Japan Bucket List: 10 Must-Go Places In Osaka & Fukuoka

While Japan can be one of the most exciting places to go in the world, it can also very easily be overwhelming. After all, when planning to visit every nook and cranny of one of the most colourful countries in the world, where does one even start?

Before we go into planning, let’s just make sure you have everything you need for the trip first…

See also: Checklist: 15 Essential Items We Should All Have In Our Carry-On Travel Bag

Now that’s out of the way, let’s see what your ‘must-go’ places in Osaka and Fukuoka, shall we?

10 Things To See and Do in Osaka

1. Dotonbori

Image: @paolochvz

Neon lights, extravagant signboards and a diverse range of restaurants and bars, what’s not to like about Dotonbori, one of Osaka must-visit places? Famous for its eye-catching billboards and signages (like the Kani Douraku crab, octopus, clown and giant pufferfish), Dotonbori might remind you of an amusement park. The most famous of all is of course, the Glico running man, which is right above Ebisubashi Bridge.

2. Visit the Michelin-starred restaurants

Image: @hajime_restaurant

Once dubbed the ‘nation’s kitchen’, Osaka is actually known for being somewhat of a foodie paradise. There are multiple Michelin-starred restaurants here so you might want to reserve a table while you’re there. Options include Koryu (3-star), Hajime (2-star) and Kitamura (1-star), and some other restaurants that cater to your taste and hankering.

3. Osaka Castle

Image: @julianmaea

As one of the most well-known tourist destinations, Osaka Castle is also an unusual delight as it is located in the middle of a large city. Apart from the castle itself, which was built in 1583, there are many things to see here such as the surrounding park, the Naniwanomiya-ato Park, and the Edo Sogunate. Plus, if you’re a history lover, this place is a must-visit!

4. Kaiyukan

Image: @shigerushaker

Osaka is also home to one of the largest aquariums in the world, so it’s definitely an activity suitable for the entire family. Kaiyukan comprises more than 15 tanks that hold about 620 species of marine life, in settings such as ‘Japan Forest’, ‘Antarctica’ and ‘Pacific Ocean’. 

5. Shinsekai

Image: @visitjapan.lifestyle

Imagine being in New York and Paris at the same time, while in Osaka. At Shinsekai, this is definitely possible since half of its architecture and ambiance was modelled after New York, while the other was based on Paris. Consider this another bustling area to visit, and to tick off the Japan bucket list. 

6. America-mura

Image: @m.ichaelafischer

Japan has always had a fascination towards the West, and vice versa, so it’s no surprise that apart from seeing a mini New York and mini Paris, you’d get a whole colourful village dedicated to America. Here in America-mura, you get to see the Osaka’s centre of youth culture since the 1970s, and flea markets as well as performances if you’re lucky.

7. Umeda Sky Building

Image: @tallbuildingsdaily

Quite possibly one of the most popular, and distinctive buildings in all of Osaka, is the Umeda Sky Building. This observatory platform (which is located in the bridge connecting the two towers of the building) has a doughnut shape which will give you an undisrupted 360°-view of not only Osaka, but as far away as Awaji island. In the basement, however, is the Takimi-Koji gourmet street, which also features old fashioned images of 1920s Osaka.

8. Kuromon Market

Image: @gnitmiy

While in Osaka, you must feast like the locals do, which is at the Kuromon market. This highly popular market can get quite congested but it’s for the experience, as well as the fact that vendors will immediately cook up a storm and serve it to you straight. This is the perfect space for strolling, snacking and sampling the many different foods that Osaka has to offer! 

9. Shitennoji Temple

Image: @spencer.h_7

Shitennoji is one of Japan’s oldest temples, founded in 593 by Prince Shotoku, who supported the introduction of Buddhism into Japan. Although the temple’s buildings burned down several times, they were always carefully reconstructed to reflect the original 6th century design. So while you’re here, revel at the beautiful history and architecture, as well as the nature surrounding it.

10. Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum

Image: @philipkchu

It’s worth making a trip to see some ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) here at Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum, which houses and displays a collection of popular Kabuki actor prints from the late Edo period — 50 of which remain on display permanently.

Recommended stays:

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See also: Spotting Manholes Is A Thing In Japan, Where Even The Drain Covers Get The ‘Kawaii’ Treatment

10 Things To See and Do in Fukuoka

1.Kushida-jinja Shrine

Image: @yumimato10969

One of the oldest shrines in Fukuoka is also famous for its Yamakasa festival, amazing sights such as the biggest Otafuku mask in Japan (only in winter), and its special well…where you can pray for eternal youth!

2. Hakata Issou

Image: @so.nomz

If you call yourself a ramen fanatic or a connoisseur, you’d know that tonkotsu ramen was first created here in Fukuoka. Naturally, you’d have to go try it, right? While there are several eateries here that offers authentic tonkotsu and hakata ramen, you might want to check out the one with the longest line, Hakata Issou. Purely for the food, and the experience, too!

3. Fukuoka Castle

Image: @bene_fukuoka

A trip to Fukuoka wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the ruins of Fukuoka Castle. This used to be the biggest castle in Kyushu, built in the beginning of the 17th century. If you’re planning a trip here, be sure to plan it for March and early April because it becomes an amazing spot for cherry blossom viewing! 

4. Nakasu

Image: @tominkyoto

Here’s a fun fact: Nakasu is primarily a red light district and one of the largest in all of Japan at that! This neon-lit hub is packed with izakaya pubs, karaoke lounges, yatai food stalls, gaming arcades and nightclubs so it would definitely be a nice balance after going on very cultural trips here. 

5. Fukuoka Kokusai Center

Image: @zoebalthus

When in Japan, it is an absolute necessity to at least catch a sumo tournament…at least once in your lifetime! So, if and when you’re in Fukuoka sometime between 10 and 24 November, head over to Fukuoka Kokusai Center and catch one of the most amazing, culturally exciting shows ever!

See also: 9 Ways To ‘Fall’ In Love With Kyushu, Japan

6. ACROS Fukuoka

Image: @ylchouchou

Here in Fukuoka, they have this spectacular building called ACROS Fukuoka, which has two very distinctive sides: one is very office-like, while the other has a huge terraced roof that merges into a park — which is home to about 35,000 plants and 86 species. On top of that, this spot not only serves as an office lot, but also is a retail centre and symphony hall. 

Fun fact: this building was constructed on the last remaining green space in the city center.

7. Gokoku or Yasikuni Shrine

Image: @tokyoscape

Now, if you find yourself in Fukuoka sometime in mid-August (13 to 16 August ), you’re in for one of the best festival experiences in your life — the Mitama Matsuri Festival. It is an obon (Japanese Buddhist festival that honours the return of their ancestors’ spirits) festival featuring 6,000 lanterns and taiko drumming. So, don your yukata and take part in the festivities!

8. Fukuoka Tower

Image: @anyktrp.jp

Take a trip to Japan’s tallest seaside tower while you’re here (during sunset, especially). This tower has a triangular cross-section and is covered in 8,000 half-mirrors, making it look like a skyscraper. Nicknamed ‘Mirror Sail’, the half-mirrors reflect the sky when viewed from the outside! 

9. Kyushu National Museum

Image: @garconparabolique

Despite being a museum, this building actually resembles a stadium. However, inside, there are hundreds of artefacts for culture and history lovers to ponder upon, especially since the museum bases its exhibits on the concept of ‘understanding Japanese culture from an Asian point of view’. What better way to understand a city than by going straight to its history and roots, right?

10. Nokonoshima Island

Image: @fuminori_ogane

Located quite close to the city, and accessible by ferry is the Nokonoshima Island, which is uber popular due to its flower park. What’s not to love about flowers, especially in many different colours, right? It’s an absolute dream come true for flower lovers — not to mention perfect for that #potd!

Recommended stays:

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