With a history of about 1,400 years and long flourishing as a commercial center, Osaka is never boring, with its mix of traditional and contemporary attractions.
Among them are Osaka Castle, Tsutenkaku Tower and the 300-meter-tall Abeno Harukas, the country’s tallest building. These and other landmarks frame the unique food culture of the vibrant metropolis that is also known for its hospitality and friendly locals.
The venue of the June 28 and 29 G20 Summit Meeting is also known as an aqua metropolis. The city’s waterways are among its more prominent features, including the Yodo River that flows from Lake Biwa into Osaka Bay. They have historically bolstered the city’s prosperity and development into a commercial hub.
There are various types of cruises available day and night, including an amphibious bus enabling passengers to see the castle and the Japan Mint, a boat connecting the bustling Dotonbori area and Nakanoshima, as well as chartered cruises.
On Nakanoshima, a 3-kilometer-long island sandwiched between the Dojima and Tosaborigawa rivers, visitors can find two unique examples of the city’s architecture. Built in 1918, the neo-Renaissance Osaka City Central Public Hall is a designated Important Cultural Property. The National Museum of Art, Osaka, located further along the island, has an exterior inspired by “the life force of bamboo.” It is also one of the few museums in the world that is located completely underground, according to the museum.
There is much to explore in the downtown areas of Osaka, which are split into the Kita (north) and Minami (south) areas, among other districts.
Kita is home to Osaka Station and Japan’s longest shopping street — the whopping 2.6-kilometer-long Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai featuring about 600 shops and restaurants.
Additionally, the 173-meter-tall Umeda Sky Building, consisting of two towers connected at the top, features the Kuchu Teien (aerial garden) Observatory.
Minami is home to popular shopping and nightlife districts, and is increasingly becoming a hot spot for younger tourists. Dotonbori, alongside the river of the same name, is one of the city’s most renowned photo spots with an array of glittering neon signs.
For food lovers, Osaka is a paradise as it is one of the foremost food meccas in Japan.
Konamon (flour-based foods) such as okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and ikayaki (chopped squid and batter mix cooked on a griddle) should be tried at least once in the city, as well as kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered meat and vegetables) and tecchiri (blowfish hot pot). Osaka-style sushi is also recommended such as hakozushi (pressed, boxed sushi).
Dotonbori is the district to casually enjoy some of these local delicacies. The bustling Kuromon Ichiba market is another place for foodies to explore. The market is known as “Osaka’s kitchen,” where there are around 180 wholesalers and retailers.
Performing arts and entertainment are indispensable elements of Osaka. Designated by UNESCO as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage, bunraku was established in the city during the 17th century. These puppet dramas are performed at the National Bunraku Theatre. Noh, another classical form of Japanese musical drama, can be seen at Otsuki Noh Theatre and Yamamoto Noh Theater.
To appreciate Japanese comic storytelling known as rakugo, guests should visit Temma Tenjin Hanjo Tei. It is a permanent theater for this type of entertainment. Additionally, Namba Grand Kagetsu is a theater featuring manzai (Japanese stand-up comedy), among other performances.
For families, especially those with children, Universal Studios Japan and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan are two popular destinations.
History buffs might want to visit the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters. The site, nominated for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, was constructed between the late 4th and 6th centuries, and has many tombs in the unique shape of keyholes.
Osaka resident Ibai Vinas Ameztoy from Spain said his favorite place is a retro downtown area known as Shinsekai.
“I love its colors and atmosphere. It is for me, the place which best symbolizes what Osaka is and how Osakans are,” he said.
Ameztoy, who is working in the video game industry, also highlighted his experience living and working in the city. “The best sales point is definitely its people,” he said. “Not only are they warm and welcoming, but even in the business sphere, Osakans are really supportive of foreigners like me.”
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