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Osaka (Kansai) Japan

Osaka (Kansai)

Stuff yourself silly in Japan’s foodie capital

As Japan’s third-largest and second-most important city, Osaka has a lot to offer visitors. A former commercial center, the city has ceded prominence to Tokyo in that field, though many major Japanese corporations call the place home. Osaka is considered a major hub for pop culture and shopping. But more than anything, Osaka is known for its food and its residents’ passion for eating, which inspired the term kuidarore, meaning “to eat until you drop”. Thanks to its friendly ambience and culinary bent, you may well find yourself charmed and stuffed in equal measure.

When to go

Osaka has a fairly mild climate and the seasons are quite distinct. Temperatures range from about 6˚C in the winter to close to 30˚C in the summer. Snow is rare. Late June to late July is the rainy season, with the typhoon season following soon after.

Given that there are many famous cherry-blossom viewing sites in town and in nearby Kyoto, spring is an excellent time to visit, as is the fall if you prefer autumn leaves.

Osaka hosts a grand sumo tournament in mid-March, late July sees the Tenjin Matsuri Festival - with hundreds of elaborately decked-out boats plying the Okawa River - and for a month starting in mid-October, you can feast your eyes on fields of blooms at the Osaka Castle Chrysanthemum Festival.

Flying with Jetstar

Jetstar flies from Osaka to Tokyo, a major domestic and international hub, as well as to Sapporo, Fukuoka and Naha. There are also direct international flights to Manila and Singapore.

Find cheap flights to Osaka

Getting around

Osaka is easily seen via its network of subway lines. Fares are charged by distance traveled, but a one- or two-day Osaka Amazing Pass is a good option for visitors. In addition to unlimited subway and bus rides, you get discount access to 13 sites and free admission to 28 more. You can purchase the pass at the airport travel desk, Umeda Station and Namba Station Tourist Information Offices and at a number of hotels citywide.

Airport information

There are buses available that make stops at popular spots in Osaka and throughout the Kansai region.

There are now standard taxi fares for trips from Kansai International to addresses in Kita-ku and Chuo-ku. During the day, the fares run from ¥13,000-14,500. Late at night, it’s ¥15,500-17,000. These fares do not include bridge or expressway tolls.

Kansai International Airport offers easy access to downtown Osaka by rail. The Nankai Line will take you to Namba (¥920 and about 35 minutes), while the Japan Rail line will get you to Tennoji (30-40 min and ¥1,060-2,230, depending on which train you take), Osaka’s two public-transportation hubs.

Things to do

Touch the sky

The Umeda Sky building looks a bit like a Lego tower but it’s an impressive feat of architectural engineering. The midair escalator to the rooftop observatory is not for the faint of heart, but your courage will be rewarded with some stellar views of the city. The basement has been made up to look like a Meiji Era street, complete with nostalgia-soaked bars and restaurants.

1-1-20 Oyodonaka, Kita-ku

Scream queen

Consistent with its reputation as a centre of fun and entertainment, Osaka is home to Universal Studios Japan and its newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter park, both of which make for fun outings. If you happen to be in town around Halloween, check out the theme park’s zombie-walk events. Surprisingly scary!

Universal Studios Japan, 2-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, tel: +81 0570 200606

Stick to it

Most people know Osaka as the home of takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (a kind of Japanese savory pancake), but those aren’t the only delicious delicacies on offer. The city is also well known for its kushiage, which involves skewering various kinds of food, battering and deep-frying them and then dipping them in sauce. Delicious! Try Bon for a high-end example and Kushiage Daruma for the standard offerings.

Bon, B1F, Dojima Merry Center Bldg, 1-3-16 Dojima, Kita-ku, tel: +81 06 6344 0400

Kushiage Daruma, various locations around town

Time travel

If Osaka’s neon nights start to wear on you a bit, you can always escape to traditional Kyoto for the day. The two cities are connected by rail and the trip takes just over an hour. See the famous golden Kinkakuji temple, the red gates of Fushimi-Inaritaisha and the bamboo walks of Arashiyama and be back in time for dinner.

Learning curve

Lest you think Osaka is all wild times and endless shopping, the city is also home to a number of major museums that are worth visiting. Try Peace Osaka to learn about the city’s WWII-era history, the Osaka Science Museum for something fun and hands-on, and the National Museum of Art, Osaka for oft-changing modern art displays.

Peace Osaka, 2-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, tel: +81 06 6947 7208

Osaka Science Museum, 4 Chome-2-1 Nakanoshima, Kita Ward, tel: +81 06 6444 5656

National Museum of Art, Osaka, 4-2-55 Nakanoshima, Kita Ward, tel: +81 06 6447 4680

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