Things to Do in Osaka on a Budget – 20 Yen Saving Options
Looking to explore Osaka on the cheap? The only thing Osaka will be robbing you of is your heart with our fun-packed itinerary for discovering the city on a budget.
Osaka is a national treasure, proudly flaunting its name as the nation’s kitchen, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the city of cool. The charm of this urban delight even left Chris Martin dreaming of the Osaka sun.
One thing that sets Osaka apart from the rest of Japan is the uniqueness of its people. Referred to as their own Japanese subset, Osaka-jin aren’t afraid to say what they think. Unlike their rivals back in Tokyo, Osakans will stop and talk to you on the train or openly tell you that your shoes are ugly. This refreshing openness ensures there’s never a dull moment in this vibrant city where excitement can be found on every corner without the need to splash the cash. So, get on your best dancing shoes and prepare to skip your way through our guide to Osaka on a shoestring.
1) Dōtonbori and Namba
Deep in the heart of Osaka’s Minami district lie the famous shopping and entertainment districts Dōtonbori and Namba. Streets brimming with flashing neon lights, bustling restaurants and excitable locals are an unbeatable feast for the senses when getting a feel for what gives the city of Osaka its unique and quirky vibes. And a healthy dose of people-watching doesn’t involve spending any of those precious ¥100 coins.
Head towards Ebisu-bashi bridge for the obligatory selfie with one of Osaka’s most recognizable landmarks, the towering Glico man. The legendary display, which came into being back in 1935, neighbors the busy shopping streets of Namba, both areas that continue to capture the hearts of locals and out-of-towners alike. Don’t miss out on these areas at night: soaking up the atmosphere of these sprawling streets is a priceless experience.
Access: 5-minute walk from Namba station
2) Osaka Castle
Originally constructed in 1583, Osaka Castle has hundreds of years of history to be discovered behind its high walls and heavy wooden doors. If you’re not prepared to pay the ¥600 fee to enter the castle, you can appreciate it with a picnic in the surrounding Nishinomaru Garden. Although a place of beauty at any time of year, the gardens abundance of sakura (cherry blossom) trees make it a highly frequented spot for hanami (flower-watching) during the spring months.
Opening hours: March til November: 9am – 5pm
November til February: 9am – 4.30pm
Cherry blossom season: 9am – 9pm
Closed on Mondays
Access: Enter the park through Otemon Gate at the park’s southwestern corner.
Subway: Tanimachi 4-chome Station (Tanimachi Line or Chuo Line). JR: Osakajo Koen Station.
There are some things that money can’t buy and the colorful buzz surrounding a Japanese festival is most certainly nearing the top of that list. The one not to miss in Osaka is its 1000-year-old Tenjin festival, which takes place every year on July 24th and July 25th. It won’t cost you a yen to attend as long as you can resist the inviting smells from the plentiful food stalls lining the streets.
Visiting Osaka over the Christmas period? The Festival of the Light sees the city of Osaka lit up in colors making it more vibrant than ever. With the winter illuminations stretching from the end of November to the beginning of January, be sure to take a romantic walk down Midosuji where you will find more light-filled trees than any other street in the world.
Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with one of the larger festivals, be sure to check for smaller events as these are equally as exciting (and less crowded).
4) Cheap Okonomiyaki Restaurants
The saying goes, “Dress till you drop in Kyoto. Eat till you drop in Osaka”. Osaka-jin are undeniably proud of their cuisine and with very good reason. One of Osaka’s (and the whole nation’s) favorites is undoubtedly one of the best comfort foods, okonomiyaki. No need to confine yourself to convenience store lunches – although we do love these on occasion – okonomiyaki prices tend to start at around ¥800 for a generous portion of the filling Japanese-style pancake-meets-omelette. One of our favorite okonomiyaki restaurants is Negibijintei in Umeda where you can also find yummy affordable takoyaki.
5) Bike Hire
Cover the city at speed on two wheels without having to dish out on those painful transport fees. Bike hire in Osaka is cheap and most certainly cheerful when you can pedal like a pedestrian-dodging local along the pavements. Hub Chari provides bike hire for just ¥1000 a day and bikes can be picked up from various stations around the city. Why not grab yourself a picnic and take a tour of Osaka’s parks? Now, on your bikes!
Price: ¥200 per hour, ¥1000 per day.
While we’re on the subject of parks, Osaka’s vast green spaces are rich and plentiful and, most importantly, free! However, the parks in Osaka often fly under the radar up against the city’s better-known attractions. Whether on two wheels or on foot, you’ll soon understand the Japanese appreciation for the drastic seasonal change witnessed in nature.
