Having booked your Osaka flights, you are probably wondering what to expect. Osaka is a Japanese city visited by Western tourists often for different reasons than the vibrant Tokyo and the historic Kyoto. It is a city very much defined by its standing as the commercial centre of Japan, a status inherited and upheld all the way from the Edo period, when it was known as “the kitchen of Japan,” the largest rice trading centre in the country.
The major must-see sight is the Osaka-jō castle
Originally constructed in 1583, but destroyed and re-built many times over since then. The project was dreamed into existence (with the help of a hundred thousand workers, of course) by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a symbol of the unification of Japan. At present the site gives great insight into the colourful history of Osaka, and it also boasts great panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. Speaking of good vies, the Floating Garden Observatory at the 170 metre-tall Umeda Sky Building is also a great contender for the top ten list of the city’s sights.
Instead of the Universal Studios Japan, the attractions of which, let’s face it, you can find elsewhere as well, it is recommended you visit something much more quirky and Japanese: Spa World. It has two floors of nothing but hot springs, pools, slides and spas of all kinds, western and eastern, so you can indulge your cravings to your heart’s content. Bear in mind that the traditional pools are gender-specific and swimmers-free.
In terms of gifts for family and friends, Peanuts-crazy kids (of all ages) will love the gigantic Snoopy Town Shop, where you will surely find some cute accessory to bring home. If you’ve got your kids with you, it is also worthwhile to stop at the Osaka Aquarium, the proud home of many varieties of sharks. Deep water loving giant spider crabs are especially bound to fire the children’s imaginations!
In the evening, most tourists make their way to Dōtombori. Picture it like Little Las Vegas: totally overloaded with bright lights and neon, so you’ll have to try and keep that rabbit in the headlights look off your face if you can, and bravely head towards Ebisu-bashi bridge for a Japanese version of a “Manhattan by night” experience and a nice stroll. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, arcades and theatres here to keep you both full and entertained, as the area is known for its vivid nightlife scene.
Osaka is located only a short train ride from Kyoto, so if you are here on business and can spare a day to go sightseeing, it’s well worth taking the time out to do so as well.
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