An easy trip from Tokyo, Osaka is a vibrant city famous for its food culture and comedy scene. It’s the third-largest city in Japan and forms part of the Kansai region along with Kyoto and Nara. Any Japan itinerary should take into account the humid summers and rainy season, and that’s certainly the case in Osaka as its southern climate makes for tropical conditions come June and July. The flipside of this is that Osaka’s winters can be milder, so it’s an excellent location for those wanting to avoid the chilly northern weather.
Osaka enjoys a festival as much as the rest of the country, so there’s always plenty going on no matter when you go but do keep an eye on National Holiday dates as they pop up often. In particular, Golden Week at the end of April can be extremely busy. Around special commercial occasions like Halloween or Christmas, keep an eye on Universal Studios Japan, which hosts some spectacular events and fireworks.
The Weather in Osaka
As the weather is generally pleasant throughout the year, the primary month you might want to avoid is June when you’ll see the highest rainfall. The rainy season lasts May through July, but showers are generally quick and avoidable; you may also experience typhoons during this time. If you dislike the heat, then avoid August as it’s the hottest and most humid month with temperatures reaching as high as 90 degrees F. However, it is the best time for swimming in the sea. Temperatures rarely go below freezing in the winter so your trip shouldn’t be affected by any drastic weather, just wrap up warm.
Peak Season in Osaka
Cherry blossom, maple, and ginkgo leaves define the peak seasons in Osaka, embellished with bright colors. Spring and fall are the most pleasant times for walking around the city, and you can enjoy several festivals and events during this time, including the hanami parties in spring that celebrate the cherry blossom season. Some of the best parks to see the changing of the seasons in Osaka include Osaka Castle Park and Minoo Park.
Beginning in March, spring in Osaka brings warm days, hanami parties, and cherry blossoms. Pink blossoms bloom all over the city, and you’ll find the parks full and sakura-themed food and drink in most shops and cafes. It’s a perfect time to walk around as the temperature hovers between 60 and 80 degrees F, but it can get busy as this is peak tourism season.
Events to check out:
- Hanami: You’ll be able to take your pick from the hanami events held in Osaka’s parks, but rest assured: street food, beer, and cultural performances are a firm fixture.
- Osaka International Film Festival: One of the biggest events of the year, this local film festival showcases films from Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Films will usually have subtitles, but make sure to check on their website.
The summer is hot, humid, and can be rainy, but it’s also beautiful in the parks with flowers in bloom, and the Japanese hold many summer festivals and fireworks displays despite the hot weather. Wear loose clothing, avoid the lunchtime hours, and carry water and a fan. The summer can still be delightful in Osaka—plus, you might get some bargains as this is considered low season. Temperatures generally don’t go higher than 90 degrees F, but there have been some severe heatwaves the past few years.
Events to check out:
- Aizen Festival: One of the big three local festivals celebrated in Osaka, and the first of the summer, Aizen Festival is celebrated on the grounds of Aizendo temple between June 30 and July 2. The most infamous part of this festival occurs on June 30 and is a parade that involves raising a beautiful young woman high in a basket carried by a handful of participants. As they parade the beautiful woman around, they chant “hoekago” (blessed treasure basket) as they go.
- Tenjin Festival: Not only is the Tenjin Matsuri one of the biggest festivals in Osaka, but it is also considered one of the very biggest and best festivals in all of Japan. It began a full thousand years ago and is celebrated every summer on July 24 and 25. It’s a festival which starts at Tenmangu shrine and snakes its way across the streets and even the river of Osaka. Costumed characters which have their roots in Shinto mythology and kabuki theatre can be seen amongst the crowd of people laughing and dancing, as well as taiko drummers marching at the heads of parades. It’s an enormous and bright celebration of midsummer.
- Sumiyoshi Matsuri: The final summer festival of Osaka, Sumiyoshi Matsuri, begins on July 30 every year and lasts for three days. All the festivities take place around Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, with the most fun and exciting tradition being the dressing up of women and children in Muromachi period costumes and charging them with warding away evil spirits as they walk together through a straw ring. Local foods like kushikatsu and takoyaki can be enjoyed all through the day.
- Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks: Taking place on the banks of the Yoda River, you can see one of the biggest fireworks displays of the year. Make sure to take a blanket and get there early to stake out your perfect spot. There’s always street food and drinks available.
Fall is a lovely time to visit Osaka because the ginkgo trees turn yellow and are present throughout the city, and the parks are full of red and orange hues. It's a generally dry season apart from October, which can see some showers. Temperatures can range from 60 to 80 degrees F, but it's also less humid so perfect for walking around the city. This is the busiest season in Osaka apart from spring, so you can expect to see lots of people and higher prices.
Events to check out:
- Danjiri Matsuri: In the southern Osaka region, you can enjoy a 300-year-old cultural display of float races and street food. It brings together the district's best carpenters who create the solid wood floats.
- Osaka Mecha Happy Festival: A fun and colorful festival which brings together 2,800 dance groups who mostly wear the traditional 'happi' coat as they perform. Performances are held around the city, including in the Osaka Castle Park.
Winters are generally quite mild in Osaka apart from the biting sea breeze that can catch you off guard! You can usually enjoy blue skies throughout the winter, which is a nice contrast to the long stretch of grey days that many of us experience—plus, temperatures rarely go below freezing. You’ll generally experience 10 days of rain or snow a month in Osaka, so it’s easy to avoid bad weather. It can be quite quiet during the winter, but things liven up for the New Year festivities.
Events to check out:
- Hatsumode: This is the first visit to a shrine or temple for the year, you’ll see plenty of kimonos and other traditional clothing worn as people welcome in the new year. One of the most important and famous shrines to visit is Sumiyoshi Taisha.
- Osaka Castle Illuminage: Osaka’s famous display of lights held in Nishinomaru Garden, it’s one of the most unique in Japan and features stunning cultural images that sparkle.
- Toka Ebisu: Held at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine, this is one of the most historical festivals of the new year. You can enjoy Osaka street food, a massive parade, and pick up some good luck charms for the year.
- Doya Doya: One of the more unusual Osaka festivals and it’s certainly a spectacle, loin-clothed males scramble and grab wooden talismans thrown from the temple roof while being soaked with cold water. It’s a good luck ritual associated with the years’ harvest.
- Ramen Expo: This is an annual event dedicated to the wholesome dish that is ramen. Around 40 vendors from across the country showcase their best dishes.