Osaka’s retro-yet-modern ambiance conjures images of a classic 1980s futuristic film. The kaleidoscope of lights that lines Dotonbori canal in the downtown Namba neighborhood contrasts with Osaka castle’s picture reputation, while the towering Umeda Sky Building heralds a new era.
“Osaka is a city that marches to the beat of its own funky drum as a center of Japanese subculture music and fashion.”
Food is a huge and important part of Osakan’s culture. It’s Japan’s third-largest city, but it’s also one of its tastiest. ‘Kuidaore,’ or eating till you drop, is an integral part of the Osaka experience, and there is a great range of local cuisine to select from. The most famous meals to try are takoyaki and okonomiyaki, but there’s also kitsune udon, teppanyaki, kushikatsu, and the city’s own variations of ramen and kaiseki cuisine.
Uptown Kita in the north and downtown Minami in the south are the two main sections of Osaka, which generally correspond to day and night in the city. Kita is home to Umeda’s central station, as well as the city’s business, commercial, and retail districts. For breathtaking views of the metropolitan skyline, visit the Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor of the Umeda Sky Building.
History buffs might pay a visit to Osaka Castle, which has an interesting museum housed within its main keep. Spend some time around the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade, Den Den Town, Shinsekai, and Amerikamura, the city’s center of teenage counter-culture, to see how WWII shaped the city. When the sun sets, it’s time to visit the infamous Namba neighborhood and Dotonbori, which offers 24-hour dining and entertainment. The enormous crabs and other creatures robotically waving from the sides of buildings can be found here, adding to the neon arcade’s already surreal atmosphere.
The spectacular Osaka Aquarium, as well as Japan’s only Universal Studios, are located in the Osaka Bay area, a conglomerate of man-made islands. Both are extremely crowded over the holidays, but they are excellent places to bring your children there, especially if you need a break from the city’s bustle.