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Osaka’s charm comes from its ability to combine big-city credentials with small-town Japanese warmth. People here are engaging and courteous, with a lively sense of humour.
This city is full of contradictions, from its high-rise blocks to labyrinths of underground shops. So book a flight to Osaka with Qatar Airways, to explore a city that marches to the beat of its own drum.
There is so much more to see on a trip to Osaka than neon lights and sushi restaurants, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Osaka Museum of History. Jump on the subway to Tanimachi 4-Chome station to explore Osaka’s illustrious past, from feudal times to modern day. Exhibits are interactive and family-friendly, and there is even a condensed tour, lasting just an hour, or a longer one for a more in-depth story.
Osaka Castle is probably the city’s most prominent attraction and an enduring symbol of Japan’s ability to change with the times. Originally built in the 16th century, it was reconstructed in the early 1900s. However, rather than leaving it a collection of winding wooden staircases and empty rooms, sleek elevators were installed, allowing a constant flow of visitors through the building. The eighth floor offers a spectacular view of the city.
If you are travelling with children, your trip to Osaka should also take in Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the world’s largest, boasting more than 11,000 tonnes of water. Gigantic spider crabs, king penguins and even whale sharks are on display. It is a short walk from Osaka-ko station and you will often find street entertainers playing outside.
A trip to Osaka is full of weird and wonderful sights, including Spa World. It is set in the centre of Osaka and is a peculiar fusion of spa, space centre and Vegas-style glitz. It is the perfect place to unwind, choosing from Roman-style baths, outdoor pools or a fully stocked gym.
If you are travelling with children, a day out at Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka Bay, is the ideal treat. Its film-themed rides and attractions, restaurants and shops make it one of Osaka’s most popular attractions, so get there early if you can.
You cannot fail to spot the HEP Five Ferris Wheel next to Osaka Station, and there is no better way of seeing the city. The ride lasts 15 minutes and the carriages are fully air-conditioned. It is likely to be one of the highlights of your trip.
You can also visit other Japanese cities such as Kyoto, Kobe and Himeji, using Osaka as a base. Most are around an hour’s travel by public transport. There are several famous temples in Kyoto, certified as World Heritage sites, like the Kinkaku-ji and Kiyomizu-dera. Pay a visit to the beautiful harbour city of Kobe, or wander around Himeji-jo, one of the most popular castles in Japan, located in Himeji.
Osaka lives up to its nickname of “the nation’s kitchen” and, contrary to what you might believe, a trip here does not mean living off raw fish. One of the most popular dishes, served by street vendors and restaurants alike, is okonomiyaki. This is halfway between an omelette and a pancake, served with special sauce, and you can choose your filling, from noodles, seafood or meat.
Alternatively, there are noodle stalls in abundance, selling stir fries, soups and Japanese curries. The Dōtonbori district is famous for street food, so if you are in the area, you will be spoiled for choice.
Osaka can almost be defined by its shopping districts but you need to know what you are looking for. Namba and Tennoji probably have the largest shopping centres, but off the beaten track you will find many other treasures. If you want some fashionable, vintage clothing, head for the Amerikamura district.
Branded designer merchandise can be found in Midosuji. And for gadget lovers, there’s no better district than Den Den Town – if you cannot find it here, it probably hasn’t been invented yet.
Essential facts about Osaka
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip