Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Travel

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I have spent many school and work holidays in Osaka with kids. My wife grew up there, and that’s where all of her family are still today. I love Osaka.

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

I love both people and food in Osaka, but wandering around Osaka with children is a little different than in other major cities in Japan.

A former industrial town, Osaka is an urban wonderland full of neon and great food, but it lacks the parks and green space that you find in big Japanese urban centers like Tokyo and nearby Kyoto and Kobe.

What it lacks in natural greenery, however, Osaka makes up for it with great shopping, incredible restaurants and the best people in Japan.

Read Our Ultimate MEGA Guide for  Tokyo with Kids!

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

WHAT TO DO IN OSAKA WITH KIDS

There is also plenty to do in Osaka with kids. Below I list our recommendations, but I’d also suggest that you just wander through some of the massive covered shotengai (shopping streets) without any particular agenda. I’ve listed two of my favorites below.

Best Tour in Osaka

Walking Tour with the Osaka Locals

Osaka Walking Tour

Learn The Katana ‘Sword’ Technique of Samurai and Ninja

Soul of Kansai Tour with Japanese Snacks

Evening Food and Drink Tour in Osaka

Kids Plaza

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

This interesting indoor complex is a top attraction in Osaka for children. It’s downtown and can keep most kids (from pre-K to pre-teen) occupied for hours.

There are indoor playgrounds with massive slides, as well as plenty of hands-on, interactive exhibits that explain various aspects of nature, physics, and technology. The multi-story indoor playground was designed by Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Our kids especially liked the TV studio mock-up, where you can act out the role of a news anchor in front of a green screen and see how sound effects work.

More on Kids Plaza in the Japan Times

Spa World

This is a fairly cheesy (but totally fun) indoor hot spring amusement park. I love this place, and we go nearly every December or whenever we visit relatives in the area.

The glassed-in roof level has a lazy river, a kids’ play area and two small waterslides, all with heated water and where you wear swimsuits. The two floors below are divided by gender and you wear only your birthday suit. In general, kids under five can tag along with a parent/guardian of the opposite gender.

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

One floor has a European theme and all the tubs take on regional appearances. For example, the “Rome” room has a super-hot jacuzzi that looks like the Trevi Fountain, and the steam room is marked as “Finland,” with fake wolves and a tundra-like exterior.

The other floor — designated for women when we last visited — has an Asian theme but with the same layout, so Bali replaces Finland, and what was the “Roman” room on the other floor is now “Islam” (?!), with Iranian tile work replacing the Greco-roman statues.

Osaka Spa World Things to do in Osaka with Kids

Is this an authentic Japanese hot spring experience? No. It’s about as authentic as the Roman bath is. But we can spend an entire day here, and if you’re in Osaka with kids, maybe you can too.

Afterwards, we head out the back of the building into Shinsekai, a crumbling old district of Osaka that’s worth wandering around. You’ll find plenty of restaurants serving kushiage, which is essentially deep-fried meat and vegetables on sticks. There is some good okonomiyaki back here, as well, and many restaurants have English menus.

Visiting Kyoto? Don’t miss our Things to do in Kyoto with Kids!

Shotengai (Japanese Shopping Streets)

A typical Osaka shopping street is covered with a decorative awning or other roofing, making them a good backup activity in bad weather. The purpose here is to wander. To meander.

Sure, there is stuff to buy and plenty of kid-friendly restaurants, but the real fun here is the people-watching and the simple pleasure of stumbling upon the unknown. Here are a few of my favorite places to wander.

Dotonbori

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

This is probably one of the most well-known places in Japan, and if you’re coming to Osaka with kids, it’s certainly worth your time coming here.

All the neon here at night is a spectacle. Keep in mind, though, that many of the shops close around 8pm and beyond, but most of the restaurants stay open late.

Shinsaibashi Shopping street

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

This shopping area is more heavily influenced by youth culture — several rock n’ roll clubs around here, too. So you’ll see more trendy clothes and art school kids in the mix.

The Apple Store is in this neighborhood too, if you need it. Their Genius Bar has English speakers, but they are often booked or busy.

Tenjinbashisuji Shopping street

At just over 2.5 kilometers long, this is actually the longest shopping street in Japan. There are many things to see, do and eat here.

On one end, the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living sits just off the strip. Here you can walk through a recreation of what the city looked during the Edo period. English audio guides are available.

On the other end of the strip, you’ll find Tenmangu Shrine, which is worth a visit if you haven’t seen enough shrines already.

Arcades & Game Centers

Many people became interested in Japan because of video games. In fact, I know more than a few people who started learning Japanese that way.

That wasn’t really my story, but I can appreciate spending a roll of coins playing games in Osaka with my kids. You’ll find many arcades where you can do just that in the Umeda and Namba areas. Here are just a few:

Find One of the Best Family Hotels in Osaka

Universal Studios

Okay, okay. This place is a lot of fun, and you probably know if you’re going or not. In fact, that might be why you’re in Osaka with kids, right? We certainly enjoyed it, but if you go, I should tell you that some of those rides are scarier for young kids than they seem on the outside.

Maybe it’s just our kids were particularly sensitive (we went when they were 9 and 5), but we had one bad experience… We saw kids their age in line for the Spiderman ride, so we jumped in line as well.

It terrified them.

Then again, there were many other kids who seemed to enjoy it. Besides, that’s only one ride, and now with the World of Harry Potter, there are even more ways to give your kids a heart attack.

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Other Important Tips for visiting Universal Studios Japan:

Arrive early: You want to get a full day in, don’t you? And there will already be a significant line out front possibly an hour before they open.

Get the express passes in advance — like, as far in advance as possible, to ensure you get them. You don’t *have* to use express passes, but with them, you’ll ride twice as much (if not more) and avoid a lot of lining up.

Stay nearby the night of your visit, if possible. Universal Studios Japan isn’t really close to the city, so if you’re only going one day, it’s worth it to stay one night at a hotel right by the park.

Lines are shorter in winter, but the park closes at 5 pm.

Plan the order of your ride: If you visit in the summer, rides like Jaws and Jurassic Park have lines in the sun. Rides like Spiderman and Shrek are covered, and at certain points, they’re inside and air-conditioned. Line up for Jaws and Jurassic early, when it’s still (relatively) cool.

Pack a few supplies: a cheap poncho for rain and water rides, an empty water bottle (to fill once inside the park) and as many snacks as you can accidentally bring into the place, as the food here is amusement park quality/price and you’d rather line up for rides, not crappy food, right?

Get Universal Studios Japan 1 Day Studio Pass

Have you read our MEGA-post on TOKYO for Kids?

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle has been burned down and rebuilt and burned to the ground again several times over, so keep in mind that you’re looking at a reconstruction.

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

It’s still pretty damn impressive, and most kids will enjoy the stories that surround the place more than its authenticity. That said, if you’ve already been to Kyoto, you might want to give this place a pass, as it will seem less impressive.

The exterior and park surrounding it still have a regal feel, but inside it looks like the concrete museum it is. There are eight floors in the castle, and if you’re up for it I suggest climbing the stairs if you can, instead of waiting in line for the elevator.

OTHER FUN IN OSAKA WITH KIDS

Okay, so the items above are things that I’d recommend to someone just passing through town. For those of you who may be around Osaka with kids a bit longer, then the below list is for you.

Asahi Brewery Tour

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Ok, ok, so this one was my idea, but my girl and I both really enjoyed the tour, mostly because watching the massive factory equipment and assembly lines can be kind of hypnotizing. Equally interesting were the displays showing how sheets of thin aluminum are transformed into beer cans and pop-tabs.

Oh, and you get some free beer at the end. And don’t worry: Asahi makes plenty of juices and other kid-friendly drinks and snacks, which your kids will be given ample supply (for free) while you enjoy your brew.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel
This massive aquarium is about a half-hour from Universal Studios Japan by train. Or you can take a 10 min boat ride across Osaka Bay.

The theme in Kaiyukan Aquarium is the “Ring of Fire,” with tanks that show seafaring creatures that live along this seismically active region of the Pacific. That includes sunfish, salamanders, seals and a massive whale shark. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is walking distance from here, as well.

Children’s Museum BIG BANG

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

This is a pretty fun science museum out near the Kansai airport. This is no place you should arrange a day around unless you’re already in the area or your flight out of Kansai Airport has been seriously delayed. But it’s fun, it’s indoors and it’s next to a shopping center with plenty of restaurant options.

The Osaka Science Museum

Lots of interactive exhibits and hands-on fun to be found at this Government-run facility. However, expect everything to be in Japanese, including the (sometimes) cool live science experiment shows that take place near the entrance on weekends.

Next door is the National Museum of Art, which can be worth a visit depending on your family’s interest level and the exhibit showing at the time.

The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum

Ok, I have a confession to make: I like instant ramen. It’s not my first choice when it comes to Japanese food, but for some reason, it’s delicious when camping.

Anyway, this is the place where it all began, and it’s pretty interesting to see how it came about. And near the end, the kids get to create their own mixture for their own signature ramen bowl. Just don’t eat this every day, people.

1-2 hours can be spent learning about instant ramen here but is slightly away from the central Osaka. It is also, as many museums are in Japan, mainly explained only in Japanese. It’d still be fun to see some visual exhibition.

Udon-Making Classes

How to Make Udon Noodles: Cooking Japanese Food with Kids

One of the best things about exploring Osaka with kids is the food. There are a number of Japanese cooking classes that accept kids, but we recently did this one and enjoyed it.

Read more about our experience on udon-making class.

Take a Fantastic Cooking Class in Osaka

Sushi Cooking Class in Osaka

Will you go to Osaka with kids?

Did you find something interesting or helpful on our list?Have you been to Osaka with kids? What did you enjoy? What did I miss? Please leave your insight in the comments below or contact me.

Don’t miss our list of the Best Family Hotels in Osaka.

Things to do in Osaka with Kids - Find What to do in Osaka

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel in Osaka with kids.

Image credits: #1, #5, #6, #7, #8

Comments

  1. alona sanico says:

    Hi Jason,

    We will be in Osaka in November for 3 days then will go to Nagoya to attend a wedding and then tour there for 4 days. We have a 5-yr old daughter travelling with us. From your review, I think Universal Studios is not for her (yet) as she is usually scared of rides.

    Would you be able to recommend best places for us to go in that 3 days?

    Thanks,
    Alona

    • Hi Alona

      5 is a great age to travel! If only 3 days in Osaka, I’d consider Spa World, the Kaiyukan (Aquarium), and/or the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. If you’re interested in Instant Ramen, The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum would be an entertaining place to go too. It’s a hit with a lot of travelers. Of course, just walking around Dotonbori is fun day or night. Enjoy! And let us know what fun you find!

  2. Hi, thanks for all the information. After two weeks of cultural sightseeing, we promised our boys (4 and 2) some real fun. The aquarium was a hit! Tomorrow we go to Kids Plaza, I am almost as excited as they are!

  3. Andi Haryadi says:

    Hi Jason, it was a great tips. I am planning to got to Osaka with my kids aged 4 and 9 this October. I noticed you went to a glico tour as well as to the asahi brewery tour, can you share with me what the least time in the morning that we have to leave the hotel, so hopefully we still have time for a night stroll. And also do you recommend the osaka tennoji zoo? Many thanks and all the best for you.

    • Hi, Andi. As for both tours in one day, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Glico Factory is in Kobe and approx 2 hours away by train (at least an hour by car). Do you live in Japan or just visiting? The brewery tour I think is interesting for both tourists and residents alike. The Glico tour? More for people who live in Kansai looking for something to do. It’s out of the way and not worth spending half a day to visit if your time in Japan is limited.

      Keep in mind that both places require reservations, as well. Don’t know about Glico, but I would highly recommend booking the Asahi Brewery ahead of time.

  4. hi! awesome tips! We’re planning to go to Osaka mid to end of June and thinking of renting bikes. Do you know any good places to rent bikes with a child seat? My 2 yr old is coming along 🙂 thanks

    • Hi Elva. Like most Japanese cities, Osaka has lots of bike friendly areas. Keiko and I have looked around and we couldn’t find bikes with kids seats for rent. Of course Japan is full of these, but I couldn’t find rentals. Perhaps you’ll be luckier. Search words like “mamachari” (housewife’s bike) with other keywords and there may be something in there we didn’t find. Good luck! And enjoy! We’ll keep looking.

  5. Shannon Ball says:

    Thanks for all the great & insightful tips!!!
    Am planning a trip to Osaka for Thanksgiving week. (Airfares are so cheap right now, can’t resist). Your relevant descriptions for a family are awesome. Ours are 4 & 6yo, and going with another family with similar ages. You covered all the bases I think to occupy us for 6 days and everything I’ve seen anywhere else too. Also glad for the comment above with the Legoland tip too.
    Wish I could tag this directly to our facebook group for this one. 🙂 Best to you. Cheers!

    • Happy to help! We’ll be in Osaka again in a few weeks for a family visit. Will be looking for new stuff to do. If you find anything fun in November, let us know!

  6. I am gong to be in Osaka March 26 to March 28 with my husband, daughter, son-in-law, and 2 YEAR OLD, GRANDSON! I was thinking of walking around Osaka Sunday afternoon. Hiring a guide to show us around Osaka Monday morning. Going to the aquarium Monday afternoon. Tuesday going to Kyoto for the day with a guide. March 29 we will drive to Hiroshima for 2 days. Again, hiring a guide for one day and discovering on our own the second day. Can you give me any updated suggestions/tips or names of guides?

    • Hi Connie! That sounds like a great trip. Unfortunately, I don’t know any personal guides. Perhaps a company like Voyagin or ToursByLocals would help? I’ll be updating our Kyoto and Osaka posts during our next visit this summer. Keep in mind that the Kaiyukan (aquarium) is a little removed from everything, so give yourself enough time. There’s a Legoland discovery center near the aquarium, too 🙂

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