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5 things that you absolutely, positively NEED to do in Osaka, Japan

Things to do in Osaka - Osaka Castle

I may have spent only two days in the Japanese city of Osaka, but those two days were more than enough to inspire a whole album of love songs. With a castle straight from the pages of a fairytale, sunsets as if from another planet and the actual Hogwarts castle, Osaka is where all your childhood dreams of becoming a princess/astronaut/member of house Gryffindor come true.  What follows is five things that you absolutely, positively need to do when visiting Osaka.

1. Watch the sunset from the Umeda Sky Building

Things to do in Osaka - Sunset from Umeda Sky Building

You know the saying ‘No sunset is ever the same’, well in Osaka no second of a sunset is ever the same. As the light rays radiate from the sun at ever deepening angles, they dance with the city as if it is 23:59 on New Years Eve 1999 flashing every colour of the rainbow and forcing you to acknowledge every second of the countdown; not in anticipation but appreciation. And once the countdown is over, the party for your eyes only becomes more alive as the whole city turns on its lights under a pastel purple sky.

How to get there:

The Umeda Sky Building lies north east of Osaka Station and east of Umeda Station and is approximately a 10 minute walk from either via a pedestrian tunnel.

2. Let the little kid in you run free at Universal Studios Osaka

Things to do in Osaka - Hogwarts at Universal Studios Osaka

Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter encompassed in Universal Studios Osaka is like visiting a dream within a dream within a dream – a dream where Dumbledore speaks to you in Japanese and if you happen to have ginger hair you are ultimately transformed into Ginny Weasley and must pose with the adorably excited locals for endless selfies. I may not have understood a word that was spoken to me that day and the lines for the rides may have been 2+ hours long (we made the mistake of choosing a Sunday to visit… oops!), but the little girl in me who dreamed of becoming a Gryffindor alumni had their lifelong dream fulfilled and I will be forever happier for it. So what are you waiting for – let your inner Gryffindor free!

How to get there:

Universal Studios Osaka actually has it’s own station – aptly named the Universal City Station – which can be reached in a short 15 minute trip from Osaka Station aboard one of several direct trains on the JR Yumesaki Line.

3. Live out your fairy tale dreams at Osaka Castle

Things to do in Osaka - Osaka Castle

Complete with an extensive garden that changes colour with the season, a moat with a wooden bridge just waiting for Prince Charming to trod over on his horse and a pastel color-palette straight off a 16th-century ball gown, Osaka Castle must be where Disney princesses go to spend their ‘Happily ever after’. Between the stunning aesthetics and rich history of this site, it’s little wonder why the castle is constantly ranked as one of the most visited attractions in all of Japan.

How to get there:

The closest station to Osaka Castle is Osakajokoen station, which is an easy 18-minute walk away. To reach Osakajokoen Station from elsewhere in Osaka, just jump aboard any of the JR Loop Line trains that circle the city.

4. Take a trip to Nara Deer Park

Things to do in Osaka - Visit Nara Deer Park

If you have ever wondered what life would be like if deer took over the Earth, then a visit to Nara Deer Park will put your thoughts to rest. Considered according to Japanese legend as messengers of the God’s, the deer of Nara have been encouraged to congregate within the area over the past several hundred years and today prance around town as the most iconic symbol of the city and a recognized natural treasure. Although the deers are wild, they have been semi-tamed by tourism, with some even learning to bow to ask visitors for food. That said, they can most definitely become aggressive if they think you will feed them – or they smell food in your bag as my friend and her soon-to-be-eaten-by-a-deer lunch found out. Just how many deer are there? The latest count puts it over 1200 deer!

How to get there:

Nara deer park can be reached in just over an hour via JR train service and a bit of abusing those legs of yours. From Osaka Station, you just need to board the JR Osaka Loop Line train towards Nara (the train converts in a JR Yamatoji service after Tennoji Station). After 50-minutes aboard the train, alight at JR Nara Station. From there, it’s an easy 20-minute walk through the adorable deer-obsessed town.

5. Indulge in the cutest (and healthiest donuts) you will ever find at Florista Animal Doughnuts

Things to do in Osaka - Floresta Animal Donuts

Doughnuts made of organic local ingredients with no additives or preservatives that are shaped like creatures as if from a Pixar film and as good to eat as they are to look at – need I say more?

How to get there:

The closest station to what I am from this point forward calling Donut Heaven is Tanimachikyuchome station on the Tanimachi Line. From here it is a short 5-minute walk. If you’d like to explore more of this area of Osaka, you can also alight at the JR Tennoji station and enjoy 30 minutes of frolicking north to Donut Heaven from there.

Do you have any tips of your own for things to do in Osaka? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook.

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