Consider your trip incomplete if you miss any of these places.
Japan, or Nihon/Nippon in Japanese, is a charming country in many ways. Known for its advance in technology and researches (and of course, sakura and sushi), this island country in East Asia is simply timeless in which it beckons with places where traditions are fused with modern life. Made up of 6,852 islands in total, Japan offers a long list of destinations for the world to see with Osaka being on of the most visited cities among all.
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo. It is considered the soul of Japan in many ways. While Tokyo is more polished and costly, Osaka is a charming, more laid-back and down-to-earth city best known for its food, fun and nightlife — with history and culture peeking through. With its location only a short shinkansen ride from the Tokyo, Osaka breathes a different personality than Japan’s capital city with plenty of shopping and modern attractions.
That being said, the idea of exploring Osaka can be overwhelming, especially for the first-timers. On that note, here’s a guideline to ensure that you don’t miss any of the fun because if you do, your Osaka trip is considered incomplete.
1. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of the must-visit places and the highlight of the whole trip. It is arguably Osaka’s most prominent landmark backed with long history dated back to 1583. Since its first existence, the majestic castle has seen a series of attacks and it was not until 19231 that the present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built. Today, the new and modern castle houses an informative museum that documents its rich history. The highlight, however, is the surrounding park and green space spanning about two square kilometers best known as one of Osaka’s most popular hanami spot during the cherry blossom season.
Located in one of Osaka’s two major city centres Minami (south) Namba, Dotonburi is the liveliest and most colourful area in Osaka at night with hundreds of bright neon lights and vibrant streets full of people. It’s a popular shopping and entertainment district with the street runs parallel to the 400-year-old Dotonburi canal. The bridge over the canal is a popular spot to take photos of the Glico Man and gigantic Kani Doraku crab.
3. Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Arcade
Apart from Dotonburi, Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Arcade is another popular area in southern downtown best known as Osaka’s busiest shopping streets. Claimed as Osaka’s premiere shopping center, this retail heaven combines chain retail stores and trendy boutiques together with expensive department stores and top designer fashion labels which runs approximately 600 metres long. Thanks to the covered pathway, you can enjoy your shopping rain or shine with the centre attracts about 60,000 shoppers per day on weekdays and twice the figures on weekends.
4. Tenjinbashi Shopping Street
As opposed to Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Arcade, Tenjinbashi Shopping Street is located in Minami’s couterpart which is Kita (north) Umeda. The shopping street is claimed to be the longest in Japan spanning around 2.6 km with nearly 600 shops altogether. The street is divided into six areas with different types of shops available including Osaka-like restaurants, old specialty shops, clothing stores and other commercial shops.
5. Umeda Sky Building
One of many must-visit places in Umeda is the none other Umeda Sky Building – a skyscraper with observation deck. Also known as the “New Umeda City”, the 173 metres tall high-rise building is one of the tallest and most impressive buildings in Osaka with an open-air observation deck on its roof called the Kuchu Teien or “Garden in the Sky” Observatory. The observation deck offers great views of the city through either its windows or from its open-air deck.
To the west of Tennoji Park lies a retro downtown area of southern Osaka named Shinsekai, one of Osaka’s most interesting neighborhoods. Literally translated as “New World”, this district was neglected for decades after the war. Today, Shinsekai is a heaven of old eating and drinking establishments with one of the highlight being Jan-Jan Yokocho Lane – a dining and shopping street with Japanese-style pubs and cheap cafeteria-like restaurants.
7. Tsutenkaku Tower
Constructed in 1912, Tsutenkaku Tower was originally modelled after Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It is Shinsekai’s biggest attraction and it has become a symbol of pride for Osaka. The steel tower is 100 metre tall with the main observatory at a height of 91 metres and an open-air deck on top of the main observatory. You will also find a statue of Billiken – a God that is said to bring good luck to those who stroke the bottom of its feet.
8. Keitakuen Garden
Literally an oasis in a concrete jungle, Keitakuen Garden lies within the Tenoji Park right behind the Osaka City Museum of Fine Art. Not known to many, the hidden sanctuary is a peaceful garden following the concept of a formal Japanese Chisen-kaiyushiki garden with a pond in the centre. The garden was designed by Ogawa Jihei who many consider a pioneer of modern Japanese garden design.
9. Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Located within Osaka Bay area, Tempozan Ferris Wheel is the city’s largest ferris wheel. The world-class ferris wheel with a 100 metre in diameter offers a 15-minute tour of the sky, giving you a far-reaching, panoramic views of the bay area and the city’s skyscrapers beyond from a height of 112.5 metres.
10. Hozenji Temple
Located nearby the busy district of Minami, Hozenji Temple is a small but quaint temple that lies in between of Dontonburi and Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Arcade. Tucked away in the narrow,stone-paved atmospheric Yokocho alley, this historic hidden temple built in 1637 pays homage to Fudo Myoo, one of the five Myoo, or Wisdom Kings. The fierce kings are the guardians of Buddhism and, more specifically, the Five Wisdom Buddhas. Be sure to make a wish to the Mizukake-Fudo statue by the temple and don’t forget to explore the alley which boasts more than 60 traditional restaurants and izakaya along the narrow path.
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