Considered ‘Japan’s kitchen’ (天下の台所), Osaka is the place to go for food, drinks, and culture, and with a population of around 2.6 million it’s easily accessible by bullet train from destinations like Tokyo. Osaka has a lot of to offer the average tourist and the seasoned traveller, and can serve as a great place to practice your Japanese, whether you only know a few phrases or you’ve been studying for quite some time. Take a look at our list of the top things to do in they city:
Be awed by the Tenmangu Shrine:
The Tenmangu Shrine was reconstructed after it was badly damaged in a fire in 1845, but it was originally built in 949. One of the oldest shrines in the world, it is mainly used by devotees to pray for academic reasons (students before an exam, for example). Its infamy centres not only around its age but also around the Tenjin Matsuri festival that is held here in July. The festival has taken place for the last 1000 years, and features traditional boats carrying revellers wearing 8th century Imperial-style clothing (think beautiful robes in a rainbow of colours). If you want to visit the temple you can book a tour to see the inside, as well as drink sake that has been offered too and therefore blessed in the temple.
Get steamy in Spa World:
Spa World is a great way to introduce yourself to the Japanese bathing culture (though this spa itself is not strictly traditional Japanese style). These spas, or in Japanese onsen, have themes like ‘Greek medicinal baths’, ‘Mediterranean Sea’, ‘Islamic stone bath’ (or hammam), ‘Balinese’, ‘Japanese cypress’, and many more. It’s also incredibly large and foreign friendly with a ton of information in English. It’s open 24 hours a day and has a gym, pool, and a restaurant among other things.
Take photos in Shinsekai.
A interestingly decrepit urban beauty that seems to creep in at the sides is Shinsekai. It was developed in 1912 and the streets were created with the intention of capturing the feeling of Paris or New York. It suffered a great deal of damage during WWII and is now one of the poorest areas of Osaka. Don’t let this put you off though! If you’ve got some street savvy, are in the mood for unique photo opportunities as well as some cheap food, and are looking for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, Shinsekai is the place to go.
Relax in Mino Park.
Only 30 minutes outside the city, Mino Park makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an entirely different place. If all the bright lights of Osaka have you worn down a bit, this is the place to go. There are hiking trails, and places to sit with a book or a friend and relax, or if you’re feeling up to it you can take a 45-60 minute hike to get to a beautiful waterfall, and view a couple of temples along the way – it’s more than worth the trip! Any time of year is beautiful in Mino Park, but it’s especially pretty in October and mid to late November when the leaves change colour in the fall.
Eat some tasty eats like okonomiyaki!
Osaka is known as ‘the nation’s kitchen’ originally for its major role in the rice trade during the Edo period. Today the name still holds true, but more for its delicious food options! Okonomiyaki, a sort of pancake, is one of Osaka’s favourite eats. Meaning ‘grilled as you like it’ in Japanese, you can tweak the ingredients of this tasty treat to your liking. Think of it almost as a Japanese pizza in its versatility. The standard ingredients are shredded cabbage, Nagaimo (a kind of Asian yam) and batter, but those are the bare bones. Try it with tuna, red pickled ginger (or benishouga, in Japanese), cheese, bacon or anything else your heart desires!