2 days in Osaka and Nara

The last stop on my Japan itinerary is Osaka with a day trip to Nara. We didn’t expect much of Osaka to be completely honest, the feedback we got from most people before we went was that there wasn’t much to do. Sometimes though, you have to experience things for yourself to make your own opinion, and we actually very much enjoyed our time in the Osaka area!

Brace yourself! This post is a long one but I just couldn’t select the pictures! I was so happy with most of them I wanted to share them all!

Day 1 – Osaka Castle and Osaka city centre

We arrived in Osaka from Hiroshima mid-morning and dropped our luggage in one of the station’s lockers as it was a little too early to check-in at our Airbnb. Once our luggage stored in a safe place, we headed to the top of the station for an unspoiled view of the Umeda building.

Umeda Sky building

After a quick lunch, we then headed to Osaka castle. A beautiful monument from the 16th century, which (fun fact), like many other Japanese landmarks, burnt and was rebuilt a couple of times.

Osaka CastleOsaka Castle

The grounds of the castle are absolutely beautiful too and very much worth visiting.

Osaka Castle

Make sure to take a moment to reflect at Hōkoku Shrine and relax in the sun in the plum grove.

Hōkoku ShrineHōkoku Shrine

After an afternoon of contemplation, we headed to our Airbnb to check-in and out to explore Osaka city centre. One thing we didn’t expect is how lively and busy Osaka is. If you are looking to go out and have some fun, Dotonbori is definitely the place!

Dotonbori

That is where you will also find the famous Glico Man.

Glico Man

We explored the area for a while and took a little bit of time to appreciate the rather creative shop signs before finding a place for dinner. I highly recommend Tsurugyu where we had the some of the best wagyu beef we ever had!

Dotonbori giant crabDotonbori shop signs

Not sure where to stay in Osaka? Here are some suggestions.

Day 2 – Nara

A day trip to Nara is a must on any Japan first-timer’s itinerary! The place is absolutely gorgeous and will give you a welcome break from the city. There are two ways to fit Nara on your itinerary, you can either go from Osaka (about 45 minutes on the train) or from Kyoto (about 35 minutes on the express train).

Train too Nara

On our arrival in Nara, we were greeted by greedy furry friends, like on Miyajima island, deer made Nara very much their home.

Deer in Nara

We decided to visit Nara by doing a big loop around the park, entering next to the prefectural building where we saw the last signs of the Cherry Blossom.

Cherry Blossom in NaraJapan flag in Nara

We then headed to Nandaimon gate, the very impressive gate to Tōdai-Ji shrine. The pictures don’t do it justice and the structure is truly gigantic in real life.

Nandaimon gateNandaimon gate

We then headed toward Tōdai-Ji main building.

Tōdai-ji

The place was extremely busy and a lot of Japanese people were wearing their beautiful traditional outfits in honour of the Golden Week.

Ladies wearing kimonos in Nara

Inside Tōdai-Ji you will find the giant Buddha, which is, well… giant!

Tōdai-ji giant buddha

Take a little moment to watch people pray, draw and follow various traditions.

Artist in Tōdai-jiTōdai-ji

Once outside Tōdai-Ji, we headed toward the west of the park to quieter alleyways where we visited various shrines before stopping for a picnic.

Nara shrineNara cemeteryNara shrine

As I mentioned in previous posts, we missed Japan Cherry Blossom by ten days. What we didn’t miss on the other hand is wisteria season, and there is no better place than Kasuga Taisha to see it.

Wisteria in Kasuga Taisha

A purple ceiling surrounded by the brightest red walls.

Wisteria in Kasuga TaishaKasuga Taisha

We then headed back toward the station with a last swing to the tall, dark and handsome pagoda.

Pagoda in Nara

Oh! One last tip before you go! Make sure to head to the top of Nara’s prefectural office for unspoiled panoramic views of the park!

We ran into a few last furry friends bending to say goodbye (you read that right, deer in Japan have learned to bend like humans) before heading back to Osaka for the night.

Deer in Nara

Planning a trip to Japan? Make sure to check out my guides to TokyoKyoto, Hakone and Hiroshima!

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25 thoughts on “2 days in Osaka and Nara

  1. I have never been to Japan, but it sounds like you had a great time. You were right about the pics – they are all amazing 😍😍 I would love to visit

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  2. I also often find that places where people caution you that ‘there is nothing to do’, often offer the most interesting experiences. Japan has been on my bucket list for a long time now. Thank you for this detailed intro to Osaka and Nara. I’m certainly adding Nara to my itinerary for whenever I make my way to Japan.

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  3. Japan has been at the top of our to-visit list for a long time! Hoping to make the dream finally happen in the next couple of years. Haven’t really considered Osaka before though, so this has provided some inspiration.

    Your post also reminded me that there’s more to Japanese food than just sushi… mmm, wagyu beef!

    We love the city lights at night, so it looks like Dotonbori would be a good place to visit.

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  4. I’ve only been to Japan a few times for work and this post is really inspiring me to go back and see more! I didn’t know there was a wisteria season, but I think I might like it even more than the cherry blossoms!

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  5. Great to know that you still explored Osaka despite the feedback.. I’d agree that sometimes, we need to experience it first before wed can conclude. There are places you’d love that other wouldn’t right? The Osaka Castle looks impressive. Are there boat rides around the castle? I saw a small boat with people inside it on your photo.

    Nara looks amazing too. So good that you were there during the Golden Week. The Kimono the women were wearing looks great!

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  6. I was there 15 years ago and loved it so much , well except those deer. I didnt like them chasing me around! Your blog makes me want to return. I hope to some day!

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