10 Best Things to Do in Osaka in Winter

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Writer’s profile

Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education in Japan and got her Master’s degree in March 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.

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Osaka is one of Japan’s major tourist destinations and is easily accessible by shinkansen (bullet train) from both Tokyo and Hakata. Osaka is also known as “the kitchen of Japan”, and you will find a special food culture here as well as many dishes that are unique to this region. Osaka is a fun and welcoming place to visit, and there are many exciting winter-only events in the city, which will be introduced in this article.

1. See the Osaka Castle Illuminage

Alpha, (CC BY-NC 2.0), via flickr

Osaka Castle Illuminage is a spectacular show in which approximately 3 million LED lights illuminate Osaka Castle at night. A glittering light show unfolds with the castle as a backdrop, and the theme changes every year. In 2022, the show will take us through the history of Japan, from the Edo period – represented by Tokugawa Ieyasu and Osaka Castle – to today’s modern times. Enjoy a spectacular show which beautifully fuses history and illuminations!

Official website: Osaka Castle Illuminage

2. Visit Universal Studios Japan

Rebirth10, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of Osaka’s major tourist attractions is Universal Studios Japan, which every year prepares winter-only events. In 2022, for the first time in three years, the legendary Christmas tree is making a comeback. This giant Christmas tree is more than 30 meters tall and is decorated with dazzling ornaments. The ever-popular area “Super Nintendo World” has also been upgraded with winter-specific decorations and fun.

Official website: Universal Studios Japan

Recommended article: 10 Best Hotels in Osaka near Universal Studios Japan

3. Celebrate The Japanese New Year

Sumiyoshi Taisha Osaka
The iconic bridge at Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha

When visiting Japan, it is essential to visit local shrines. Among the many shrines in Osaka, Sumiyoshi Taisha is particularly recommended. Known as the head shrine of the 2300 Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan, it is visited by about 2 million people every year. This shrine is said to be helpful in matters such as warding off bad luck, family safety, health and prosperous business, and it’s always crowded with worshippers. An important part of Japanese New Year traditions is the so-called hatsumode (first prayer of the year) where people flock to shrines across the country to express gratitude for the past year’s good fortune and to wish for good luck in the year to come.

4. Relax in an Onsen

Hotspring onsen

Bathing in an onsen is an activity that warms both body and soul during the cold winter months. Enjoying hot springs can be done throughout Japan, even in Osaka, which has many hot spring facilities where you can relax and unwind. One of the most popular onsen facilities in Osaka is Soraniwa Onsen. This is almost like a hot spring theme park, with various types of baths and other facilities on its expansive grounds. Why not heal your tired body in Osaka’s hot spring paradise?

Official website: Soraniwa Onsen

5. Go Ice Skating

Ice skating is a fun winter activity

Ice skating can be enjoyed only in winter, and many ice skating rinks open around the Osaka Bay Area during the colder months, making it easy to try ice skating during your stay in the city. Bring your friends or family along for a fun day on the ice in Osaka!

6. See the Osaka Hikari Renaissance

Enjoy colorful projection mapping for free

How about a very different light show that isn’t just your average winter illumination? At Osaka Hikari Renaissance, visitors can see a colorful projection mapping show on the stage of the Osaka Central Public Hall, a famous historical building, for free. The intricate patterns are projected on the facade of the retro building, making for an unusual and captivating show.

Official website: Osaka Hikari Renaissance

7. Visit a German-Style Christmas Market

christmas market
Christmas markets are a fun place to shop for gifts or enjoy seasonal snacks

If you come to Osaka during the Christmas season, the German-style Christmas market in Umeda is the place to go. The market features one of the world’s largest Christmas tree displays, German crafts, authentic German Christmas ornaments and other German-made products. Of course, you can also try some German beer, pretzels, sausages and other delicacies. You can head there to get some of your Christmas preparations sorted, or just to enjoy the winter atmosphere.

8. Eat Some Local Food

So delicious you’ll definitely want to eat at least five!

Also known as “天下の台所” (tenka no daidokoro, the nation’s kitchen), Osaka has their own unique food scene and culture. Takoyaki is a staple in Osaka cuisine and is eaten year-round, not only in winter. Takoyaki are crispy on the outside and melty and soft on the inside, containing pieces of octopus (tako). They are so delicious that one can easily eat several pieces in one sitting. Just as famous as takoyaki, Osaka-style okonomiyaki is another must-eat. Batter is mixed with shredded cabbage and other ingredients and then baked, making it a perfect dish for a cold day.

9. Explore Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Whale Shark
The whale shark is a huge draw at Osaka Aquarium

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the world’s largest aquariums and also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Osaka. This impressive aquarium has displays imitating the natural environments of the Pacific Ocean, and it’s home to approximately 620 different species and a total of 30,000 living creatures. The most popular animal here is the whale shark, which swims gracefully in a huge tank.

Official website: Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

10. Shop and Dine at Abeno Harukas

Abeno Harukas Osaka
The impressive Abeno Harukas complex is also Japan’s tallest building

Abeno Harukas is famously known as the tallest building in Japan, standing at 300 meters in southern Osaka. The building is a huge facility, with a department store area from the 2nd basement floor to the 14th floor, and an observation deck on the 60th floor offering panoramic views of the city. It can be fun to go there during the day, but it is also recommended to visit in the evening or at night. Once the sun sets, visitors can enjoy the dazzling night view of the sprawling city below. On the 58th floor, there is a restaurant called “Sky Garden 300” where you can enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the breathtaking vistas.

Official websites: Abeno Harukas and Sky Garden 300

In this article we have introduced numerous ways to enjoy the colder months in Osaka. Whether you want to explore the beautiful spectacle of lights at Osaka Castle or spend an unforgettable Christmas at Universal Studios Japan, there are endless ways to have fun in this vibrant city!

Japan Wonder Travel Tours in Osaka

If you are planning on visiting Osaka and need some help organizing your trip, you came to the right place! We would be more than happy to help make your trip the best it possibly could be. We can advise you on where to go, or even better, hook you up with a local English speaking guide that can show you all of the best spots. Let us help you make fun, safe, and unforgettable memories in Osaka!

Osaka Highlights Private Walking Tour
On this full-day private tour of Osaka, we will take you to Osaka’s highlights that include Osaka Castle, Kuromon Market, the popular Dotonbori area, etc. Learn about the rich history of the area, local lifestyle, and of course delicious Osaka food!

Osaka tour

Kyoto Food and Drink Tour @Nishiki Street & Gion
If you’re planning on visiting Kyoto along with Osaka and are looking to learn more about the culture and local cuisine, this is definitely the perfect tour for you! Take part in this fun food and drink tour and explore the 400-year-old market and the famous Gion district.

Kimono Experience

Kimono Rental
Explore the exciting city of Osaka with a kimono, Japanese traditional clothing. You can choose the one you like the most from several patterns and colors at the rental shop. In Osaka, it’s located at the center of the city, accessible from the main tourist attractions which makes it easy to try it on and explore the city for a day!

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