“If Tokyo is Japan’s capital, one might call Osaka its anti-capital,” so written in wikitravel.org’s article describing the Land of the Rising Sun’s third largest city. Those who have gone to both places will most probably agree at this assertion because of several reasons. For one, there is that Osaka dialect with its lively intonation. Then there’s the sight of people riding on escalators standing on the right, whereas in Tokyo they take the left. And then there’s the city’s most popular food, which contrasts largely with the eastern Japan. Of course, there are more examples of Osaka’s uniqueness that make it a great vacation destination.
“Osaka” literally means “large hill” or “large slope.” Historically, it is a merchant city, but is also known as the “nation’s kitchen,” having served as a center for rice trade during the Edo period, and continues to this day, thanks to its culture that is heavily focused on food. During the development of capitalism in Japan, Osaka became its industrial center, with its emphasis on industrialization and modernization. During World War II, the city came under heavy U.S. air raids, dropping several bombs on several occasions that reduced most of it to rubble.
Today, Osaka, is home to more than nineteen million people, and has recovered excellently from the ravages of the war that it boasts a robust economy exceeding that of Hong Kong and Thailand. It is the capital city of Osaka Prefecture located in the Kansai region in the island of Honshu. With its confidence and stylishness that have made it a shopping hub and the spot for fabulous restaurants and nightlife, Osaka remains as one of Japan’s best places to eat, drink, and party.
TOP OSAKA ATTRACTIONS
The city’s most popular attraction is not actually a historical castle, but more of a museum built in the shape of a castle. The best time of the year to visit is during the cherry blossom season so you can join the locals as they picnic around the castle park.
With its history dating back 1,800 years, it is one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, as well as its most unusual, thanks to its traditional architecture that set it apart from the rest.
Built in the middle of the Shinsekai area, the tower is a symbol of the city’s rise from the ashes of World War II. It also features the popular charm doll known as the “Sky Billiken” that is believed to make your wishes come true once you rub his feet. A climb up the tower is certainly a must.
Easily one of the largest aquariums in the world, using 11,000 tons of water to hold a whale shark and other shark species, dolphins, otters, seals, and other marine creatures. On weekends, additional entertainment outside the aquarium is provided by musicians and street performers.
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
If you’re a fan of the cup noodle, this place is for you. Featuring a statue of its creator, Momofuku Ando, holding an instant ramen packet aloft while standing atop a giant cup noodle, as well as a lot of different cup noodle flavors that could fill a supermarket aisle, the museum can be toured for free. It also offers hands-on ramen workshop, but this one for a fee.
National Bunraku Theater
Bunraku, a form of intricate puppet theater from the Edo period, is presented here live—just one of the last few places in the world that do so. Each puppet used is operated by three persons, and the presentation comes with traditional music and narration, usually a reenactment of the plays done in the 1600s and 1700s.
Universal Studios Japan
You don’t need to go all the way to Hollywood to experience movie magic as here’s one practically next to our backyard. It is by far the second-largest theme park in Japan, and features most if not all of the attractions found in Los Angeles.
Dōtonbori / Hōzenji-yokochō / Soemon-cho
When it comes to the Osakan maxim of “kuidaore” (eat yourself into ruin), nothing beats these three adjacent places where you can find one restaurant after another. Here you need to sample the city’s best foods that include battera (block type sushi, with mackerel on rice and served in unique squarelike shape), okonomiyaki (fried cabbage cakes that is a cross between a pancake, pizza, and omelette), takoyaki (fried dumplings containing bits of octopus), and kushikatsu (barbecue-like fare with meat. Vegetables, cheese, etc. skewered, deep-fried in panko and served with tonkatsu sauce).
Located just south of JR Osaka station, this area is known as the nightclub and entertainment district of the city. Often compared to Tokyo’s Ginza, it features literally hundreds of high-class bars, clubs, and small restaurants popular among Japanese businessmen out to entertain their clients.
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