Osaka Cruise Port

Port of Osaka: An Overview

Osaka is part "Shogun" and part "Lost in Translation." Tidy Buddhist temples rub up against modern hotels and pachinko parlors. In the center of town, the iconic Osaka Castle and its ancient moats and beautiful grounds are ringed by high-rises. Flattened during World War II, Osaka is a tangle of bridges, elevated roadways and skyscrapers, but surprisingly, Ferris wheels are also a big part of Osaka's visual signature, throbbing at night in neon color.

With 2.6 million people, Osaka is Japan's third-largest city after Tokyo and Yokohama. Another 1.5 million businesspeople and students crowd into town on weekdays. The city, located at the mouth of the Odo River on Osaka Bay, has a high energy quotient, which ticks up several notches at night when people spill into the entertainment and restaurant districts. And there are thousands of restaurants. Osaka has a longstanding reputation as "the kitchen of Japan," a culinary mecca known for its hearty cuisine. It's a city, it is joked, where people eat and go broke.

Osaka is also known for its stylish malls and shopping arcades, basically roofed shopping streets. It's a good thing some cruise ships choose to overnight here. With its many dimensions, Osaka is a town to take your time with.

Port Facilities

It would be easy to spend a full day in the area around the port, called Tempozan Harbor Village. Just steps from the pier, the terrific Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium is home to nearly 600 species and 30,000 marine animals that come from the Pacific Rim. You'll find Pacific white-sided dolphins from the Tasman Sea, penguins from Antarctica, giant spider crabs from Japan, green sea turtles from Cook Strait and an impressive jelly fish collection. The aquarium's headliner is a whale shark that presides over the planet's largest fish tank. Exhibits are labeled in English and Japanese. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Also nearby is the stylish Suntory Museum, which features a 3D IMAX theater and rotating exhibits of art and design based on everyday life. The museum is open 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday). Tempozan Marketplace is loaded with souvenir shops and restaurants and a food court offering Osaka specialties like Takoyaki octopus balls, broiled blowfish and okonomiyaki, a Japanese-style pancake or pizza topped with ingredients such as red ginger, udon noodles, squid, shrimp, bean sprouts and thinly sliced pork.

Don't Miss

The city's best-known attraction is Osaka Castle, originally completed in 1583 and later destroyed. Today's reconstructed fortress, built in the 1930s, has a collection of exhibits related to the castle and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who first built the castle as the permanent residence of the ruler of Japan. On the eighth floor is an observation deck offering great views of the city. The extensive grounds, with 5,750 Japanese plum and cherry trees, are also worth a look. A trolley circles around Osaka Castle Park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It costs 200 yen (roughly $2).

he oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, Shitennoji, was founded in 593; today the complex, none of it original, continues to operate as an active place of worship. Based on the philosophy of Wa, or harmony in all things, the temple has formed its own sect of Buddhism with the goals of pursuing good works in the areas of education and social welfare. Beloved by the local people, Shitennoji is a model of classic temple design with its five-story pagoda; kondo, or main hall; and kodo, an assembly hall. It also has two teahouses.

To fully appreciate Osaka's zest, explore it on foot. In addition to America-Mura and Shinsaibashi, other areas worth visiting are Tenjimbashi-Suji, the longest shopping street in Japan, and the lively Dotonbori district, noted for its nightclubs, restaurants, shops and a new promenade along Dotombori Canal. Take a cab or the subway to your destination and then wander as long as your feet will let you.

To view the bright lights of Osaka at night, take a river cruise. The Naniwa Tanken Cruise and Osaka River Cruise pass under 48 bridges during a one-and-a-half hour tour in Dotonbori, the city's liveliest nightlife district. Cruises depart from Minato-Machi River Place.

The nine-acre Universal Studios Japan, like its two sister parks in the U.S., offers a variety of shows, rides, restaurants and attractions. Missing home? Check out the Land of Oz, Water World and Jurassic Park. A one-day pass costs 5,000 yen (about $50).

