Osaka is the capital of Osaka Prefecture. Besides being one of Japan’s biggest cities, Osaka is also one of the oldest cities in Japan, with a rich history and culture.
This 1 day Osaka itinerary will help you explore traditional Osaka. Read about Buddhist and Shinto temples, the famous Osaka Castle, a serene Japanese garden, and more beautiful places to visit in Osaka.
1 day Osaka itinerary
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This is a post by Cristina, who calls herself the one-woman show behind Honest Travel Stories.
She is a Romanian IT geek that moved to Switzerland two years ago and started writing because buying a domain name was cheaper than going to therapy.
Is Osaka worth visiting?
Yes, 100%! When we think about Osaka, most of us automatically see a vivid and bustling city. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it IS a vivid and bustling city!
But let’s not forget that Osaka is one of the oldest cities in Japan that has a long history and rich culture.
In this 1 day itinerary to Osaka, I will help you explore traditional Osaka.
You can use this Osaka travel guide if you plan to stay here for a few days but also if you’re planning a day trip to Osaka from Kyoto.
You could even cover this traditional Osaka one day itinerary on the day of your arrival if you land early in the morning and still have energy after your flight.
And I know that when you think of traditional Japan, you’re probably thinking of Kyoto and Nara, not Osaka.
But believe me, this article will prove that Osaka can also show you the traditional face of Japan.
Whether it’s experiencing the geisha culture or visiting a Buddhist temple, you’ll have plenty to see in your Osaka 1 day trip.
Insider advice: a great way to save money on your Osaka is by purchasing a 1 or 2 day Osaka Amazing Pass.
This pass gives you unlimited trips on the Osaka subway, tramway, and bus as well as free access to almost 40 iconic Osaka tourist sites (including Osaka Castle).
Important things to know when planning your Osaka trip
Well, it depends. Japan has four defined seasons, the most well-known and most popular one for tourists is the springtime when the cherry trees are in full bloom.
The second best (the best in my opinion) is early November when the fall foliage views are spectacular, the weather is nice and there are (slightly) fewer crowds.
One can also visit Osaka in winter, as it doesn’t get too bad from the weather’s point of view. If you avoid the holiday season, you might score lower prices.
The least targeted season is the summer, which is hot, humid, and carries a risk of typhoons.
The simple answer would be the Japanese Yen (¥). Plan on having enough cash with you during your trip around Japan.
Japan is very much a cash-based society and you will need to pay cash for plenty of things (especially entry fees and transportation).
The exchange rate is about 115¥ to 1EUR, but be sure to check the current exchange rates when you start planning your Osaka travel itinerary.
Mainly by using public transportation, I would say. You can, of course, walk, but the city is quite big and you’ll waste precious time if you choose to do it this way.
If you’re in Japan for longer, you’ll probably have (or want to buy) an IC card of some sort. For Osaka, I would recommend using the ICoca card, as you can buy and cancel it from this area.
If you’re coming from Tokyo and plan to go back there before leaving Japan, you can use the Suica card as well.
Still, you should keep in mind that you cannot cancel the Suica Card in Osaka, thus losing your deposit (500¥, not a big deal, but you could spend it on ice cream instead).
The payment system is very simple to use. You charge your card with some money, using cash as I mentioned before.
Then, upon entering a bus, you just have to either tap your card when entering and exiting (variable cost lines) or tap it only at the end (fixed cost lines).
The same goes for metro or train, you won’t be able to enter the platform area without tapping your card, which makes it pretty easy to be sure you’ve got it right.
The easiest way is with the Nankai Line Airport Express. Trains depart every 30 minutes and the journey takes 34 minutes.
You can buy a ticket at the airport or order a Nankai Line Airport Express online.
The Nankai Line Airport Express is a privately operated line and unfortunately, the JR Rail pass doesn’t cover this train.
You can also take a local train from Kansai airport to the Osaka center, however, this will take considerably longer as these train stop at all stations.
One day in Osaka: map
Osaka 1 day itinerary: the best places to visit
- Taiko-en Japanese garden
- Osaka Castle
- Shitenno-Ji Temple
- Geisha tea ceremony
- Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine
One day Osaka itinerary: the ultimate guide to traditional Osaka
This itinerary focuses on the traditional side of Osaka (think Buddhist and Shinto temples, a Japanese castle, and a serene garden).
Of course, Osaka is a modern buzzing city as well, with many museums and other interesting things to see and do, however, these are not covered in this traditional Osaka itinerary.
Stroll around Taiko-en, a beautiful Japanese garden
What better way to start your day than by spending some time in a Japanese garden? If you’re at least a tiny bit like me, you enjoy having mornings to yourself and enjoying some peace and quiet.
Japanese gardens are the perfect place for some contemplation and reflection, as they are like an island of silence in a sea of noise.
This particular Japanese garden, Taiko-en, dates back to 1910 and the complex is decorated with exquisite taste and care.
There are a few buildings you can visit, like a museum and various restaurants, but if you prefer, you can visit just the garden as well.
Visit Osaka Castle
One of the most iconic Japanese castles in the country, Osaka Castle is a must-see in Osaka.
Defense walls surround the fortified structure and the five-story central castle building (eight stories on the inside) is built on a tall stone foundation.
Both the castle as well as the castle grounds are bound to impress you and you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a different era.
The construction of this castle began in 1583 but is today, like most other old buildings in Japan, just a reconstruction of the original.
Don’t be sad about this though! This is often the case in Japan, you’ll rarely see the original buildings as they were destroyed by either natural disasters (remember that typhoon season I was telling you about? That’s the mildest thing nature is throwing at them) or during WWII.
