Seven Reasons to Add Osaka to the Bucket List

Osaka, Japan

Arguably Japan’s most vibrant city, Osaka is now taking its rightful place on the global traveller’s bucket list. Here, explorers will find a thrilling zest for life, fuelled by a passion for food and a legacy of commerce. Think of it as the Japanese version of joie de vivre!

While Osaka remains wonderfully authentic, it has a distinctly cosmopolitan buzz, owing to the enterprising merchants who made it their home. Starting in the seventh century, the port city’s flourishing trade transformed it into western Japan’s hub of commerce and culture. Osaka’s proximity to Kyoto — just 20 minutes by high-speed train — makes it the ideal base to explore the region’s diverse sights.

Discover Osaka’s top seven attractions, curated by the Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Osaka. Embodying an exciting new expression of Osaka, the Hotel also offers personalized itineraries for guests and a selection of private tours led by destination experts.

1. Osaka Castle Park — iconic in all four seasons

This bona fide Japanese castle, complete with a fortress, moat and stone walls, forms the beating cultural heart of Osaka. Dating back to the 16th century, Osaka Castle was the largest castle in Japan during its heyday and played a key role in the country’s unification.

The striking tower is surrounded by lush grounds, alive with colour in every season — from the cherry and plum blossoms of springtime to the fiery foliage of autumn. Take a leisurely boat ride through the moat and unwind in local style with a gourmet picnic basket from Four Seasons Hotel Osaka.

2. Kitchen of the Nation — food, food everywhere!

It’s easy to see why Osaka is often called the ultimate culinary destination in Japan. Proudly wearing the title of “Nation’s Kitchen” since the 17th century, the city offers a diverse array of food experiences, from fine dining to street food. Savour a smorgasbord of flavours across 85 Michelin starred restaurants, atmospheric local eateries and on-the-go market vendors.

Osaka has its own distinctive culinary culture, shaped over centuries by its trade links with lands near and far. Be sure to sample local staples such as takoyaki (battered octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), and kitsune udon (doughy udon in a light dashi broth).

3. Osaka Bay Area — a playground for families

The Osaka Bay area offers exciting adventures for parents and kids alike. Head to Universal Studios Japan, a sprawling theme park similar to its American counterparts, for a fun-filled day. Discover a wide variety of themed areas, including Jurassic Park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Super Nintendo World.

At the Tempozan amusement complex, families can visit Osaka Aquarium, showcasing 30,000 marine creatures, and Legoland Discovery Centre, a world of creativity and colour. View-seekers will love a ride on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel: ascend 112 metres (370 feet) into the sky for breathtaking views of Osaka and beyond.

4. Dojima — local life and culture

The neighbourhood of Dojima, where Four Seasons is located, offers a charming window into the local rhythms of life. Brimming with character and community, the streets are dotted with cosy cafes, hidden bars and scenic waterways, tucked away from the hustle and bustle just beyond.

Dojima is also home to intriguing historical sites, including the old Dojima Rice Exchange (the world's first commodity futures exchange) and the Dojima Yakushido Temple (a 1400-year-old shrine with an ultra-modern “disco ball” exterior). Learn how deeply Osaka’s heritage is ingrained in its modern identity with a private tour of Dojima, arranged by the Concierge team.

5. Art Scene — hidden gems

For visitors returning to Osaka, the city still has plenty of secrets up its sleeve. Head over to nearby Nakanoshima, a thriving art district with independent galleries and art museums, as well as a beautiful rose garden on the river.

The creatively inclined can also enjoy a day trip to Naoshima, a picturesque island filled with contemporary art museums, installations and sculptures. Additionally, Osaka has a growing street art scene, with local and international artists bringing their talents to the urban canvas.

6. City of Water — riverside tranquillity

Crisscrossed by numerous rivers and waterways, Osaka is known as Japan’s “City of Water.” Explore the city’s architecturally rich riverside areas, where historical buildings and verdant gardens punctuate the serene landscape.

Keep an eye out for the bridges, often decorated with distinctive designs and beautifully illuminated at night. A vast majority of these bridges were built by the citizens themselves, a testament to the city’s enterprising and community-oriented spirit.

7. Retail therapy — shop till you drop

With a whopping 480 shopping arcades, Osaka is a veritable paradise for both browsing and buying. Experience an oh-so-Japanese take on retail therapy at specialty arcades such as Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shotengai, known as “Kitchenware Street,” and Kuromon Ichiba, famed for its plethora of fresh fish and seafood.

Four Seasons Hotel Osaka is located the Kita (north downtown) area, home to several large department stores and entertainment venues. In Minami (south downtown), guests can enjoy a private Four Seasons shopping excursion. Explore the flamboyant streets of Dotonbori, followed by the 600-metre (2,000 foot) Shinsaibashi shopping arcade, where global luxury brands rub shoulders with Japanese designer boutiques.