Ferris wheel ride, anyone? This town loves Ferris wheels. Check out the rides at Tempozan Pier and on top of Umeda Mall.

Ride a bullet train to Kyoto, a popular side trip because of its 2,000 ancient shrines and temples. Remarkably, Kyoto hosts a total of 17 World Heritage sites. Kyoto is a two-hour drive from Osaka, or a 30-minute ride on the bullet train, called shinkansen. The train travels at over 186 miles per hour.

Getting Around

Osaka has a convenient subway system (easily navigable by non-Japanese speakers), and there's a stop at Tempozan Harbor Village. It's also easy to hail a taxi on the street or at taxi stands. A cab ride from the pier to the Sony Building in Shinsaibashi, a central area of downtown for shopping and dining, costs 3,000 yen (about $30). Editor's note: It's not customary to tip your driver.

Food and Drink

With its unofficial motto of "cheap but delicious," Osaka is a great place to score a foodie's fix. Restaurants crowd the streets and many have picture menus, often posted outside, to help you order. Among many other dishes, Osaka is associated with shabu shabu, a savory hot pot similar to sukiyaki; kitsune-udon, noodles in a slightly sweet broth seasoned with fried bean curd and chopped chives; yakitori, traditional Japanese chicken or beef kebobs; and, of course, sushi, sashimi and tempura dishes. Many of the shopping arcades and underground malls have food courts as well as restaurants. There are also countless restaurants within walking distance of Tempozan Pier.

Where You're Docked

Ships dock at the fabulous Tempozan Pier, which basically puts you smack dab in the center of Osaka's ever-developing waterfront. You can't miss the huge neon-lit Ferris wheel, said to be among the largest in the world. In advance of disembarking, passengers must go through a rigorous immigration inspection, lasting several hours and including fingerprints and photographs.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The national currency is the yen -- visit for up-to-the-minute exchange rates. ATM's are plentiful. Credit cards are widely accepted in finer stores and restaurants. Many taxis also now accept credit cards.


Japanese is the language, so don't count on hearing much English spoken or understood. Editor's tip: If you plan on using a taxi, it's a good idea to have your destination written in Japanese characters to show the driver.


Fine souvenirs include silk kimonos, porcelain and Japanese pearls. If you're thinking about taking a small gift to someone back home, there's Japanese tea, fans and the rice lotion that Sumo wrestlers rub on their bodies. Osaka is known for its vast underground shopping malls, selling anything and everything. But it also has specialized retail districts selling, for example, electronics and kitchen goods. Two noteworthy shopping destinations: The super-trendy America-Mura, or American Village, a bustling, energetic district popular with teenagers and young people, and Shinsaibashi-Suji, which is signature Osaka with its many shops, both traditional and fashionable.
  • Osaka: Majestic Princess
    Fluffy Duck
    The ship docks right near the largest ferris wheel in the world and also the building holds Leggoland and some markets. We decided to get a cab to Osaka Castle which was very interesting. The taxi ride was expensive but nothing near what it ... Read more
  • Osaka: Majestic Princess
    We took the subway &enjoyed the city on our own. Good food especially their signature dish of octopus in a delicious pastry. ... Read more
  • Osaka: Majestic Princess
    we didnt travel right into Osaka on this day. there was a shopping mall right next to the ship, was excellent. there was also an aquarium, but alas as the queues were very long and our time in this port short we were unable to visit it. on the whole ... Read more
  • Osaka: Golden Princess
    crafty chook
    We stayed at Hotel Nikko for 4 days before boarding. Loved it. Took the bullet train to Kyoto. ... Read more
  • Osaka: Diamond Princess
    Took a train to Osaka Castle, well worth it. The visitors bureau at the port had all the information you needed to get to Osaka or Kyoto. It was raining heavily that day and the captain elected to remain in port all night to avoid heavy seas. He ... Read more
  • Osaka: Volendam
    Took train into Kyoto (50 minute ride) to check out Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine. During my trip, I visited ~7 different shrines, this one was the best and most intricate! Came back to Osaka and went to Osaka Castle. * I would NOT recommend ... Read more