Osaka City Guide 大坂

Osaka City Guide 大坂

About Osaka

Population: 2.6M

Location: Kansai, Capital of the Osaka prefecture

The city is the second largest after Tokyo and the third most populated after Tokyo and Yokohama. Osaka is a port city but also was the merchant capital of Japan. Indeed, it was the economic powerhouse of Kansai for a long time. Before Tokyo and even Kyoto, the capital of Japan was Osaka, formerly known as Naniwa. It used to supply goods such as rice, sake, ceramics from Kyoto to Tokyo by sea. In the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi chose Osaka as the location for his castle, and the city may have become Japan’s political capital if Tokugawa Ieyasu had not terminated the Toyotomi lineage after Hideyoshi’s death and moved his government to distant Tokyo. Osaka is famous in Japan for its food, warm people, its castle and its dialect. It is vibrant city.

Main Districts

  • Nakanoshima: Cultural and administrative area.
  • Minami (Namba): The city’s most famous entertainment district.
  • Den-Den Town: electronics shopping area. It is comparable to Akihabara in Tokyo.
  • Shinsekai: District made up to look like Paris and Coney Island but with a Japanese twist.

Top Attractions

  • Universal Studios: First Universal Studios ever built in Asia. It is the most visited amusement park in Japan after Tokyo Disney Resort.
  • Osaka Aquarium: One of Japan’s most impressive aquariums.
  • Hozenji Yokocho: 2 alleys of 80m long. It has a traditional feel with local restaurants and izakaya. There is also a temple where you can pour water on the moss-covered statues for good luck.
  • Sumiyoshi Taisha: One of Japan’s oldest shrines, built in the 3rd century before the introduction of Buddhism in Japan. The architecture of this shrine is unique as it is free from the influence of the mainland of Asia which make this shrine and only 2 other shrines in Japan truly and purely Japanese.
  • Shitennoji Temple: One of Japan’s oldest temples and the first one ever to be built by the State. Founded by a prince who supported the introduction of Buddhism in Japan.
  • Umeda Sky Building: Impressive and spectacular building with an observation deck.
  • Mozu Tombs: This area is part of Cultural World Heritage Site since 2019. It is a cluster of several dozen tombs which were built in the 4th and 6th centuries for the ruling elites. The larger and elaborate the mounds the higher the status. The largest one is the one for Emperor Nintoku Kofun. His tomb is surrounded by moats with the tomb itself being 800m long and 600m wide making it the world’s largest grave. The tomb is of a keyhole shape (as may other important tombs). It is not open to the public and quite difficult to fully appreciate unless viewed from a high vantage point.
  • Abeno Harukas: Tallest skyscraper in Japan with an observation deck.

Best Places to Go Out

  • Shinsekai: District made up to look like Paris and Coney Island but with a Japanese twist.
  • Kuromon Market
  • Dotonbori: One of Osaka’s most touristic street. Full of shops and restaurants along the canal. This is where you can see the famous Glico Running Man and Kani Draku crab sign.
  • Namba Parks: It is a park made of 120 tenant shopping malls including a cinema, amphitheater and rooftop garden. It was built to look like a canyon with nature in the city center.

Best Culture Spots

  • National Bunraku Theatre: Similar to Kabuki but with meter tall puppets. It considered the nation’s most prestigious.
  • Osaka Castle: Constructed In 1583. Founded by Tyotomi Hideyoshi, he intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under his rule as Shogun. He is known today for being a peasant who raised himself up to the position of shogun (military ruler) and the unifier of Japan! It was the biggest castle built at that time in Japan.

What to Eat

  • Kushi-katsu: Dish composed of several skewered, battered and deep-fried food from chicken, beef to pumpkin and asparagus.
  • Takoyaki: Osaka is known all over Japan for its Takoyaki. They are made of octopus legs in batter cooked in small round molds especially made for Takoyaki. After the cooking process, which is really interesting to watch, a savoury sauce with dried bonito flakes on top. This is a street food kind of dish and we recommend eating them in Dotombori.
  • Okonomiyaki: Famous Osaka Dish. An Okonomiyaki is a thick Japanese pancake of cabbage, tempura and pickled ginger, on top of it you will find sweet brown sauce, mayonnaise, dried green seaweed and dried bonito flakes. It is cooked on a flat grill, you either cook it yourself or let the cooks do the job when in a restaurant. As for the Takoyaki, the best place to eat Okonomiyaki would be in Dotombori.
  • Kitsune Udon: Osaka has its own twist of Udon (which are thick wheat noodles). Kitsune Udon are served in a hot broth with a piece of deep-fried tofu (believed to be a fox’s favourite. Kitsune means fox).

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