There are several great attractions in northern Osaka, including the superb Open-Air Museum of Japanese Farmhouses and the lovely Minoh Falls. But best of all is the brilliant collection of sights at Expo City/Banpaku Memorial Park.
Expo City complex
When visiting Osaka, few people venture further north than Shin-Osaka Station and that is a real shame, because some of Osaka’s best attractions are located in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture, outside of Osaka city proper. If you’re a fan of traditional Japanese houses, you shouldn’t miss the Open-Air Museum of Japanese Farmhouses. If you enjoy whiskey, you’ll love the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery. And, if you feel like some fresh air, you’ll enjoy a trip to Minoh Falls. And if you’re travelling with children and want to spend a great day exploring some great activities, doing some serious shopping and enjoying some delicious food, then do not miss Expo City/Banpaku Memorial Park!
Things to See and Do in Northern Osaka
- Open-Air Museum of Japanese Farmhouses (traditional house museum)
Six stops north of Umeda/Osaka Station on the Midosuji subway line and located in the pleasant green expanse of Ryokuchi-koen Park, this wonderful collection of 11 traditional Japanese farmhouses is one of our all-time favorite attractions in Osaka. They were brought from all over central Japan and reconstructed here, complete with authentic tools and furniture inside. Highly recommended!
- Banpaku Memorial Park (park)
In 1970, a world fair (known as Banpaku) was held in this 260-hectare park. It’s nice for strolling, but the main attraction here is the brilliant National Museum of Ethnology (see following), which is located inside the park. The park is just across the tracks from the Expo City complex, so the two can be combined into one great day out in Osaka. Oh, and the sculpture that towers over the park is the “Tower of the Sun” by Japanese artist Taro Okamoto. Noted Japan author Alex Kerr once called it “the ugliest thing ever made by the hands of man.” The park is next to Banpaku-kinen-koen Station on the Osaka Monorail Line, which can be reached from the Hankyu Kyoto Line that runs between Umeda in Osaka and Kyoto, or from the Midosuji subway line from Umeda or Shin-Osaka.
- National Museum of Ethnology (ethnological museum)
Located within Banpaku Memorial Park (see above), this is the best museum in Osaka and one of our favorite museums in all Japan. It presents various cultures from around the world in exquisite and colorful detail, making it excellent for both children and adults. Just note that it’s closed on Wednesday (or open on Wednesday and closed the following day if Wednesday is a national holiday). See the Banpaku Memorial Park entry above for transport info.
- Expo City (shopping/dining/entertainment complex)
This huge new attraction just outside the Banpaku-kinen-koen Station on the Osaka Monorail Station (see the Banpaku Memorial Park above for transport details). There is a huge Ferris wheel, which was under construction when we visited (it should be done by late 2016), an aquarium (see Nifrel, below) and a huge shopping, dining and entertainment complex called Lalaport Expo City (see the entry under Places to Eat, below). You can easily spend most of a day here at Expo City, especially if you have children in tow. And, you can pair a visit to Expo City with a visit to Banpaku Memorial Park and the superb National Museum of Ethnology (see previous). Highly recommended!
- Nifrel (aquarium/zoo/science museum)
Located just outside Lalaport Expo City, this futuristic new attraction is part aquarium, part zoo and part science museum. It’s a little pricey, but it would be a great way to occupy the kids for a few hours, especially on a rainy day. There are all kinds of interactive nature displays. Just be warned that the place can get really crowded with Japanese school groups.
- Instant Ramen Museum (museum)
A short walk south of Ikeda Station on the Hankyu Takarazuka Line, this ultra-niche museum is a surprisingly interesting attraction for both adults and children. If you’ve ever enjoyed a bowl of instant noodles, you’ll probably enjoy this museum. It can be paired with a visit to Minoh Falls (see later entry).
- Suntory Yamazaki Distillery (distillery)
Near Yamazaki Station on the JR Tokaido Line (between Osaka and Kyoto) and Oyamazaki Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line (also between Osaka and Kyoto), this distillery offers excellent tours which are sure to delight any fan of whiskey. Actually, it’s pretty interesting even for those who have no real interest in whiskey. The tour includes a tasting. Just be sure to reserve through the Suntory English website.
- Minoh Falls (waterfall and park)
About half an hour north of Umeda Station on the Hankyu Minoh Line, this superb park is a great place for a stroll, especially during the fall foliage station. The highlights of the park are the waterfalls about half an hour’s walk from the station. Keep an eye out for Japanese macaques, which are in the habit of stealing food and bags from hapless tourists.
Places to Eat in Northern Osaka
- Lalaport Expo City (Western and Japanese restaurants; budget to moderate)
The Lalaport Expo City shopping mall contains an almost endless selection of great eateries, covering all the bases of Japanese food, as well as many famous Western chains and specialties. All the restaurants are very easy to enter here and most have English menus. Note that some get very crowded, so try to eat before or after the lunchtime rush. This is the place to eat when visiting Banpaku Memorial Park, the National Museum of Ethnology or Nifrel.
Places to Stay in Northern Osaka
Budget Hotels in Northern Osaka
- Toyoko Inn Osaka Itami Airport
If you have an early flight from Itami International Airport, or a late arrival, this efficient business hotel is the best hotel at the airport. Rooms are small but very well equipped with everything you need. It’s within walking distance of the airport, but you’ll probably want to take advantage of the hotel’s shuttle service if you have luggage. Recommended!
Mid-Range Hotels in Northern Osaka
- Hotel Hankyu Expo Park
If you want to spend a lot of time enjoying the attractions around Expo Park and Banpaku Memorial Park, this hotel is the obvious choice. It’s really just a standard business hotel with pretty typical rooms, but it’s the only accommodation near these attractions.
Shopping in Northern Osaka
- Lalaport Expo City (shopping mall)
The Lalaport Expo City is a huge Western-style shopping mall that contains all the famous Japanese brands like Uniclo and Muji, as well as plenty of international brands and lesser-known Japanese shops. This is probably the best one-stop shopping in all of Kansai. Highly recommended for keen shoppers and those with kids in tow!
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings on Skyscanner
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Get travel insurance for your Japan trip - book online with World Nomads