Escape to Minoh Park, thirty minutes outside of Osaka, to meander your way through the far-stretching veins of these multi-colored woods. Be sure to make it all the way to the natural waterfall to watch it crashing from 33 meters above. If you’re lucky enough to be in Japan during sakura (cherry blossom) season Kema Sakuranomiya is, as the name suggests, a blossom haven boasting 5,000 of the pink and white celestial beauties.
But we’ll stop raving about the cherry blossom as every season in Japan has its unique qualities. Whether it’s the vitality of summer, the reds, oranges and yellows of autumn or the snow-kissed treetops of winter, a stroll around one of Osaka’s parks is a guaranteed sensory therapy session.
7) Shitennoji Temple
Step onto the grounds of what is believed to be the location of the first Buddhist temple established in Japan. Built under the reign of Prince Shotoku in 593AD, the building of the temple marks the arrival of Buddhism in Japan. Less pricey than some temples, entering the main temple building will set you back just ¥300 while the outer grounds are free to enter and still give you an impressive view of the 5-storey pagoda. If you’re looking to delve deeper, an extra ¥200 will get you into the Treasure house which hosts exhibitions displaying paintings and valuables from different periods. Nature fans, don’t miss the pond alongside the temple where you’ll find fish and turtles happily roaming the waters.
Opening hours: 8:30am – 4pm (4.30pm in the summer months)
Access: Take Exit 4 from Shitennojimae Yuhigaoka station on the Tanimachi line (Osaka Subway)
8) Amerika Mura
Rather ironically considering its name, Amerika Mura (America Town) is the ideal spot for observing Japanese modern pop culture in full swing and has been since the 1970s. While an American town could conjure up images of cowboys and hot dog stalls, Osaka has gone down the trendy route, with US hipster and hip-hop fashions, record stores and arty cafes and restaurants.
Don’t miss the unique flea markets at the weekend and the talented youths dancing lock and hip-hop out of school hours. Amerika Mura is like Harajuku’s younger sister, and just like Harajuku, it is saturated with sugar-filled goodies. A must-try here is the impressive 40cm-high ice creams found at Pop Sweet for a mere ¥300. Look out for the mini Statue of Liberty and you’ll know you’ve arrived in Amerika Mura.
Access: Take exit 7 from Shinsaibashi Station (Subway Midosuji Line)
9) Takoyaki Museum
If you’re avoiding paying a pretty penny to spend the day at Universal Studios, you can still make your way to the Universal Studio’s Citywalk to try something much more pleasing to the palette and to your wallet. The Takoyaki Museum is less museum, more takoyaki-tasting, but with several takoyaki-themed souvenirs available. These grilled balls of pancake can be filled with anything from raw octopus (the typical takoyaki) to cheese and eel.
To eat takoyaki à la japonaise, put the whole golf ball-sized dumpling in your mouth in one go, realize that it’s really too hot to eat in one go then proceed to say “Atsui! Atsui! Atsui!” (It’s hot) for the next five minutes. Our little tip – wait for them to cool down a bit or go for the gaijin (foreigner) nibbles. If you’re yet to try these octopus-filled spheres of pancakey heaven, please don’t let my description put you off. Go and find out for yourself why our 8-tentacled friends are one of the nation’s favorites.
Opening hours: 11am – 10pm
Price: Free admission. Takoyaki ¥400+
Access: Short walk from Universal City station (JR Yumesaki Line)
10) Free tour of the Suita Asahi beer factory
Calling all beer fans! If you’re willing to make the 40-minute train journey north out of Osaka, the Asahi Beer Factory offers a completely free 30-minute tour of the factory. Come and learn how those little grains of barley are miraculously transformed into one of the world’s favorite boozy beverages. But the fun doesn’t finish there: you’ll also be granted 20 minutes of refills of Japan’s much loved Asahi Super Dry making this place the imbiber’s paradise. If there’s one thing we love more than treating ourselves to a well-earned pint after a hard day’s touristing, it’s being given one for free – or several, depending on how quickly you can glug them down!
Opening hours: 9:30am – 3pm. Tours every 30 minutes.
Access: 10-minute walk from Suita station
11) Rotating sushi – Kaiten zushi
Kaiten zushi, meaning rotating sushi, is one of Japan’s noblest culinary exports. However, the prices you’ll find in the well-known sushi chains in Japan are rarely mimicked outside of the archipelago so enjoy it while you can. With one plate of two sushi at just ¥100 this is almost cheaper than a trip to the supermarket. Always useful to familiarize yourself with the affordable sushi train restaurants in the center of town – Kura Zushi Sunroute Umeda and Sakae-sushi are your saviors after a long day in Osaka. While the sushi snobs may tell you to save your sashimi adventures for the top restaurants, us normal folk, perhaps with a less sophisticated palette, are overjoyed with a plate for ¥100.
