06 February 2019
Venice of the East
The port city of Osaka, Japan, is known for its delectable food offerings, modern shopping options, and fun nightlife combined with its rich history and culture. The country’s second-largest city is deserving of its own moment in the spotlight.
Lying on the South coast of western Honshu, Osaka, which is one of Japan's largest cities, is located on the Yodo delta with a network of watercourses and canals spanned by more than a thousand bridges. Located in the center of the Kansai region, Osaka’s neighbors Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, and Mt. Koya are all within a one-hour radius meaning the area offers an abundance of activities and significant sights to explore.
No need to venture away from Osaka too quickly though, there are plenty of interesting things to discover within Japan’s second-largest city. Osaka’s rich history and strong culture are still evident today, including within the delicious food offerings and fun activities for solo travelers or families alike. A prime example of this is at Osaka Castle where visitors can discover more about Japanese history and wander the beautiful grounds. An especially popular time to visit the castle is during cherry blossom season in April when dusty pink sakura blossoms cover the trees and drift gently in the warm spring breeze.
While the origins of Osaka are known from the mythological early days of the Japanese Empire, today the city has become one of the most modern cities in Japan with a futuristic skyline along with countless impressive examples of modern architecture.
There are two main centers to the city: Minami, the south; and Kita, the north. If you want to be close to the top dining, shopping, and entertainment experiences, then the Minami district is the perfect place to stay. Kita is the traditional business center of Osaka and offers a different atmosphere for shopping, dining, entertainment, and accommodation than the South.
For those who want to see both areas and everything in between, Osaka provides an efficient and extensive transportation system that serves all of the most popular sights and districts. For a slower pace of exploration, stroll along the banks of the river that meanders through the heart of the city reflecting the dazzling neon of the billboards.
Aside from its modern attractions and fantastic shopping, Osaka is a charming and relaxed city that is best known for its food. It’s said that this city is the birthplace of instant ramen and the first canned beer in Japan, the spiritual home of conveyor-belt sushi, and the pioneer of the country's stand-up bars. Osaka boasts more culinary options than any other city in Japan, there is simply more food than you can taste.
How to Get There
From Tokyo, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen - known to the world as the bullet train - to Shin-Osaka Station. The train ride takes approximately two and a half hours. From Shin-Osaka Station, transfer to the JR local line and ride to Osaka Station.
Alternatively, from Kansai International Airport (KIX), take the Nankai or JR lines to Tennoji or Namba stations.
PLACES TO VISIT OSAKA
The Dotonbori River is one of the most famous waterways in Osaka. A 20-minute cruise of the Dotonbori canal provides a different view of the busy city center away from the hustle and bustle of walking along the riverside boardwalk. After cruising, you can stroll along Tombori Riverwalk and visit over 30 stores and restaurants that border it to complete the waterside experience.
Umeda Sky Building
With a height of 173-meters, Umeda Sky Building has become a popular destination in the city. The building consists of two towers that are connected by the "Floating Garden Observatory" on the 39th floor. The observatory offers great views of the city through its windows and from its open-air deck.
Tempozan Harbor Village
Located in the bay area, Tempozan Harbor Village is a comprehensive leisure spot. A main feature is the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the world's largest aquariums. Just 20 minutes from Osaka Station, Tempozan Harbor Village also has a marketplace, restaurants, shopping, entertainment offerings, and Osaka sightseeing cruise ships. The area also hosts a variety of events each year.
Shinsekai and Tsutenkaku Tower
There’s a colorful area to the west of Tennoji Park that is packed with cheap shops and eateries. Named Shinsekai, and best known for its iconic Tsutenkaku Tower which opened in 1912 as an entertainment district, this place reflects modern life in Osaka.
Originally built in the 16th century by the famous warlord who unified Japan, Totoyami Hideyoshi, this castle was destroyed multiple times before being reconstructed for the final time in 1931 and fully restored in 1995. An expansive moat surrounds the castle along with some of the still-standing original walls and turrets, and a gorgeous, sprawling park.