Tokyo, but more routes are being added to Osaka all the time due to its growing popularity. So it’s worth a look if you’re going to Osaka first or not going to Tokyo at all.
There are two airports, Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka International Airport (ITM). Osaka International is a bit closer to the centre but in terms of travel time to the city they’re pretty similar.
Trains and Shinkansen (Bullet Trains)
Unless you’re touring Japan’s smaller towns and countryside, you’re probably going to be getting the Shinkansen from another major city like Tokyo or Hiroshima.
The Tokyo to Osaka Shinkansen takes a couple of hours and is definitely the best (though not cheapest) way to travel between the 2 cities. Shinkansen’s are comfortable, quiet and quick. The journey between Tokyo and Osaka even has a view of Mt. Fuji (weather permitting).
What to do, where to stay and what to eat in Osaka
Osaka is a city with a great vibe and a large amount of variety in its districts. There’s the financial district that feels like its been lifted from Tokyo, there’s Dotonbori with its huge amount of street food and izakayas. The aquarium (ADD LOCATION) is like a mini seaside resort and speaking of the seaside, totenkatu Tower feels like a piece of Blackpool’s past.
Add to these a winding river, beautiful parks and a number of Shinto shrines and Osaka is a city that really does have everything.
As this is supposed to be an “essential guide to Osaka” rather than an entire book, let’s cover the top attractions of the city.