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Osaka VS Tokyo: Which Japanese City Is Worth Visiting First?

Coming to Japan for the first time comes with a difficult decision: where exactly in this amazing country do you go first?

Osaka main image: martinho Smart /

The two most popular answers are, of course, Tokyo or Osaka. These two cities offer everything you could want: iconic landmarks, amazing food, endless shopping, and immersive culture, but which one is right for you?

While Tokyo and Osaka are only 500km apart, the differences can make it seem like they’re at opposite ends of the country. Tokyo is known for its liveliness and dynamism, while Osaka is oft considered more carefree and relaxed.

Do you want to see Japan’s most famous landscapes and take in as much as possible, or do you want to take it slow and see where the streets take you? Let’s look at some of the similarities and differences between these two megacities, so that you can choose your dream destination.

1. Appearance & Sightseeing

Visually, there are few places in the world like Tokyo. It’s a huge metropolis soaked in neon light, and its relationship with technology is on show at every turn. While Osaka has a few similarities, its buildings, architecture, and streets have a more traditional character.

Both Tokyo and Osaka have a number of unique locations and heritage sites, so you’ll be spoilt for choice no matter which city you’re in.

Tokyo is home to some of Japan’s most iconic landmarks, including the Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, the Imperial Palace and multiple ancient temples and shrines. There are also around a hundred different museums in Tokyo, showcasing everything from modern art to the history of beer.

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Image: f11photo /

Osaka is slightly less touristy in some ways, and more catered towards those who want to explore. If it’s cultural history you’re interested in, you’ll find hundreds of sacred temples and shrines in Osaka, plus the ancient Osaka Castle. Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan, has eleven floors of shops, restaurants, museums, and an observatory deck with the best view of Osaka in the city.

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2. Things to Do

No matter where you are in Japan, you’ll never be bored, but is there much difference in entertainment between Japan’s two biggest cities?

Akihabara in Tokyo (f11photo /

If we’re talking large-scale attractions, Tokyo Disneyland and Fuji-Q Highland, two of the most popular theme parks in the country, are both easily commutable via central Tokyo. Hello Kitty fans will be in heaven too, since Sanrio Puroland (Hello Kitty Land), is only an hour away too.

Ginza, Tokyo’s famous shoppin…

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