Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, blends traditional culture and vibrant modern attractions for an unforgettable family holiday. Discover Japan’s hidden gem for kids in this destination guide
It may not be as famous as Tokyo or Kyoto, but Osaka is one of Japan’s best destinations for families. Just a short train ride from these great cities, Osaka offers loads of fun things to do with kids.
Osaka is a true hidden gem when it comes to holidays with kids. The region is packed with family-friendly hotels for all budgets and with the city’s stellar public transport, it’s easy and affordable to visit Osaka’s top attractions.
In this guide, we’ll explore the top things to do and places to stay for families traveling to Osaka. Prepare to embrace movie magic at Universal Studios Japan, visit an ancient castle and indulge in sushi and sashimi in this underrated Asian city.
Read on to discover the best of Osaka for families!
What to Do in Osaka With Kids
Universal Studios Japan
The large port city is home to one of Japan’s biggest and best theme parks, Universal Studios Japan, which stretches across an impressive 54 hectares. Explore the classrooms at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Hogwarts Castle, check out the shops at Hogsmeade and get your photo taken beside the Hogwarts Express in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
You can also race a Mario Kart through Mushroom Kingdom in Super Nintendo World, escape a towering T-Rex on the Jurassic Park ride, and see a man-eating shark in action in Amity Village, made famous in the movie Jaws. Younger kids will also love meeting Elmo, the Cookie Monster and Big Bird in the Sesame Street Fun Zone, while the whole family will enjoy seeing cowboys survive death defying stunts, shootings and explosions in the Wild, Wild West Stunt Show.
While Hogwarts is hard to beat, the city is also home to a real castle. Osaka Castle was the biggest and best in Japan when it was built during the samurai era in the 16th century. While it was destroyed numerous times by fire and war, it was rebuilt in the same architectural style in 1931. Perched atop a stone formation and surrounded by moats to protect its occupants from attackers, it is at its most beautiful in spring, when it is framed by cherry blossoms.
Festivals and events
Osaka also hosts some fantastic events throughout the year, including Tenjin Matsuri in late July, which is considered one of the best festivals in Japan. Going strong since the 10th century, the festival includes a procession from Tenmangu Shrine led by red-hatted drummers, with lion dancers and umbrella dancers, a river procession featuring portable shrines on illuminated boats, and an evening fireworks show.
Japan’s largest float festival, Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, is also held twice a year in September and October. The sounds of beating drums and flutes can be heard across the city as neighbourhood teams race large wooden shrine floats through the streets of Kishiwada.
Minami and Dotonbori entertainment districts
Osaka is also home to some buzzing entertainment districts. Minami, which can be easily accessed from Namba Station, offers a wide array of shops and restaurants, where you can indulge in sushi, sashimi and gyoza until your heart’s content. It’s best to visit nearby Dotombori at night, when the neon lights along the canal are at their most spectacular.
Where to Stay in Osaka for Families
Located in the thick of the action in the city’s most popular district, Namba, Centara Grand Hotel Osaka, opened in July 2023. The architecturally-designed 33-storey hotel has 515 spacious rooms and suites, including Superior, Deluxe, Club and Family rooms with bunk beds. The hotel is home to several family-friendly restaurants. Suan Bua offers home-style Thai cuisine in a setting inspired by Thai street stalls. It also offers an impressive international breakfast buffet each morning. You can also tuck into fresh seafood at Embassy of Crab on the second floor and admire the panoramic views of the city from rooftop smokehouse restaurant, Kunsei Kitchen. The hotel also has a fully-equipped gym and Japan’s first SPA Cenvaree, which combines traditional Thai techniques with Japanese hospitality.
Osaka Family Holiday FAQs
When is the best time to visit Osaka?
Summer (June to July) can be hot and humid, so it’s best to visit in autumn (October/November) or spring (March to May). Cherry blossoms usually bloom in the last week of March and the first week of April, making it a pretty time to visit. If you’re heading to a Japanese ski resort over winter, it’s also a great destination for a side trip.
How can I travel to Osaka, Japan?
Osaka is in Kansai prefecture on Japan’s largest island, Honshu. Qantas, Jetstar and Japan Airlines are among the airlines that fly to Tokyo. From there, it takes around 2.5 hours’ to get to Osaka by bullet train. It’s also only around 14 minutes’ train ride from Kyoto, so you can easily visit both in one trip. Jetstar also offers direct flights from Cairns to Osaka.
What is the best way to get around Osaka?
Osaka has an excellent public transport system. Two main tourist areas around Osaka Castle and Osaka Bay are off the Midosuji subway line. A prepaid Icoca card is the best option, but a Suica or Pasmo card from Tokyo will also work.
Do Australians need a visa to visit Japan?
Australians are eligible for Japan’s visa exemption scheme for short-stay tourism and business travel. You don’t need a visa to travel to Japan for up to 90 days. Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice.