Five reasons Osaka – Japan’s third-largest city – should be on your must-visit list this year.
Food worth going broke for
So longstanding is Osaka’s food affinity that the city is known as “Japan’s kitchen” and the phrase “kuida-ore”, which literally means “eat oneself bankrupt”, is common. The must-tries: okonomiyaki, a specialty of Osaka, is a thick pancake topped with cabbage, meat, vegies, cheese and mochi (glutinous rice cake). Takoyaki – little balls of battered, deep-fried octopus with pickled ginger and spring onion – is another regional favourite. Osaka is also the place for kushikatsu, tasty battered and deep-fried skewers.
Baseball mania to rival the US
The Japanese are mad for baseball and Osakans are among the most fanatical. Of course, this is Japan so when you attend a Hanshin Tigers game, you won’t find the equivalent of football hooligans or the Barmy Army. Instead, polite fans of various teams perform dances, chants and rituals (beating mini baseball bats together in unison, waving tiny towels), while rival teams are warmly welcomed and draught beer is served to your seat by roaming uriko – young women carrying kegs on their backs.
The longest shopping street in Japan
The covered shopping arcade of Tenjinbashi-suji is the longest shopping street in Japan, running for 2.6 kilometres and spanning three subway stations. Its shops, mostly independently owned and run, sell clothing, groceries, books and more. The street was established in the early Meiji era (1868-1912) and locals have been shopping here ever since.
The coolest kitsch
Osaka has attractions for even the most jaded of tourists: the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, where visitors can create their own personalised cup noodles to take home; a real-life Pokémon Gym; Spa World, in which ancient Roman, Persian and traditional Japanese onsen spa experiences are re-created over seven steamy storeys; an owl café; and the neighbourhood of Shinsekai, or New World, constructed in 1912 as a “city of the future”.
See also: 20 Things You Must Do in Osaka
The past is alive
Osaka is dotted with fascinating glimpses of the past, such as the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shinto temple, dating back to 211CE, and the city’s famous Osaka Castle, built by samurai and politician Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583. The Edo period (1615-1868) is palpable in the city, too. Behind Hozenji Temple (built in 1637) is the quaint, cobbled alleyway of Hozenji Yokocho, its historical buildings now housing izakayas and restaurants. Don’t neglect the museums: the Open Air Museum of Old Japan Farmhouses in Hattori Ryokuchi Park has reconstructed traditional rural homes in the middle of the city, and the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living allows visitors to walk the streets of Edo Osaka.