If you have always thought about going to Japan in winter then you have probably considered visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka in winter. While both Tokyo and Kyoto are wonderful Japanese destinations worth of an experience, today we are going to take a deep look at visiting Osaka in winter.
Join me as we take a look at everything about Osaka in winter from the climate you’ll need to be prepared for to what to pack and the best places to see when you visit Osaka too.
Winter in Osaka runs from December through to the end of March and the weather isn’t as cold as you might expect, especially if you live in the northern US and Canada.
You will experience high temperatures of 12-14 °C or 53-57 °F and low average temperatures of 2-5 °C or 36-41 °F. So it’s not really that cold at all but visitors will need to layer up a little bit to be comfortable.
When it comes to rain, Osaka is actually pretty dry in winter, experiencing on average 4 to 8 days a month of rain. When the temperatures drop at night, the cold can create snow, sleet, and frost.
Osaka sees snow about 15 days per year on average but the snow doesn’t last long and usually melts during the day. But, seeing the Japanese countryside in the snow on a frosty morning is a stunning experience so pray for a light snowfall while you’re there.
When it comes to what to pack for visitors to Osaka in winter, you will need a balance of warm clothes, layers, and things to explore the countryside with. Here is what I’d suggest packing.
It’s also important to consider that you might end up hiking around on a warm day with temperatures hitting 53-57 °F so being able to drop layers quickly would be very useful.
If there is one place Japanese people visit everywhere during winter in Osaka it’s Osaka Castle Park and it is something you must experience while you are there.
The castle itself is quite a sight to see having been built way back in 1597 and it also has a museum inside too that is worth spending some time in. But the main event everyone flocks to the Osaka Castle for is the winter illuminations exhibition.
The winter illuminations exhibition runs from November 22nd to March 1st every year and is the most popular illumination exhibition in Japan. It is held daily between 17:30 and 21:30 in the Nishinomaru Garden of the Castle and costs 1500 yen.
The experience is quite incredible as you will see 300 million LED lights coming together that take you through the history of Japan with a deep focus on the Taisho era. There are also lots of drinks and food stalls at the event where you sample some local delicacies.
If you happen to be in Osaka in February and March a stroll around the Osaka Castle gardens is a must. 1200 plumb trees of which there are 100 varieties come into full bloom and the entire park becomes an iconic Japanese image. It’s not quite cherry blossoms but it’s just as stunning as a cherry blossom too.
You can also go to the 8th floor of the castle and enjoy the amazing views of the city from the observation deck.
Nakanoshima Island is a scenic island in the center of Osaka and somewhere you should visit on your Osaka winter trip.
In the winter season, Nakanoshima Island has its own illuminations in the form of an annual festival of lights known as the Osaka Hikari Renaissance. Seeing the Osaka Hikari Renaissance is absolutely free to enter and the illuminations are very impressive especially since they are right on the water.
You can also stroll to the Osaka city hall which is within walking distance of the illuminations and it’s where you can see some amazing 3D projections.
The 3D projections run for 2 weeks in December and the Hikari Renaissance light installations run for the whole month of December and are removed on the 31st before New Year.
At the north end of the island, you will also find the Nakanoshima Park and Rose Garden which is a delight to walk around, especially since you will be beside the O River the whole time. You can also find some lovely restaurants on the island to enjoy when you need a bite to eat.
Another spot that you should explore while sightseeing around Osaka is the Grand Front Osaka. The Grand Front Osaka is a huge shopping mall that you can find next to Osaka Station and it hosts something called Grand Wish Christmas every year.
Grand Wish Christmas runs from mid-November through to Christmas Day and it features a new theme each. The shopping mall is lit up with stunning light installations that really bring the place to life. They start every day at 5 pm and the shops stay open until 9 pm and the restaurants until 11 pm.
It’s a fantastic place to go to at night when it’s a bit chilly and the lights look their best. You will also find an ice skating rink in front of the shopping mall and it’s a ton of fun to have a skate especially if you are traveling with children.
One of the many places travelers to Osaka should be sure to stumble upon while having a pleasant adventure around the city is the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. The shrine is a Shinto shrine that dates back to the 10th century and is one of the top shrines in Osaka to see.
Then Osaka Tenmangu shrine is home to some stunning plumb trees and it plays host to a magical exhibition of ume blossom bonsai trees throughout the month of February. This is quite a large part of Japanese culture and an experience that should not be missed.
