The beating heart of the Kansai region, Osaka bursts at the seams with lively entertainment districts, karaoke bars, shopping malls and some of the best food in the country.
Japan’s third-largest city, Osaka is like Tokyo’s laidback little brother with locals that are known for their wit and ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude. An industrial powerhouse where the majority of Japan’s merchant class once lived, modern-day Osaka retains its historic trade culture with busy shopping districts and one the longest commercial streets in the country.
Osaka’s main claim to fame is its food and sake, and has become known as the ‘nation’s kitchen’. In fact, the food is so good that the locals believe it's possible to ‘kuiadore’ – to eat yourself bankrupt. At night, areas like Dotombori come alive with the glow of neon lights, illuminating countless restaurants and street-side stalls where you can sample delicacies like takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes). Pay a visit to the central fish market to witness the chaos of tuna auctions, feast on delectable sushi and sip on steaming cups of green tea.
When you’re not treating your taste buds, you can sing your heart out in private karaoke booths, catch a puppet theater performance or watch the Hanshin Tigers at Japan’s oldest baseball stadium. You can even take a boat ride through the heart of downtown Osaka to see life through the eyes of the merchants who transported goods along the canals in days gone by.
Built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century, the five-storey Osaka Castle is a must-see with its restored gates, turrets and stone ramparts. Finally, end your day at the Umeda Sky Building where an outstanding view of the sprawling metropolis awaits you from the rooftop observatory.