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Osaka is Japan’s second city, though much less hectic than its boisterous older brother, Tokyo. With less emphasis on tourism and more focus on livability, Osaka has a laidback vibe that gets under your skin and provides a great representation of what it means to live in Japan today.
The city is also Japan’s foodie capital, especially around the canals of the Dotonbori district. After dark, restaurants, bars, cafes and street food stalls compete for attention with flashing neon signs, moving signs and colourful storefronts.
Look out for the famous Glico Running Man as you put your taste buds to good use. Try local delicacies, such as takoyaki octopus dumplings, okonomiyaki pancakes and kushikatsu fried skewers, all washed down with a cup of sake. Or, participate in a street food safari tour, where your local guide will also take you off the beaten path, introducing you to the izayaka (bars and pubs) in the backstreets of the district.
Between meals, there is plenty to see in Osaka. The wedding-cake tiers of Osaka Castle are worth a visit, though the current building is a reconstruction and home to a museum on the history of the building (the castle has been destroyed several times throughout history by both accidental fires and purposeful warfare).
Osaka is also a very family-friendly destination, with attractions such as Universal Studios Japan (featuring a very popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter section) and a world-class aquarium appealing to youngsters.
The city is a great base for further exploration of the country, with possible day trips to Kobe, Nara, Himeji and other surrounding destinations available, due to Japan’s fast, convenient and efficient train system. Osaka is also the gateway to the Kansai region, which includes the sacred site of Mount Koya and its vast monastery complex.
Osaka is a relaxed introduction to Japan, especially if you’re flying into Osaka Kansai International Airport, where some of our Japan itineraries begin. With great food, a chilled atmosphere and plenty of things to do, it’s easy to see why Osaka slips into the number one spot for many of those who visit Japan.
Spring is a great time to visit Osaka, when the pink and white petals of cherry blossoms can be seen fluttering on the trees and in the air, particularly around Osaka Castle. July may be hot and wet, but this month is also host to Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan’s biggest and best festivals. Tenjin Matsuri honours the Tenmangu Shrine and you’ll see colourful processions of people and floats in the streets, culminating in a big firework display in the evening.
You’ll also be able to see displays in August in Osaka, as part of Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival. Then, there’s the fun Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, which takes place on the third weekend in September. The festival has been likened to “the running of the bulls,” but features danjiri festival floats instead of animals. A word of warning – this festival is not for the faint-hearted!
Osaka features at the end of both our Food & Art: Cultural Tour of Japan and our Japan Honeymoon. The street food safari activity is a must-do, plus we highly recommend a visit to Osaka Castle, one of the city’s many museums and a thrilling ride on the giant wheel perched atop the Hep 5 department store! Our Rural Japan Tour starts and ends in Osaka, with the last few days providing an opportunity to explore the city via a three-hour cycling tour.
Wayfairer works with the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel, located in an incredible 60-storey building, between floors 38 and 55. This property offers the very best in luxury, featuring epic views of the city from its high vantage point, as well as many other attractions within the building itself, including an art gallery and an observation deck. All of this just a convenient 30-minute taxi ride away from Osaka Kansai International Airport.