The amazing attractions of Osaka

Osaka Castle, photo by Matthias Hallberg

One would think that Osaka, lying in the shadow of more attractive and popular Kyoto, would not appeal too much to visitors who come to Japan in search of cultural attractions and experiences, but this urban paradise, second only to Tokyo and Yokohama, can pull its weight more than adequately. Osaka is the kind of city paradise where shopping addicts, urban explorers and party people congregate, but where there is more than enough left for culture-seekers too. Although Osaka is the kind of city that can be experienced just by walking around aimlessly and getting lost in the bustle, there are quite a few specific sights that all who come to the city should visit. Here are the amazing attractions of Osaka city, one of the liveliest places in all of Japan.

Osaka Castle

Purists might say that Osaka Castle has nothing on castles like those in Himeji or Kyoto, which preserve at least part of the medieval structures. It is true that Osaka Castle is only a concrete reconstruction, but it is a faithful copy of the original, and one that can best be appreciated not as a historical relic, but as a museum. The outside of the castle is beautiful, with white walls and pale green roofs,  and inside you’ll find a museum that does a great job of detailing the castle’s history. The castle grounds are a very popular hangout during the cherry blossom season.

Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine

Bridge to Sumiyoshi Shrine, photo by Kimon Berlin on Flickr

Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto temples in Japan, dedicated to the Sumiyoshi sanjin, the three of Shinto gods of sea and sailing. The legendary Empress Jingu, who is also enshrined at Sumiyoshi. The shrine has a distinctive architecture, with gabled roofs, raised floors and plank walls. The tranquil park surrounding the shrine has beautiful bridge over a pond.

Peace Osaka

Osaka suffered tremendous damage during WWII, and this museum chronicles the city’s reconstruction, as well as its past before the war. However, what makes this museum truly interesting are the photos and displays about the Japanese occupation of Chine and Korea, and the crimes committed in these countries. Other interesting displays focus on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

If you like marine life, then you will be glad to know that Osaka is home to one of the largest aquariums in the world, the Kaiyukan. The largest tank in the aquarium has over 5000 cubic meters of water, and animals from all over the Pacific, but there are many more habitats recreated in the 27 tanks. You will see lots of sharks, manta rays, a whale shark and hundreds of other species.

Osaka Human Rights Museum

Kaiyukan, photo by Geoff Stearns

Another one of Osaka’s fascinating collection of museums is the Human Rights Museum, whose focus is the suffering of various disadvantaged groups in Japan, like the Burakumin (who were the outcasts during feudal times, and only liberated in 1871, but still subject to discrimination), Koreans, Ainu people, people with disabilities and women. A fascinating museum for everyone who’s interested in human rights, and definitely one of the most amazing attractions of Osaka.

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