Often when you start asking people about what to do in Osaka, tonnes of suggestions start popping up. Glico man, Tako Balls, dining and shopping, but which ones are worth going for? (I mean, we don’t stay in Osaka, right?) Although many will say shopping in Osaka isn’t as fantastic as in Tokyo, it’s different. Of course, it’s still an urban city centre, but the pace here is definitely slower than in Tokyo, and that can be a good thing!
Dotonbοri and Shinsaibashi are probably the two most popular attractions in Osaka for shopping and dining.
Shinsaibashi is a long stretch of shopping arcade with side lanes linking to smaller streets with restaurants, bars and cafes, and Dotonbοri is a small river/canal with boats running through. Both are also connected, so you can visit them on a single trip. For example, if you start off from Shinsaibashi, all you need to do is just walk straight, and you’ll end up in Dotonbori.
So, where should we start? Our starting point? Namba station. We were lucky enough to find a hotel in Namba despite the long weekend with Shinsaibashi just 5 minutes walk away.
The starting part of Shinsaibashi street is mainly low to mid-end fashion. Still, if you branch out from the side lanes to the departmental store area, you’ll come across the more high-end options. To sum up Shinsaibashi, there are shops like Uniqlo to Fossil. More local marts like ABC mart sell shoes to high-end shopping malls like Daimaru, which sells paintings from Yayoi Kusama that cost the same as a car in Singapore. Overall there’s a fair balance between low and high-end, so there’s something for everyone here.
To keep the post short, we’ll list down some of the most exciting things to look out for.
What to do in Osaka #1: Take a photo of the iconic Glico Man
I’m sure when you start googling for Osaka, similar images of the iconic Glico man will pop up. This isn’t a sight to die for, but why not! How can you visit Dotonburi without taking a shot of Glico man! It’s right along the river, so snap away when you walk past it!
What to do in Osaka #2: Take a boat ride along the river
Remember we said boat ride earlier on? You may think that’s common. Well, it’s not another regular boat ride if you pick the right boat! See the trumpet on the first yellow boat? Many boats go up and down along the river, but some carry an orchestra or band. Playing music as you float slowly down the river. BUT if only the regular touristy / guided boat ride, perhaps you want to skip it because everything is in Japanese.
What to do in Osaka #3: Eat and make your own Takoyaki (Tako Balls)
Each city in Japan is popular or famous for something, and for Osaka, it will be the Takoyaki. Looking like a fish-ball, these flour dishes are cooked into a round shape using a special pan with a small piece of octopus inside. It’s thinly crisped on the outside and soft and tender inside! But a note of precaution, try not to pop the whole ball into your mouth! The interior oozes out, and it’s boiling!
If you are interested in making one yourself, you can also visit the Konamon Museum to make your own Takoyaki! (we didn’t go to that one because we had not enough time). All these are along the Dotonbori stretch as well.
What to do in Osaka #4: Shop at the Don Quijote Dotonbori Store!
Don Quijote is the biggest discount shop in Japan. It’s styled like an amusement park and packed with stuff! Daily necessities, snacks, clothes, appliances, restaurants, everything you need is there! It’s always with a long queue outside at the cashier but not to worry, the line moves quite fast. Also, there’s a tax-free queue for tourists!
What to do in Osaka #5: Buy Osaka snacks at Kuidaore Taro Shop
Just right before you step into full view of the Dotonbori river. You’ll come across a shop styled with the famous clown mascot Kuidaore Taro. Honestly, it looks creepy and funny at the same time. Still, you can’t say you visited Osaka without buying one of these spooky clown snacks.
These are shops carry a wide variety of Osaka snacks. Many are ‘spoofs’ of its famous Tokyo or Hokkaido relatives. Our favourite was Omoshiroi Koibito / 面白い恋人. A spoofed version of Shiroi Kobito (White Lover) from Hokkaido. The spoofed version translated to ‘Funny Lover’. Next time if your friends ask you to get Shiroi Kobito back from Japan, maybe you might want to consider giving them the spoofed version instead.
What to do in Osaka #6: Dine at Kani Douraku
The giant mechanic crabs above the entrance are always styled with the giant mechanic crabs above the entrance; Kani Douraku is a famous seafood chain in Japan, most notably for its crab dishes. Crab sushi, crab sashimi, boiled crabs, crab croquette and more. Prices are not cheap, and most of the time, it’s fully booked on weekends as this is the leading shop in Japan, but if you love crabs, then this place is worth dying for.
What to do in Osaka #7: Dine at Ichiran Ramen
Right along the river is Ichiran! The much-raved ramen store of Japan claimed it to be the best ramen chain in Japan. What’s special about Ichiran is the delicious ramen and the unique style of ‘cubicle dining’. Customers will first have to order their food by buying a ticket from the vending machine at the entrance; they then have to wait for their cubicle to be assigned. Each cubicle will have a curtain that separates the customers from the kitchen staff. The staff behind the curtain will then open the curtain to serve the ramen. Once you are done, you can press a bell on the table to let them know you are done!
We spent almost 2 full days there shopping and eating, yet we are sure that there’s plenty more to do at Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi which we aren’t aware of. So take these ideas as a flavour to what the area can offer and try to visit this place towards your trip to avoid spending all your money on the first few days!