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On any Asia cruise, a stop in Osaka, Japan is special for many reasons. It isn’t Japan’s largest city or its most picture-perfect, but Osaka is both distinctly modern and approachable, from its tourist district Dōtonbori, which embodies the spirit of the city and its shopping scene, to the pure fun of Universal Studios Japan. History is alive at the 16th century Osaka Castle, where blooming cherry blossoms color the landscape and tell the story of Japan’s unification, and the 5th century Buddhist temple Shitennō-ji, which is the first Buddhist temple ever built in Japan.
Along the way, Osaka has gained a reputation as Japan’s kitchen and is home to everything from upscale Michelin-star restaurants to impossibly delicious street foods. Eating your way through Osaka is easy when the culture is so food-centric. Osaka residents believe that food and living life to the fullest are inherently connected, and on your cruise to Osaka, so will you.
Osaka Castle is one of the country’s most important and internationally valued monuments that tells the story of Osaka during the 16th century and the unification of Japan. It’s also home to an incredible garden, and when the cherry blossoms are in season in April, Osaka Castle blushes pink as the trees bloom. Visitors come from all over Japan to experience the beauty of Osaka Castle. Entry to the grounds is free, though there’s a fee to explore the castle tower and garden.
The architecture of the Sumiyoshi Taisha is completely unique to Japan. It was built without any outside influences, and for that reason it’s considered one of Osaka’s most culturally significant attractions. Millions visit this famous shrine each year. You can walk in the footsteps of Japanese history, whether you’re strolling through the gardens or exploring the four elaborate halls within the shrine. It’s a must-do experience for travelers on a cruise to Osaka.
Osaka Aquarium just happens to be one of the biggest in the world and offers nighttime and interactive exhibits to provide something new and fun for all ages. There are 15 tanks home to diverse marine life from all over the world, each representing different regions and oceans. You’ll travel around the world in just a few hours here.
Osaka’s premier entertainment and shopping district is Amerika-Mura, located in the Chūō-ku district of the city. Vintage stores, record shops, bookstores, and cafes line the streets. At night, the district pops with bars and live music.
Good old-fashioned fun awaits travelers of all ages and interests at Universal Studios Japan, which is Osaka’s only theme park. Roller coasters, rides, and interactive experiences with your favorite characters are just part of the fun. Travel across worlds and time periods to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Hollywood Studios, and more.
Osaka cruise passengers enjoy the observation deck of Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in all of Japan. Clocking in at almost 1,000 feet tall, Abeno Harukas boasts a view of Osaka like no other spot in town. Stop in the cafe and forget life’s troubles as you stare out the all-encompassing glass panels.
Address: 1 Chome-4-１６ Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
This 24-hour ramen spot has gained international acclaim, and several chains of Ichiran exist throughout Osaka. You get to choose exactly how you want your ramen, from texture to consistency, right down to their freshly made flour noodles. Even Forbes has called it the best ramen in town, but you’ll have to ask the locals when you’re there on an Osaka cruise.
Address: 4-1 Ikedachō, Nishinomiya-shi, Hyōgo-ken 662-0911, Japan
You might not come to Osaka and immediately think about burgers, but it would be a shame to leave town without trying the acclaimed Awajishima Burger. It’s outfitted with a classic lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo combo, plus a mouthwatering secret sauce. Burgers come with fried onion rings and hearty portions, so come hungry.
Address: 5th fl, SouthSide Terrace Bldg, 1-1-38 Daimyō
Ready to try authentic Japanese cuisine? At Hakatarou, you’ll get a sense of regional Japanese dishes and delicacies that aren’t often represented at Japanese restaurants stateside. Not overly expensive and located in a quaint shopping center, Hakatarou is approachable and spacious. The dishes and atmosphere are modeled after the traditional izakaya style of Japan. Order a variety of sashimi and a round of sake.
Address: Japan, 〒550-0002 Osaka, Nishi Ward, Edobori, 1 Chome−9−11 アイプラス江戸堀
Three Michelin-starred Hajime is an upscale treat for visitors. Come prepared and call ahead to get a reservation. They bring French inspiration to Japanese ingredients, and they offer both a vegetable tasting menu and an exclusive shorter menu tasting for patrons who have limited time to imbibe and enjoy.
Human beings have been living in the area we call Osaka today for thousands of years. In the 5th century, Chinese settlers came to the area. Osaka was named the capital of Japan in the 17th century before the capital moved, and the city grew in renown and as an international trading power. Throughout the centuries, Osaka grew and faced challenging developments, but never lost its rich culture and traditions. During World War II, Osaka was frequently raided and was forced to rebuild in the 1950s and 60s.
Today, Osaka has become known as one of Japan’s best cities for foodies and is even nicknamed “the nation’s kitchen” for its importance in the gastronomical landscape of the country. Over 2.5 million residents call Osaka home today.
When your Osaka cruise ship docks in the Port of Osaka, you’ll be able to easily navigate from Tempozan Pier, where ships disembark. The pier is also close by to attractions like the Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium and plentiful shopping at the Tempozan Marketplace. It’s easy to spend the day hanging nearby the port if you don’t feel like venturing further into Osaka.
Osaka’s public transportation is clean and efficient, including the subway lines and bullet trains. Japan’s subways are consistently the most on time in the world. The subway stops running at midnight, but at most times of the day, the eight subway lines in Osaka are the best way to navigate the city. If a taxi has a red light on, that means they’re taking passengers.
Not far from the Port of Osaka is the Tempozan Marketplace, which is a food court and shopping center selling Japanese specialty cuisine and handmade goods. The America-Mura shopping district has also grown in popularity for its imports of Western merchandise, vinyl shops, bookstores, and cafes.
The official currency in Japan is the yen. It is recommended you keep extra change on hand to purchase snacks, pay for a taxi ride, or hop on a bus if needed. In Osaka, ATMs are commonly available, and credit cards like Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted. Many ATMs in Japan will only accept credit cards issued by a Japanese bank, so plan ahead on currency exchange before leaving the cruise terminal. Though strange to Western cultures, tipping isn’t really a thing in Japan, so tipping a restaurant server, bartender, or taxi driver is out of the ordinary for Japanese workers. Culturally, tipping tends to be rejected.