There are so many things to see and do in Osaka with kids. Given we were there only a few days and just after our arrival in Japan, thus still battling jetlag, we focused on the following sights.
Dōtonbori canal is about 10 minutes away from Namba Station or the Swissotel. Dōtonbori is a popular nightlife and entertainment area with an eccentric atmosphere and large illuminated signboards. When you walk along the canal watch your feet! It’s pretty dirty along the river! Nevertheless it’s a great stroll for kids because there’s so much to see. My kids loved the animated signboards on the buildings, the cruises on the river and the food you get to try. Make sure you visit twice, day and nighttime make you feel in two different places.
2. Osaka Castle and Park
Osaka Castle is centrally located in Chūō-ku. The castle is one of Japan’s most famous and it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. The building is eight stories tall, built atop a tall stone foundation to protect its occupants from attackers. You can either take the elevator to the 8th floor or walk the stairs, which is what we did. Inside there’s a museum relating the Castle and Osaka’s history. You start the visit on the upper floor of the castle from where you have amazing views of the Castle grounds and the city.
Don’t miss the spring blossom in the Park! There are a lot of cherry and plum trees. Opening times: 9:00am-5:00pm. More info: www.osakacastle.net
Yumemaru-kun is the mascot of the Chuo ward with his head designed as the Osaka castle. He shows up several times a day at a designated photo spot. Characters are always a big hit with my kids!
3. Daytrip to Nara
This has been on our bucket list for some time and it did not disappoint! Nara, about 50 minutes from Osaka center by train, is home to over 1200 wild Sika deer freely roaming around. For 150 Yen you can buy biscuits and feed the deer in Nara Park which is a 10 minutes walk from the station. Several historical sites and temples are registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, like Tōdai-ji Temple. Todai-ji Temple is home to one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Japan and the hall which houses the Daibutsuden (Buddha) is the largest wooden structure in the world. All major sights and Temples within Nara Park can be easily explored by walking. Whether you arrive at JR or Kintetsu Station, make sure to stop at the Tourist Information Center. They were very helpful and provided us with a map (ask for Nara Sightseeing Map) which made the exploring easier.
4. Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios was definitely a highlight of our stay in Osaka. Although the crowds were huge the day we went, we managed to see some nice shows and music gigs, go on attractions and take some pictures with characters. Compared to US and European theme parks the tickets are quite cheap. A 1 day Studio Pass for adults is 6,980 yen (65$) and children (4-11) 4,880 yen (45$). Keep in mind that most of the shows are in Japanese. We didn’t understand a thing but this wasn’t an issue for us. The park has a dedicated children’s area: Universal Wonderland. This was our 5 year old’s favorite! You can read about it here.
All in all, we had a great time at Universal and if you can beat the crowds I guarantee you will spent an awesome day here! More info: www.usj.co.jp/e/
5. International School
As said in a previous post, a lot of gastronomic restaurant in Japan will not accept children. So if you still want to experience one (we really recommend it!) you have no other choice than getting a babysitter or, like we did, put your kids in an International school for the day or half-day. Compared to a babysitter, this was a great option for A and C because they got to meet other kids, do some crafts (origami), sing, learn some English and try a school lunch in Japan. We were amazed to see how easily they adapted to a place they didn’t know, teacher staff and kids they had never met before and a language (English) they barely speak or understand.
6. Taito Station
At Taito Station your kids will be in heaven. Taito station is a large arcade gaming often spread on multi levels. They have the latest selection of arcade games, prize games boasting popular anime and manga memorabilia, ultra-realistic and high-tech virtual games, photo sticker booths and more! Your kids and the kid in you will have a lot of fun in this uniquely Japanese experience. Be aware that due to Japanese law, the admission of minors is limited to certain hours at some locations eg no kids after 7pm.