Osaka (大阪) is the working heart of Kansai. Famous for its down-to-earth citizens and the colourful Kansai-ben (Kansai dialect) they speak, it's a good counterpart to the refined atmosphere of Kyoto. First and foremost, Osaka is famous for good eating: the phrase kuidaore (eat 'til you drop) was coined to describe Osakans' love for good food. Osaka is also a good place to experience a modern Japanese city: it's only surpassed by Tokyo as a showcase of the Japanese urban phenomenon.
This isn't to say that Osaka is an attractive city; almost bombed flat in WWII, it is an endless expanse of concrete boxes, pachinko (pinball) parlours and elevated highways. But the city somehow manages to rise above this and exert a peculiar charm. At night, Osaka really comes into its own; this is when all those drab streets come alive with flashing neon, beckoning residents and travellers alike with promises of tasty food and good times.
Osaka's highlights include Osaka-jō and its surrounding park, Osaka Aquarium with its enormous whale sharks and manta rays, the Blade Runner nightscapes of the Dōtombori area, and the wonderful Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses. But Osaka has more to offer than its specific sights; like Tokyo, it is a city to be experienced in its totality, and casual strolls are likely to be just as rewarding as structured sightseeing tours.
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Our top picks for Osaka
Osaka-jō (Osaka Castle): Osaka's most popular attraction is a 1931 reconstruction of the original 1583 castle
Osaka Aquarium: Whale sharks, manta rays, giant spider crabs…don’t miss it
Tin's Hall: Any bar with a 3-hour happy hour has to be respected
Dōgusuji-ya Arcade: Grab more than a set of steak knives in this culinary gadget heaven
Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses: See how the locals lived in the days before instant noodles and Nintendo
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