Sitting on the shores of Osaka Bay, the Japanese metropolis of Osaka has been an important port since at least the 5th Century. Although it has a modern cityscape only surpassed by Tokyo’s, in Osaka lies hidden temples, shrines and parts that provide a pleasant contrast to the hustle and bustle. Osaka is noted for its variety of shopping hotspots and delicious cuisine.
Osaka offers attractions to suit all tastes and even enjoying the main highlights will take more than one week. Osaka Castle, dating from the late 16th century, is one of the country’s most famous monuments. The castle is set in large gardens which are a beautiful sight during the sakura cherry blossom season. Other notable historic sights are Shitenno-ji Buddhist Temple and Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine.
As well as the grounds of Osaka Castle, other lovely parks are Nakanoshima and Tennoji. The latter is home to Tennoji Zoo, Chausuyama Tomb and the main city art museum. The Osaka Museum of History, Osaka Science Museum and Peace Osaka are the city’s main cultural institutions. Peace Osaka remembers Japan’s role in WWII while the Science Museum has lots of exhibits aimed at children.
A great place to visit is the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. This large facility houses more than 30,000 marine creatures. The view from the top of the 112-metre-high Tempozan Big-Wheel is amazing. Visited by an average of eight million visitors every year, Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan is a national treasure and gives visitors an authentic experience with attractions such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Restaurants and Bars
Osaka prides itself on its choice of eateries and the local people have a motto that translates as ‘eat until you ruin yourself’. All of the city’s districts have an excellent choice of places to eat out, but Dotonbori is always at the top of the wishlists of those who love food. Specialities including sushi, giant crab and takoyaki squid dumplings await the diner who wants to try everything. Battered mackerel sushi is especially recommended.
Namba is another district famed for its food as well as bars, nightclubs and pachinko game parlours.
Roughly half of Osaka’s 30,000 shops are situated in two districts, Chuo and Kita. They cover the whole range from underground shopping arcades to modern malls. Tenjinbashi-suji is a 2.5km-long arcade lined with boutiques, specialty shops and jewellers plus more than a few dining venues. American Village (Amerikamura) has a good assortment of second-hand clothes and souvenir stores. Nipponbashi (Denden Town) is the place to head for when buying electronic good or collectibles.