The shrine also hosts a huge Japanese New Year festival where close to 30,000 people go to the shrine to celebrate the Japanese New Year by drinking, eating, and praying for good luck for the upcoming year.
You will find the shrine in the middle of Osaka and it’s a short walk from the Tenjinbashi Suji shopping arcade and the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living so you will have plenty to do around the popular place.
Getting to the shrine is easy and it is open every day between 9 am and 5 pm.
One of Osaka’s best things to see while you’re there in winter is the awesome German Christmas Markets located at the Umeda Sky Building. It’s a great place to spend an hour or two during the Christmas period as it is super festive and full of locals and tourists.
The atmosphere at the Christmas markets is unsurprisingly European and well, quite German overall. The markets are packed full of stalls selling everything from stunning ornaments to other Christmas trinkets.
There are some very festive drinks and food stalls at the markets too and all you can smell is gingerbread and mulled wine in the air. It really gets you into a festive mood. Other things on offer include German beer, Stollen, German sausages, Lebkuchen, and lots more.
You’ll also find a vintage carousel that kids love to ride on and there is a huge Christmas tree in the middle covered in decorations and thousands of LED lights too. You’ll even find a Nativity Scene set up in the middle too.
The price to enter the Christmas market is nothing, it’s completely free and it runs for 2 weeks every December before Christmas.
No matter what time of year you end up traveling to Osaka city, a visit to Universal Studios Japan is a must but at Christmas time, they add a little bit of extra magic to it.
Universal Studios Japan is located on the southern end of Osaka by Osaka Bay and it is one incredible movie amusement park where you can experience everything from Jurassic Park to Water World as well as be fully immersed in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Super Nintendo land and lots more.
You will find amusement rides, fund experiences, and lots more. It’s a place you can spend the whole day with ease and if you have kids with you they will have their minds blown by the incredible activities on offer.
During Christmas, the Universal Studios Japan takes it up a notch and adds a touch of magic to the amusement park. The decorations around the park are quite incredible as are the illuminations and they have a few Christmas shows each day.
The event you should try not to miss is the “Universal Wonder Christmas” as it features a special show which includes things like “The Voice of an Angel” where an angel flies across the sky while actors dance and sing beautiful songs.
The light show that comes with it is stunning and at the end, they turn on the lights of the incredible Christmas tree with a magic trick that kids and adults love.
A great thing to see during the winter nights in Osaka is the Midosuji Illumination. Midosuji is one of the major shopping streets in Osaka and it’s lined with stunning ginkgo trees, and if you’re there in November the colors of the leaves will blow you away.
But, the main event is the illumination which happens between November 4 and runs until December 31. The illumination has every tree along this 4 km long street covered with lights which are lit up between 5 pm and 10 pm every day for all to see.
Each section of trees features different colors based on the area and as you walk down the street the lights will go from purple to yellow, blue, sakura, and there are even parts that are multicolored too.
The section near Shimbashi is home to trees with lights that change colors and give the appearance that the trees are dancing together. It’s pretty amazing to see and is a great place to take pictures.
The illumination runs down the whole street and it creates one of the longest streets with illuminations on the planet. You can walk the whole stretch or go on the Osaka Sky Vista vista tour which has you sitting on an open upper deck of a bus so you can experience the illumination as conveniently as possible.
There is nothing better than heading to the Solaniwa Hot Spring after a long adventure of seeing all the sights that Osaka has to offer in winter. Just imagine sitting in a hot spring on a rooftop overlooking the city of Osaka? Pretty incredible right?!
You will find the Solaniwa Hot Spring on the roof of the Bay Tower in central Osaka and it is an extension of the prestigious Osaka Art Hotel. The hotel pumps natural hot spring water from 1000 meters below to the rooftop and you can experience it in a number of ways.
There are private hot springs, public ones, big and small plus you can choose to sit outside or inside and afterward even enjoy a sauna or steam. You’ll be dressed in a kimono-style yukata and feel very Japanese while you’re doing it.
You’ll also find an in-house restaurant to enjoy and a stunning garden to walk around too. I would highly recommend visiting this more than once as it is an awesome experience and it is right next to lots of the top tourist attractions of Osaka too, so you’ll never be too far away from it.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!