Japan, known as one of the Asia’s most beautiful and sought-after tourist destinations, is unsurprisingly almost in everybody’s bucket list. From its delectable cuisine to its bewitching cherry blossoms and sublime Shinto shrines, there are plenty of sweet and admirable things that make Japan an irresistible place to visit. And of course, the first place that comes to mind when people hear even the first syllable of the word Japan is—Tokyo. Sometimes, when tourists are more interested in Japan’s history, they usually think of Kyoto.
But what if you want to see and learn a different side of the land of the rising sun, where would you go? I recommend Osaka. Here are ten good reasons why Osaka is a place you shouldn’t miss to include in your Japan trip itinerary.
1. Osaka has a bevy of mouthwatering culinary goodies
What better way to start the list than food! Because of Osaka’s rich cuisine, it has been said that people would probably end up spending more on food than on anything else. Its reputation in the food industry dates back to the Edo Period (1600-1800) wherein it gained the status as Japan’s rice-trade hub.
Flashback today, Osaka boasts various signature dishes that will make you kuidaore or “eat until you drop.” These dishes include its best-selling pancake-like seafood and/or meat dish called Okonomiyaki, fried flour and egg balls with grilled octopus filling called Takoyaki, and thick wheat-noodles with soup and deep fried tofu called Kitsune Udon.
To get Osaka’s best gastronomic experience, visit the jam packed Dotonbori district near Namba station.
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2. Korea is a heartbeat away
One other thing that makes Osaka perfect for travelers is its access to another beauty in the East—Korea. Just a train-ride away, Korea Town is nestled in the working-class district of Tsuruhashi, which looks like a labyrinth of food and Korean goods. Here, you can get a slew of KPop memorabilia, Korean fashion pieces, and the ever famous—Kimchi. For locals, the sign of Korea Town’s presence is through the smell of the Japanese-style Korean barbecue called Yakiniku.
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3. Spa from around the world
Spa, pools, hotel, baths—you name it! Osaka’s massive onsen or spa called Spa World, has been getting rave reviews from tourists around the globe for its all-in-one features.
Spa World offers European to Asian spas with designs that mimics places from the said continents, which are perfect for solo and family travelers. They have snack bars inside as well as shopping stores for easy access to items needed for the water parks.
And the best part? You can experience everything for more or less $20 a day!
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4. Rich history with a cheaper price tag
Japan can be a pricey trip especially if you wish to see and experience its fascinating history. Fortunately, there is a preserved historical treasure in Osaka that can bring you back to the Edo-period for just $6.50.
Behold Osaka’s Hattori Ryokuchi Park’s Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses! In this natural park setting, eleven traditional and authentic farmhouses from the Edo period were taken and reassembled intricately from different Japanese countryside.
But if you are willing to splurge, then don’t forget to visit its picturesque castle parks, shrines, temples, and many more.
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5. Famous modern landmark
Arguably, the most noticeable architectural wonder in Osaka’s skyline is the striking Umeda Sky Building. This piece of art by architect Hiroshi Hara was the result of the civic leaders in the 80s’ vision to build a “City of Air.”
At present, it is being occupied by offices but most importantly, it holds the grandiose “floating garden” observatory suspended between the twin towers. Underneath the ground are markets and restaurants which mirror the 20th century Osaka.
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6. World-class Water World
In the blockbuster movie “Jaw”, the man-eating shark kept every viewer on the edge of their seats as it preys on their victims. Some find it horrifying to watch these sharks on a small glowing screen, how much more a living and breathing one behind an acrylic glass? But don’t be, there is more equally interesting marine life at the Kaiyukan Aquarium at Tempozan Harbor Village that you will discover. Fun fact, Kaiyukan is Osaka’s pride since it is one of the world’s largest public aquariums.
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7. Japanese Puppet Theater
Osaka is the home of the distinctive Japanese art of puppetry, which dates back in the 1600s. That’s why they have preserved the Japanese puppet theater called Bunraku for centuries now, so they can hold shows featuring these eerie and lifelike puppets that would definitely blow your mind!
One of Osaka’s famous restaurants, Cui-daore, even brought their own doll outside the theater, in the bustling street of Dotonbori. Kuidaore Taro is a drummer doll dressed as a clown that welcomes diners.
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8. Shop ‘til you drop
If you got money to blow, the next best thing to spend your cash on after the endless foodtrips, sauna baths, and sight-seeing is—shopping!
Since Osaka is a reputable “mercantile mecca” of Japan, it just makes sense to experience the port city’s economic prowess through its shopping districts.
If you are looking for the trendiest fashion wears, you can try hitting the stores in Shinsaibashi and Midosuji. For the latest gadgets and electronics, the Denden Town is a must-visit. If you are a sucker for hip vintage, Amerikamura is the perfect place.
But if you want huge shopping centers where you can find it all, just wander aimlessly at Tennoji and Namba as you search for the best keepsake from Japan.
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9. Big city with a small-town vibe
On the island of Honshu, Osaka is the biggest commercial center with a population mostly composed from the merchant class. But despite being busy and populous, Osaka was able to capture and embed the country charm within its urban vibe.
In Osaka, you can choose between the lively nightlife of Umeda district or compete with the assertive housewives in Namba during market bargains. You can also enjoy a sumptuous meal at several ethnic restaurants in the entertainment districts or dine at traditional sushi joints in the secret corners of the city.
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10. People in Osaka
Last, but definitely not the least, on why you have to visit Osaka is its charming and admirable people. Osaka assures its travelers to enter and leave the city with a boisterous laugh simply because it’s in their people’s DNA. They are known for being open, brash, and funny with a dash of quirk.
Osaka is a good mixture of laid-back old charm and Japanese modernity. You can get the same level of citified energy from Tokyo as well as the cultural flavor from Kyoto—minus the same amount of crowd. Loving what you hear? Plan a trip to Osaka now!
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