Around two and a half hours west of Tokyo on the bullet train, Osaka is one of Japan’s largest cities. Its blend of contemporary living and historic structures means there are plenty of things to do in the city, and this doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. So what are the best things to do in Osaka at night? Read on to discover all the things we love to do once the lights come on!
The top things to do in Osaka at night
See all Osaka has to offer from on high
With its maze of towering modern skyscrapers and narrow historic streets, one of the best ways of getting to grips with the city’s layout is to take in its panoramas from one of many viewing platforms and observation decks dotted around the city. And what could be more lovely then doing so at night when a carpet of sparkling lights spreads across Osaka? One of the best places to head for the views include the Kuchu Teien Observatory at the Umeda Sky Building, two towers united on the fortieth floor by a simply magical ‘floating’ sky garden 170 metres above the ground. Alternatively, there’s the three-floor observation space of Abeno Harukas tower, Japan’s tallest office block at 300 metres high, or the Tsutenkaku Tower.
Stroll Osaka’s colourful streets
The city’s Minami (or ‘south’) neighbourhood, centred around Namba Station, is known as one of Osaka’s top entertainment districts, and as such is a fantastic thing to do in Osaka at night. Its wide boulevard-like streets are decked out with bright lighting displays and advertisements which shine out all the stronger with a night time backdrop, while the area also has a huge number of options when it comes to dining, and boasts some of the city’s best shopping too! If you’re in the north of Osaka, considering heading to Kita instead. Situated around Osaka and Umeda Stations, Kita is another of the city’s main entertainment districts, making it the perfect place to begin an exploration of Osaka nightlife.
Get your taste buds popping
Japan’s cuisine is almost unique in the world, and while everyone knows dishes such as sushi and sashimi, each of the country’s regions also has its own delicacies which should definitely be sampled. You shouldn’t leave Osaka without having first tried kushikatsu, or deep-fried skewers of meat and seafood which can then be served with or without a tangy tonkatsu sauce. If you enjoyed this, also look out for okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake filled with everything from grated yam to minced meat. Osaka is known for its cook-it-yourself okonomiyaki restaurants, where guests are provided with all the ingredients to cook on steaming hot plates to your own taste.
Admire Osaka Castle
The stunning oriental architecture of Osaka Castle is just one of the reasons to visit this major attraction. First constructed in 1583, the structure has survived (and sometimes not survived, but got rebuilt after) numerous wars and earthquakes, and wandering the grounds is a wonderful thing to do in Osaka at night thanks to the fairytale reflections that can be had of the castle in the still ponds of its expansive magical gardens. Inside the castle itself, you’ll find a museum detailing the castle’s long history, and providing more information on the man who first put a castle on the site, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Though the castle usually closes at 5pm, it remains open until 9pm in sakura (cherry blossom) season, a fantastic time to visit Osaka.
Take a ride on Osaka Ferris wheel
Osaka’s rather odd-looking Ferris wheel, more commonly known as the Ebisu Tower after its giant depiction of Ebisu, the Japanese god of commerce, remains open until 11pm each night. The only ovular (non-round) wheel in the world, the fifteen-minute ride offers glorious views over Dotonbori Canal, and rises to a maximum height of almost 80 metres. Given its emblazoned with the god of commerce, you won’t be surprised to learn there are plenty of shopping opportunities in the area too, with many of the stores open 24-hours a day, should you fancy a spot of night shopping Osaka.
Cruise along Dotonbori Canal
Having enjoyed views of Dotonbori Canal from the Osaka Ferris wheel, you’ll doubtless want to enjoy all the canal has to offer by taking a boat cruise along its still waters. Many cruises include a commentary (although often in Japanese) on the history of the canal, but either way you’re sure to have an enjoyable experience, with sights including the immense Glico billboard, made up of more than 14 million LED lights, and with a reputation something like the billboards of New York’s Times Square or London’s Piccadilly Circus.
Experience Osaka night market
A brilliant location to take in everything Japanese, Osaka night market can also be found in Dotonbori. We think this is one of the great things to do in Osaka at night because the many lights, together with the relaxed flow of residents enjoying the market, make for a fantastic vibe. Be sure to criss-cross the canal on the many bridges to get between shopping lanes, and immerse yourself fully in the experience by stopping for a beer or a bite to eat from the many street vendors in the area.
Delve underwater at Kaiyukan night aquarium
A standard aquarium by day – and the largest in Osaka – each evening Kaiyukan aquarium takes on a whole new look. From 5pm each day the aquarium switches its lighting to night mode, showing how its tanks of sharks and other fish react to the hours of darkness, while visitors are able to enjoy more mellow forms of music that suit the change in mood. The aquarium is open until 8pm, while the neighbouring Tempozan Ferris wheel is open until 10pm each evening and is lit up with a mass of colourful lights.
Have a laugh at a comedy night
You don’t have to be an expert in Japanese to enjoy Osaka’s comedy scene, with many venues hosting weekly events in English too. Perhaps the most popular is the ROR Comedy Club, which offerings up its stage to everyone from comics telling rapid-fire jokes to those who prefer slapstick, and even the odd magician. English shows are held every Friday and Saturday night, throughout the year.
Head back in time at Hozen-ji Yokocho
This cobbled alleyway is a far cry from Osaka’s main boulevards, taking visitors back centuries with its traditional lanterns and entrance gateways on route to Hozen-ji Temple, which dates to 1637. It houses a famed Fudo Buddhist statue, now completely covered in a rich green moss, which is one of the only survivors from the Second World War period. The street is also something of a haven for foodies, with more than 60 restaurants serving both Japanese and western cuisine.
There’s no doubting that there is a fantastically-long list of things to do in Osaka at night, whether it’s your first visit to the city or whether you are returning for a second or third time to enjoy all this amazing city has to offer. Miss none of it with our guide to the best things to do in Osaka at night!