To some people, it might seem pointless to ask the question “is Osaka expensive?” The city, after all, is Western Japan’s hub of culture and commerce—of course it’s not cheap.
With this being said, your trip to Osaka is not guaranteed to be a bank-busting one. In fact, Osaka can be a surprisingly affordable place for tourists.
(This is especially the case if you plan strategically, and implement even a handful of the suggestions I’m about to give you.)
The Truth About Prices in Osaka
Is Osaka expensive? For some types of travelers—but maybe not for you. Osaka, after all, remains an underrated (and overlooked) destination among tourists, in spite of how many people do business here. I frequently have to twist readers’ arms in order to get them to visit here, even if they’re on a longer trip to Japan, and plan to spend an extended amount of time in the Kansai region (which also include nearby Kyoto).
This is not to say certain Osaka price points aren’t high. The city’s nicest restaurants, Michelin-starred ones and otherwise, can easily run at least ¥20,000 per person, per meal; a day at Universal Studios Japan can cost as much for a large group as several days in Osaka more generally. On the other hand, Osaka hotels are with few exceptions very affordable. Many of the city’s top attractions are either cheap to enter or completely free.
What You’ll Spend Your Yen On in Osaka
Apart from ultra high-end properties, hotels in Osaka are quite affordable. This is the case whether you stay near Osaka and Umeda stations, in Namba near Dotonbori pedestrian street and Kuromon Market or even in certain outlying areas. While some ryokan in Osaka exist (and you can find a fair number of Airbnb apartments as well), I find boutique business hotels are generally the best bet. (TIP: If you want greater insight into this topic, make sure to read the separate article I’ve written about cheap hotels in Osaka.)
Meals and Entertainment
Is Osaka expensive for eating and drinking? This largely depends where you go. While Osaka is second in Michelin-star restaurants in Japan only to Tokyo, there are plenty of affordable establishments, from conveyor-belt sushi restaurants in Shinsekai, to street food along Dotonbori. Likewise, while hotel bars tend to be pretty expensive places to get drunk, Osaka is home to an inordinate number of Izakaya pubs, to say nothing of all the other watering holes where you can drink for pennies (yennies?) on the dollars…er, yen.
The good news? Osaka isn’t as tempting a destination for buying pricy souvenirs as, say, Kyoto. The bad news? Osaka still gives you plenty of opportunities to drop cash, namely the BIC Camera electronics outlet near Kuromon Market. The bright side within this potential dark side, of course, is that prices of such goods are amazing in Japan, due to the perpetually weak yen, the fact that many are either manufactured here or sold by Japanese companies and the fact that tourists can enjoy tax-free purchases over a certain amount.
Day trips take place in destinations outside of central Osaka (namely in Nara, Kobe and Himeji), so it might not be entirely responsible to include them in the answer to the question “is Osaka expensive?”. On the other hand, this can be a bit expenditure for travelers to the city, particularly if you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass. Indeed, more touristic destinations like Himeji and Nara may also see you eat at more expensive restaurants and purchase more souvenirs than you will in Osaka-proper, further adding to your costs.
If you’re like many travelers, the reason for your being in Osaka (at least initially) will be that it’s your hub for business travel in Japan. Although the amount of money you spend will depend largely on your line of work and how you entertain your clients, you can count on visiting any number of establishments, namely restaurants, Izakaya bars and potentially some seedier places. The good news is that some choices exist within these categories—you could dine Michelin-style, or you could enjoy a street food dinner along Dotonbori, as you would if you were a tourist.
The Cost Travel in Osaka vs. Tokyo
I’ve written a broader article about Tokyo vs. Osaka—and I’ll encourage you to click there if you want to know my preferences about either city more broadly. However, when it comes to the cost of travel, I’d say Osaka is probably a bit cheaper than Tokyo. This is due both to the overwhelming theme of this article (that, despite being popular for business travelers, Osaka remains underrated by tourists) and because of Tokyo’s global importance compare to Osaka’s more regional appeal.
On the other hand, it’s inadequate to chalk this all up to broader conclusions. Just as I’ve written this article to provide a nuanced answer to the “is Osaka expensive?” question, I would encourage you to check out my article about the cost of travel in Tokyo. Even if you’re not traveling in Japan on a shoestring, the article provides insights that will prove valuable in most any of the country’s cities.
How Much Do You Need Per Day in Osaka?
Prices in Osaka are lower than in other large cities in Japan, but that doesn’t mean your trip is going to be cheap. As a general rule, I wouldn’t count on being able to get by on less than around ¥4,000 per day—even this will require incredible advance planning and restraint once you arrive. More realistically, lower-end travelers can comfortable get by in Osaka on ¥10,000 per person, per day.
For luxury travelers, the answer is more open-ended. While I’d say it’s difficult to spend more than ¥25,000 per person, per day in Osaka, certain high-end hotels and restaurants make this a certainty, rather than a possibility. With this being said, if you’re going to splurge on experiences in Japan, I’d probably recommend saving your yen for worthier destinations (worthy of splurging, this is—Osaka is more than worth visiting, even if you don’t go broke there).
Other FAQ About Osaka Travel Prices
How much does a meal cost in Osaka?
Meals in Osaka can be as cheap or expensive as you want them to be. Travelers satisfied with street food can snack on takoyaki or gyoza along Dotonbori for ¥500-1,000 a head, while meals in Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurants can easily cost ¥50,000 per couple.
Why is Osaka more expensive than Tokyo?
Osaka and Tokyo are similarly-priced cities. However, if Osaka is more expensive than Tokyo in any regard, it’s due to simple economics. Tokyo is a large city with a more robust, reliable and dynamic cohort of consumers—there is more supply, both absolutely and relative to demand.
How much is a beer in Osaka?
It’s easy to drink a beer in Osaka Izakaya and other casual restaurants for ¥300 or less. You can get a beer for cheaper than this is you don’t mind buying one in a kombini and drinking it on the streets; craft beer and alcohol served in higher-end Osaka establishments can cost ¥800-1,000 per glass, can or bottle.
The Bottom Line
Why is Osaka so expensive? It depends what you consider expensive, and what you’re comparing it to. In general, you can expect Osaka to cost you less per day than Tokyo or Kyoto, but more expensive than most other cities in Japan. At any rate, it’s relatively easy to reduce your Osaka travel cost, whether that’s by choosing a more affordable place to stay, or eating at least one of your meals per day in an informal (but still delicious) setting. Whether you’re traveling to Osaka for business or pleasure, I hope you’ll consider a custom Japan itinerary. I won’t leave any stone unturned—and you won’t need to sweat the details!