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47 Prefectures from A to Y


Venerable Charms and Contemporary Energy

Exploring the bold, friendly and food-loving merchant metropolis of Osaka—where the historical fuses with the modern—is sure to be a highlight of any trip to Japan. Osaka is both the urban core of the Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto metropolitan area and western Japan’s economic heart. The city’s extensive rail and subway system makes getting around easy, and Osaka is flat enough that exploring by bicycle is an option as well.

Osaka Castle is a worthwhile place to begin a tour. Constructed on the grounds of the original castle, which belonged to the emperor’s chief minister, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, this rebuilt structure is both a museum that honors Hideyoshi’s life and achievements and a monument to Osaka’s rise, fall and reemergence as one of modern Japan’s economic hubs.
Shinsaibashi is an area for visitors who intend to buy more than just souvenirs. Shinsaibashi Station leads onto Midosuji, the main artery of Osaka’s high-fashion shopping district. Behind the big brands on the west side of Midosuji is where a more contemporary and daring fashion flavor took hold: the area called Amerika-mura (America Town). American fashion and music were the original draws, but young and original fashion trends and local designers transformed the area into a counterpoint to the mainstream.

A walk south from Midosuji leads to Dotonbori, the place to be in downtown Osaka since the seventeenth century, especially if food is your passion. If you only have a chance to eat a few meals in Osaka, eat at least one in Dotonbori.
One cuisine to sample is a famous Osaka dish called okonomiyaki, a savory pancake with vegetables and meat or seafood mixed in and cooked on a teppan (flat metal grill); the ingredients and combinations vary, so your options are many. Some restaurants let you cook your own, while others handle everything, so check beforehand if you’ve got a preference.
Dotonbori’s fun-loving atmosphere features cool guys and cute girls handing out flyers for their establishments, tourists snapping selfies in front of the neon Glico-man on Ebisu Bridge, and friends out to unwind after a long day. The people of Osaka are warm, direct and open, and encounters with them often take visitors who are used to the more reserved nature of citizens elsewhere in Japan by surprise. The city is also known for producing a large percentage of the country’s comedians, so if you’re into humor Osaka will suit your vibe perfectly.

Osaka’s newest landmark is the Abeno Harukas skyscraper in Abeno. Opened in March 2014, it is the tallest building in Japan at three hundred meters. The observatory on the sixtieth floor offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto metropolitan area.

While Abeno Harukas is modern Osaka’s current symbol, the city has many other landmarks worth visiting. One is Shinsekai, which means “New World.” Inspired by both Paris and New York, Shinsekai was developed in 1912, and features the iconic Tsutenkaku tower. Shinsekai’s diverse culinary choices range from sushi to snapping turtle.

The area is best known, though, for kushi-katsu—succulent chunks of meat, cheese, chicken and vegetables that are skewered, covered in a light batter and then deep-fried. In Osaka, you’ll find out why eating is so all-consuming a pastime that it gave rise to the term kuidaore—meaning to eat until you’re bankrupt.

Once you get a taste of the energy, charm and heart of Osaka and its people, you’ll also find yourself drawn back to the city, and there will always be new discoveries and friends to make.

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