Price: ¥500 – ¥2000
12) Tenjinbashi Suji – Longest Shopping Arcade in Japan
Tenjinbashi suji, located in the eastern side of Osaka, has been a popular shopping spot among Osaka-jin for over 100 years. At two kilometers long, Tenjinbashi suji has earned itself the title of the longest shopping arcade in Japan. With no shortage of shops along this covered stretch, you can keep yourself entertained for a full rainy afternoon.
Days on end could be spent exploring the immense bookstores of Japan, getting lost in the narrow aisles admiring the curling script of kanji. Two of the biggest stores, Maruzen and Junkudo, can be found in central Osaka. Both containing an English section, now’s the time to get your hands on some cheap Japanese lit. Whether that be Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima or Banana Yoshimoto, you’re certain to find it here for a fraction of the price you’d pay back home.
14) Night out in Osaka
Even if you are doing things on the cheap, no itinerary of Osaka would be complete without an all-important night out to see the locals in their prime. To follow up on a good wander around the Dōtonbori and Namba areas to get yourself in the party mood, head on down to Chica Ichi to mingle with the Osaka jin. With all drinks at just ¥200, including cocktails, it would be rude not to.
Access: Next to Nankai-Namba station. 15-minute walk from Namba station.
If you’re a night owl and want to continue you your sightseeing through the night, take a look at what we suggest to do in Osaka at night.
15) Takashimaya Food Court
So, you ask why we would send bargain-hunters to a pricey food market when you can grab an onigiri (rice triangle) from Seven Eleven for ¥100? Here’s your answer: Free samples! Osaka offers a number of food markets, but one of our favorites is the food hall located in the basement of Takashimaya department store. Browse the colorful medley of stalls exhibiting intricately arranged bento boxes, crispy tempura and fluffy flamboyant cakes. Whether you decide to treat yourself to a little something or not, this food hall provides a feast for the eyes with its plethora of dishes.
Access: Namba station
16) Peace Osaka Museum
It’s raining in Osaka so you’re on the search for a bit of indoor culture? Unfortunately, culturing yourself can be an expensive business. However, the Peace Osaka museum, also known as the Osaka International Peace Center, offers a reasonable fee of ¥250. With an aim to inform visitors primarily about the Osaka Air Raids during WW2, the museum covers a number of events during WW2 and concentrates on the resulting projects to promote peace.
Be warned that there is, unfortunately, limited information provided in English.
Opening hours: 9.30am – 5pm
17) Shitennoji flea market
Even if your trip to Japan was on a budget you don’t want to be the one to deliver the dreaded words “no souvenirs” to those excitable faces when you arrive back home. The flea market at Shitennoji temple takes place on the 21st and 22nd of every month and guarantees affordable, original souvenirs. From used clothing and kimonos to Japanese dolls and figurines, you’re bound to find something that gives your family and friends something to smile about. And there’s always the potential of picking up some bargains for yourself as well.
When: 21st and 22nd of the month
Access: Take Exit 4 from Shitennojimae Yuhigaoka station on the Tanimachi line (Osaka Subway)
18) Instant Ramen Museum
Yes, it’s starting to sound like Japan has made museums out of everything. But what can we say, they know how to please the crowds. With entrance into the museum completely free, you can discover the creator Momofuku Ando’s idea behind dried noodles and follow it all up with a workshop making your own chicken ramen. I bet you didn’t know that ramen was the first type of noodles to be eaten in space? Well, we will leave the rest of the history a mystery for you to find out.
Opening hours: 9.30am – 4pm
Price: Free entry
Access: 50 minutes outside of Osaka
19) Osaka Shochikuza
Kabuki is traditional Japanese theater involving short stories of dance and drama on a rotating stage in traditional outfits and very particular make-up. The best seats in the house are definitely off the list if you’re on a budget but pop over to Osaka Shochikuza on Dōtonbori the day before and you can negotiate some cheap standing tickets starting at just over ¥1000. Unless you speak fluent Japanese, it’s worth getting on Google before you go to learn a bit more about kabuki and the stories. Worried a full 3-hour performance is too much for your legs? Shorter performances are also available, including an all-dance show.
Price: ¥1,000 – ¥10,000
Access: 5-minute walk from Namba station
20) Nara Dreamland – The Abandoned Theme Park
Ever wanted to go to a theme park where you were the only visitors? Head south out of Osaka to Nara Dreamland and your wish will granted. So, what’s the catch? The theme park has been abandoned for over ten years so you’ll be creating your own thrills. But sneaking through the eerily quiet, untouched park is more exhilarating than you’d think, especially if you’ve heard stories of the killer robots that roam the grounds.
Warning: As the theme park is closed to the public, access is not legally allowed so you enter at your own risk.
Access: 25-minute walk from Nara Station
Still in search of somewhere to stay in Osaka? Check out our recommendations here.
Heading to Kyoto next? Check out where to stay in Kyoto on a budget.