Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan and for those of you that might look at Tokyo as a somewhat intimidating place, Osaka can be seen as its more approachable little brother. There are a lot of people that love this place, but for me it just didn’t tick all that many boxes. Traditional Japan isn’t really found here, but that being said there’s a lot of other things that you can’t find in traditional Japan. If you’re looking for a city with some excellent street food and excellent nightlife then Osaka will most likely keep you a very happy bunny.
Osaka has two international airports and is connected to many Japanese rail lines.
The train system is pretty swell.
What to do
Actually my list of what to do in Osaka is quite succinct because there aren’t a lot of things that you have to see. But these are a few of the things that I would definitely tick off the list.
Osaka’s must see is its castle, shockingly commonly referred to as Osaka castle – who would have guessed? It’s been built and rebuilt many times for a variety of reasons, fire, attacks, lightening strikes, you name it, Osaka castle was destroyed by it. The current version of it is as recently built as 1997 and is actually incredibly modern inside, but still merits a trip and a photo with. Not only that, but the Nishinomaru Garden surrounding the castle is particularly beautiful. An afternoon sat amongst the cherry trees will not disappoint you.
Namba is one of the must see areas in Osaka and is considered as the city centre. It’s a lively area, full of neon, restaurants, street food and nightlife. Head to Dotonbori (the canal) at night to see the place in full flow and make sure you find the Glico Running Man. He’s been looking that way for a while and whilst I recognise that it is simply a large glowing sign, why not jump on the bandwagon and have your photo with him? There are also lots of izakayas around this area, one of my absolute favourite things about the culture. It’s basically the equivalent of a pub. Yes, I would like yakitori served to me whilst I drink and be social with the Japanese.
The Umeda Sky Building
Yes, this is just a really cool, tall building – well two really cool tall buildings connected by a garden observatory. If nothing else, it gives you a great view of the city.
Now, I wouldn’t normally advocate going to a theme park when you’re supposed to be traveling the world, but for the case of Harry Potter, I would make an exception. The Universal Studios here has the Harry Potter world and it’s worth going to even if only to hear Hagrid in Japanese. But, overall, the Japanese know how to dress up. If you have the time, then go. It’s not traditional Japanese culture, but it is pretty magical.
Make sure you munch on:
Takoyaki – Takoyaki is one of Japan’s most popular street foods and it originated here in Osaka so you won’t have any trouble finding it. It is essentially little octopus balls fried and served with a special salty sauce and most likely cheese. What I will say, and I learnt this the hard way, as many other people have before me, wait until they’ve cooled for a while because those bad boys are hot and they stay hot for a very long time. Perhaps, you’re a more intelligent or patient person than myself when it comes to food, but for those of you that aren’t, that’s my top tip.
Okonomiyaki – Another street food originating from Osaka. It’s essentially a Japanese pancake made with flour, eggs, cabbage, some form of meat and occasionally different types of noodles. It varies from place to place and you’ll find them all over Japan with different takes on it, but this is where it came from and it’s really really really tasty.