Hi, I’m Keiko from Osaka!
This is one of the questions I am asked a lot by tourists who are visiting this region, but on a tight schedule.
Osaka or Kyoto, which city should I visit?
“Both!” I really want to say.
But I understand this is not possible for some, and perhaps even not desirable for those who would want to spend enough time to explore a city they are visiting, instead of jumping from one city to another, tiring themselves…
So, in this article, I have tried to make a comparison of Osaka and Kyoto based on 4 factors of tourist attractions, food, price, and people.
On Tourist AttractionsComparing Osaka and Kyoto on their main tourist attractions, I would say, Kyoto wins.
Kyoto is full of historical tourist attractions as well as World Heritage sites such as temples and shrines; Kinkaku temple, Kiyomizu temple, Fushimi shrine, Arashiyama … to name a few.
These seem to be of interest to our foreign tourists.
In Kyoto, you will be able to visit the great representation of what people image to be “uniquely Japan.”
In comparison, there aren’t many of these “uniquely Japanese” sites in Osaka, beyond Shitenno-temple, Osaka tenmangu, Osaka castle…
Osaka is more famous for modern architectures or leisure spots such as Universal Studio Japan, Sky Building.
On Food and CuisineIf you want to enjoy food, I personally recommend Osaka.
Osaka is known as the city of “Kuidaore (eat till drop or eat into bankruptcy)” or as the central kitchen of Japan.
The city is full of inexpensive, delicious food including an incredible amount of street food.
In particular, Osaka is famous for cheap eats such as okonomiyaki, udon, takoyaki as well as fancy treats such as king crabs and puffer fish.
In Kyoto, one can also enjoy a good amount of food such as kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course meals), tofu, ramen, matcha sweets, and sake from Fushimi area, though Osaka may have more varieties.
On AccommodationIf the budget is not your problem, I definitely recommend Kyoto.
Kyoto is full of renowned ryokans (traditional inns) that the world travelers admire, in addition to a great number of hotels.
If you are traveling in Japan, you would certainly want to try staying in a ryokan where you can experience the traditional Japanese culture, customer service and the historic feels. Osaka, on the other hand, is fit for budget travelers.
It may not have celebrated ryokans, but the hotel prices tend to be lower compared to those in Kyoto.
Price The cost of living/traveling is cheaper in Osaka compared to Kyoto.
As matter of fact, the cost of living in Kyoto is believed to be 3rd highest in Japan, after Tokyo and Kanagawa.
Though Osaka certainly is not the cheapest place to live, being that Osaka is a big metropolitan city, but Osaka is still cheaper than Kyoto especially when it comes to food and hotels.
PeopleThere seems to be a bit of rivalry between the people of Osaka and the people of Kyoto, based on my observation as a local resident…
People of Osaka perceive people of Kyoto to be egoistic or too proud whereas people of Kyoto perceive people of Osaka to be vulgar or crass.
As an Osakan, I admit that there are actually some people who are a bit vulgar and lack manner.
Unfortunately, it is common to witness people jumping in front of you in the lines, littering, walking and smoking, etc.
But Osaka is filled with extremely friendly, fun-loving people, which is why I am proud of my city.
In comparison, people in Kyoto, in fact, are more “refined.”
Based on my biased opinion, there is also a persistent culture of “no first time customers (members only)” uniquely to some sections of Kyoto, where people tend to distinguish “insiders” and “outsiders.”
Of course, this does not apply to all people or establishments of Kyoto.
ConclusionIt is actually hard to say which city is better, especially because it really depends on what you want to see and experience.
But if I had only one day, and had to choose, I would actually choose Kyoto.
The beauties of temples and shrines in Kyoto are not to be missed.
If you are a foodie, perhaps you may enjoy Osaka better where the food are abundant and cheap.
So I guess that’s it – if you want to tour around, go to Kyoto, if you want to eat around, go to Osaka.
Either way, I hope you will enjoy what this region has to offer.