A traveler’s guide to Osaka

Osaka, photo by Matt Lucht

Tokyo has its landmarks and quirky attractions, Kyoto has its rich historical heritage, but Osaka is the beating heart of the Kansai region. A modern city that second only to Tokyo when it comes to urban delights, and with a considerable historical background that lies hidden behind the modern jungle. Osaka is a huge commercial center that at first sight may seem nothing but a sprawl of concrete buildings with little character of its own, but nothing could be further from the truth. Osaka is infused with a unique charm, and everything in the city seems to dance to its own tune. From the Kansai dialect spoken by the inhabitants to the famous cuisine, Osaka is a world of its own and fiercely proud of it. Here’s a traveler’s guide to Osaka for those who want to explore this amazing city.

Getting around

Osaka Castle, photo by Matthias Hallberg

Osaka’s subway network is the second largest in the country after Tokyo’s, which means that you can get from almost anywhere to everywhere in the city, but you also need a basic mastery of Japanese subway travel if you don’t want to get lost in the tangle of lines. The main subway line that links many of the attractions, train stations and shopping areas of Osaka is the Midosuji Line, but if you prefer traveling by train then you can take the JR Osaka Loop Line and stop by landmarks such as Osaka Castle and Tennoji and Umeda. If you don’t mind making some physical effort, then you can rent a bike and follow the lead of the countless locals who choose to avoid the crowd on public transport and get some exercise at the same time. Even when there are no bike lanes in sight, biking on sidewalks is legal and perfectly acceptable.

Sights and things to do

Osaka, photo by xiquinhosilva

Osaka has many attractions up its sleeve, but the most famous of them is Osaka Castle, which is quite fetching despite being only a concrete reconstruction of the original castle which was destroyed in the Meiji Restoration and by bombings during WWII. However, the castle also functions are a very informative museum, and the castle grounds are great for a stroll, especially in cherry blossom season. Science buffs will love the Osaka Science Museum with its interactive displays and planetarium. If historical/cultural sights is what you’re after, visit Sumiyoshi Shrine and Shitennoji Temple.

Visiting Kaiyukan Aquarium is a must while you’re in Osaka, after all, this is one of the largest aquarium on the planet and it houses a huge number of marine species, from fearsome sharks to cute seals. If you are in Osaka in Spring, you might want to see a sumo match or two at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, where the Sumo Spring Grand Tournament is held every year. One of the local quirky attractions is the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, a monument dedicated to none other than the cup noodle.

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