This doesn’t mean that Osaka Castle isn’t a part of traditional Japan. The castle works now as a museum and you can learn a lot about its history.
If you don’t feel like exploring the museum, you can just stroll around the grounds and get a feeling of the old Japan. If you’re planning to visit Osaka Castle, click here to buy an online ticket.
Visit the Shitenno-Ji Temple
The Shitenno-Ji Temple was among the first to be built in Japan and was commissioned by the Shotoku prince in 593.
While construction wasn’t actually finished until 1963(!), it’s still considered the first Buddhist Temple that was opened to the public.
A few helpful tips when you plan to visit the Shitenno-Ji Temple:
- If you visit on the 21st of the month, the entry is free of charge as that’s the day when the monthly festival takes place.
- While you may be tempted to enter the five-story pagoda, keep in mind that the inside is pretty narrow (which may be an issue if you’re tall) and the top is not as interesting as you would think.
- The real treasure you’ll want to see is in the building on the other side of the shrine’s grounds. I won’t spoil this for you, but be sure to check it out!
The entry fee for the central temple area is 300¥, and you can pay for different other areas, including a garden and a treasure hall museum.
Here you can find more information about the opening hours and entry fees.
Before you leave the complex, head to the prayer building right next to the main temple area. The Rokujireisando will feel very calm and quiet, and you will probably love it if you just got away from the crowds at the main temple.
We didn’t encounter any while we were there, but the place can get busy during the holidays.
There’s another shrine that I would love for you to visit called the Shitennoji Koshindo Temple. We found it by mistake, and while it’s part of the whole Shitenno-Ji area, not many people know about it!
The address is 2-15 Horikoshicho, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, 543-0056, Japan. Just write it like that on Google maps (or use the map above) and go check it out!
The last shrine is so peaceful, you won’t want to leave its premises… It’s hard to believe you’re still in bustling Osaka and this place might even end up being the highlight of your Osaka trip itinerary!
Enjoy a geisha tea ceremony in Osaka
To take a break from all this temple and shrine seeing, why don’t you join a traditional tea ceremony performed by a geisha?
While most people do this in Kyoto, there’s no reason not to enjoy not one, but three, traditional Japanese arts in Osaka as well.
Which three, you may wonder? Well, this ceremony can show you the following:
- Kimono wearing
- Tea ceremony
- Geisha or maiko performance
That’s right, you have a three for one sale right here! You will learn how to wear a kimono, how to prepare for the tea ceremony, and to enjoy it properly, and you’ll see a geisha show.
Depending on the location you choose, you can enjoy this in a traditional Japanese tea house, or maybe even in a tea house located in a Japanese garden.
Please be aware that you have to make a reservation for this activity in advance. On this website, you can find more information about the price and make an online reservation.
Visit the Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine
This is the main Shinto shrine of all the Sumyioshi Shrines in Japan.
Its construction dates as far back as the 3rd century and the architecture is considered to be typical Japanese, without being influenced by other Asian countries.
Each Shinto Shrine is, in fact, a collection of shrines for various gods (Shintoism being a polytheist religion), and this shrine is mostly addressed to the gods that protect fishermen, sailors and… travelers!
Sumiyoshi shrine is free of charge, though you may want to make a small donation (the suggested amount is usually 50-100¥). You can read more information here.
Where to stay in Osaka
There is an abundant amount of accommodation to choose from in Osaka, suitable for any budget. If you plan to spend more time in Osaka or plan to make a couple of day trips from Osaka.
Interesting nearby places are, amongst others, Kobe, Nara, and Koyasan.
On a budget (less than €60 a night): Nest Hotel Osaka Umeda
Nest Hotel Osaka Umeda is a clean and modern budget hotel which offers excellent value for money. Room rates start at just €50 a night for an economy double room with a private bathroom, a really good deal for Japan.
Rooms are relatively small but that’s the standard in Japan unless you pay (a lot) more money.
Located within easy walking distance of both Osaka station and Osaka-Umeda station, the Nest Hotel is a great place to base yourself if you plan to spend more days in Osaka.
On a medium budget (less €100 a night): Hotel Monterey Le Frere Osaka
Hotel Monterey Le Frere Osaka is a very affordable 4-star hotel in the city center of Osaka. Rooms are spacious for Japanese standards with comfortable beds and modern design.
There is an onsite restaurant, but also many good places to eat around the hotel. Soaking in the public bath on the third floor is the perfect way to relax your tired muscles after your Osaka one day trip.
This is one of the most popular hotels in Osaka, so be sure to book on time!
Luxury hotel (€150+ a night): Hotel Hankyu RESPIRE OSAKA
This newly opened hotel (late 2019) in the city center of Osaka offers easy access to Umeda station (metro and JR lines) as well as the airport shuttle bus station.
Its super central location makes Hotel Hankyu RESPIRE an excellent place to base yourself when you are planning to explore the area around Osaka.
Rooms are small but comfortable with amenities like a Smart TV, coffee and tea making facilities and a small fridge. Other hotel facilities are an onsite restaurant and bar, gym, garden and even a sun terrace.
Osaka itinerary 1 day: in conclusion
That’s it, your one-day itinerary to traditional Osaka has reached its end, I hope you’ll enjoy your time there.
Let me know in the comments if the itinerary helped you plan your trip and if you enjoyed traditional Osaka as much as I did.
Do you want to read more about Japan? Also check out these posts about:
- Japan travel budget
- Japan travel itinerary
- Japan packing list
- The Japanese Alps
- Tokyo and Tokyo with kids
This post was updated in April 2022.