Visiting Osaka - What to See and Do

(Osaka Kansai International Airport KIX, Japan)

Only Tokyo comes close to rivaling the sheer urban audacity of Osaka. Since virtually rebuilding itself from the ground up after WWII, Osaka has chosen the path of concrete jungle. The city was actually founded some 1,500 years ago, but there is little evidence of that left to admire - head to Kyoto for that scene.

Osaka is a mover and a shaker. It is one of Japan's main business and commercial hubs with lots of modern-day entertainment, dining and attractions to satisfy even the pickiest Asian traveller. Its aquarium is outstanding, the Universal Studios theme park a singularity and its endless underground shopping arcades the stuff of a consumer's dream.

There is a world-class array of dining, drinking, shopping and all-round sightseeing in Osaka, although this city really gets its game on after dark. Like something out of a science fiction film, the Dotonbori district buzzes all through the night with eateries, seedy bars and things that normal society can only imagine.

Ten things you must do in Osaka

  • The original history of Osaka Castle is like something out of a ninja action flick. This was the powerbase of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the man who united Japan in 1598 under his shogun ideology. Subsequent rulers played the game poorly and the castle was destroyed. Restorations have returned it to its former glory and it remains amongst Japan's most impressive Meiji castles.
  • One of the world's biggest aquariums is in Osaka. It boasts some unique attractions based around the Ring of Fire concept of Pacific Rim volcanology. Plexiglass tunnels, escalators and eight levels show off 15 different biospheres from tropical to arctic. The design makes you feel as if you are inside the actual aquariums. Definitely a sight not to miss.
  • Universal Studios Japan is one of the most popular attractions in the country. The massive crowds attest to this, but it is still worth a visit if you want a taste of Hollywood and some very fun high-tech rides. If you avoid the weekends you will have a better experience, but a full day is required to really get your money's worth.
  • Fans of a good hot tub soaking, sauna or steam bath should pencil in some time at Spa World. This is like the Disneyland of hot tubs, with space for 5,000 bathers in its myriad tubs and saunas. The hot water comes from natural underground thermals, and there are pools for little kids, young singles and older adults.
  • Anyone with an interest in the craftsmanship of Japanese ceramics needs to pay a visit to the Museum of Oriental Ceramics. Its collection is one of the world's finest, showing only 300 of its 2,700 treasures at any time. The way they display the ceramics is the real highlight, with absolutely perfect lighting as only the Japanese can truly accomplish.
  • The National Bunraku Theatre is the country's only theatre dedicated purely to the traditional art of Japanese puppetry. The performances are of such high quality that they are only staged a few times a year. In between, other performance art groups are scheduled featuring Japanese traditional music.
  • The pedestrian street known as Dotonbori is a must-see for anyone with even the slightest interest in Japanese nightlife. This is the pumping heart of Osaka nightlife, with countless bars and eateries lining the strip that parallels a canal. Even if you don't plan a big night out, the scenery here is simply fascinating and pure Japan.
  • Catch a traditional performance of Kabuki theatre at the Osaka Shochikuza. This venue was built roughly 50 years ago purely to showcase the art form that is Kabuki. Performances are held only in January, July and a few other special times, so check with your hotel to see if it is Kabuki season.
  • The underground shopping mall scene in Osaka is arguably the largest and liveliest on the planet. Begin your subterranean adventure in Umeda, where several train lines converge. There are more than a few distinct underground arcades down here that can easily fill hours of your time. Crysta Nagahori boasts a glass roof, running streams and 100 or more shops, making it the nation's largest mall of its kind. Nearby is Namba Walk and the other underground arcades all connected by clever walkways.
  • Japan's very first official Shinto temple is here in Osaka. The Shitennoji Temple was built around 1,400 years ago by the prince who introduced Buddhism to the country. Burned down more than once, the temple was rebuilt each time exactly like the original 6th century beauty. Outside the shrine is a wonderful traditional Japanese garden to enjoy.

Osaka Airport KIX

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