Osaka is another part of Japan you must experience. Officially known as the third-largest city in Japan, Osaka could offer you a lot of attractions to visit, cultural places to embrace and historical places to learn.  

Osaka is a major financial center in Japan. With its 20 million population, Osaka is the second-largest metropolitan area in Japan and among the largest in the world.   

During our visit to Osaka, we manage to cover top attractions in Osaka. Here are our recommendations for places to visit both in Osaka and Kyoto.  

Attractions in Osaka  

i) Universal Studios Japan (USJ)  

Making a stop at USJ has become a norm for tourists when visiting Osaka. USJ is a place you cannot afford to skip because they possess unique attractions true to USJ only.  

USJ currently has eight different sections where each section has unique rides or attractions for them. You could learn more regarding USJ by reading the previous article where the top four (4) most popular theme parks in Japan had been reviewed.   

Since this place has gained a lot of popularity, USJ will be crowded almost every day especially weekends or if there is a public holiday in Japan. However, you could use this website to show you the ‘USJ crowd calendar’ for all year round which the information is pretty accurate. The link to the website will show language in Japanese. Open it and when translation pop–up, just click translate to your preferred language.    

Another thing to save your time and money when going to USJ is to book your ticket beforehand to skip the line at the main entrance. Plus, if you have an extra budget, you can purchase Fast Ticket to skip the line to ride any attractions for a few times.   

I’ve been using Klook to purchase the ticket to USJ and to me it is the best option to do so since it’s really easy to use them. What I need to do is to purchase the ticket online via Klook app and then they will provide me with their specific barcode. I just need to scan the barcode using my phone at the main entrance gates and voila, I’m in!  

ii) Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan  

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan becomes widely famous because of its spectacular aquariums. They display sea life inhabiting the Pacific Rim in a very well-mannered and portray it in a very impressive way.  

The aquarium first starts on the eighth floor and will slowly make a spiral way down floor by floor circulating the main central tank which representing the Pacific Ocean. Some tanks will stretch several floors, making it possible to view the sea life from a different angle and perspective.   

The last exhibit will take further down the dark area by taking an escalator to see animals in deep-sea like the jellyfish. All marine life in Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is displayed in 15 tanks and each representing a specific region in Pacific Rim.   

After spending some time in Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, just walk 5 minutes and you will arrive at the world-class Tempozan Ferris Wheel. This Ferris wheel soars 112.5 meters into the air offering an amazing view of Osaka from the above.   

iii) Tsukenkaku Tower  

Also known as Eiffel Tower of Osaka, Tsukenkaku Tower is one of the symbols of pride for people in Osaka. This tower standing at 103 meters tall and located in Shinsekai.  

In order to reach the top of the tower, first, you need to go to the observatory deck entrance by heading downstairs, pay the admission fees (1000 yen per person) and go to the observatory deck using an elevator on the 5th floor.   

There is actually another one more floor up to the open-air observatory deck, Tenbo Paradise. But, to climb up here, an additional 500 yen must be paid first.  

The best time to be at Tsukenkaku Tower is right before sunset in Osaka. This way, you will capture view of Osaka from the above during the day and also during night time.   

Another interesting thing to do while in Tsukenkaku Tower is to see the statue of Billiken. This charming figure is actually a god that is said to bring good luck to those who stroke the bottom of its feet. So, you will see a lot of it in the tower itself and at the souvenir shop.   

iv) Osaka Castle  

Osaka Castle is another symbol to represent Osaka. The current Osaka castle is actually a reconstruction of it because of the original Osaka Castle was destroyed in 1615. This castle is visually spectacular creations for Japan and the history of it dated almost 450 years ago.  

The castle grounds cover around 15 acres of land that contain at least thirteen structures that have been officially designated as important cultural assets by the Japanese government.   

The main castle building located at the center is five stories building on the outside and eight stories on the inside. The castle was built atop of a tall foundation to protect its occupant from attackers.  

Attractions in Kyoto  

i) Fushimi Inari Taisha  

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the most popular shrines in Japan built to dedicate to the Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. Foxes are the Inari’s messengers, resulting a lot of fox statues placed across the shrine grounds.  

What makes this shrine famous is the unending path of over 5000 vibrant orange torii gates that span through the hills behind the shrine itself. The walk up to the hills trails up many smaller shrines which go along 4 kilometers and will take approximately 2 hours to walk up. This place has become a trademark for people visiting Kyoto to take a very stunning picture.  

Another interesting fact about Fushimi Inari Taisha is each orange torii gates in this shrine are donated by individuals and companies. This is to worship Inari as the patron of business. The small-sized gate will cost around 400,000 yen and the large gate will cost to over one million yen. And you will immediately notice at the back of each gate, they will inscribe the donator’s name and the date of donation.   

ii) Kiyomizudera  

Kiyomizudera are widely known with its wooden stage that is extended out from the main hall which located 13 meters above the hillside. The stage provides visitors with a nice view and sea of color of cherry and maple trees below it. In 1994, this temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.   

One of must-to-do things while visiting Kiyomizudera is to visit Starbucks Coffee. Why you might say? Because it’s the first Starbucks located in a traditional Japanese house.   

The ground level will have a bar counter with three courtyards. On the 2nd floor, there will be three rooms where visitors need to remove their shoes and sit on tatami mats with cushions while enjoying beverages.   

iii) Kinkaku-Ji (Golden Pavilion)  

Kinkakuji is a three floors Zen temple in which each floor represents a different style of architecture. The first floor is built in the Shinden style. The second floor is built in Bukke style (samurai residence) and finally, the third uppermost floor is built in the style of Chinese Zen hall.

This impressive structure was built overlooking a large pond attracting many visitors annually.    

iv) Arashiyama (Bamboo Forest)  

Arashiyama is a visual delight for those who came here. Located in the western outskirts of Kyoto, this area has become a popular attraction for a long time ago.   

There are quite a few activities you could do around here. Tenryuji Temple, bamboo groves and places like small shops, restaurants selling various kinds of food and souvenirs are scattered all around this town. On the riverside, you could hire a boat that will bring you along the river while you enjoy the view.  

The bamboo groves are the best activity you could aim while in Arashiyama. These famous bamboo groves have walking paths in the center that make a nice walk and taking pictures. And yes, the pictures of Arashiyama’s bamboo groves might be one of the most photographed sights in Kyoto.  

v) Nara Park  

Nara actually not located in Kyoto nor Osaka. It is located 28km east of Osaka and 35km south of Kyoto, bordering Kyoto Prefecture.  

Nara Park is a large park covering 660 hectares in central Nara known as Nara Koen in Japanese. This park is the oldest park in Japan since it is established back in 1880.  

This place is famous for its free-roam deer. There are hundreds of deer roam freely around the park. These deer are thought to be the messenger of Shinto Gods and have been ‘taught’ to politely bow to human for food. 

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