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Osaka (Kansai) Japan

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Osaka (Kansai)

Introducing Osaka (Kansai)

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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Recommended things to do & see

Our top picks for Osaka (Kansai)

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan is Osaka's answer to Tokyo Disneyland. Closely based on its two sister parks in the USA, the park features a wide variety of rides, shows, restaurants and other attractions; hours vary seasonally.To get there, take the JR Loop line to Nishi-kujō Station, switch to one of the distinctively painted Universal Studio shuttle trains and get off at Universal City Station. From Osaka Station the trip costs ¥170 and takes about 15 minutes. There are also some direct trains from Osaka Station (ask at the tourist office for times; the price is the same).

Modern Transportation Museum

If you've got kids in tow or just love those trains, then you'll want to check out the small but interesting Modern Transportation Museum, on the west side of town and easily accessed by the JR Osaka Loop line. The displays focus mostly on trains, but there are also some great models of ships and aircraft, several decent interactive displays, as well as life-sized shinkansen that you can climb inside to check out what things look like from the engineer's seat. Outside, there are several real steam and electric engines and passenger cars that you can climb inside (one is a working restaurant car). Finally, don't miss the great model-train layout at the far end of the building.To get there from the station, take a hard left out of the turnstiles and it's across the street.

Osaka Aquarium

Osaka Aquarium is easily one of the best aquariums in the world and it's well worth a visit, particularly if you've got kids or if you love sharks. The aquarium is built around a vast central tank, which houses the star attractions:
one whale shark and one manta. But these are only the beginning: you'll also find a huge variety of other sharks, including leopard sharks, zebra sharks and hammerhead sharks. There are also countless other species of rays and fish.A walkway winds its way around the main tank and past displays of life found on eight different ocean levels. The giant spider crabs in the Japan Ocean Deeps section look like alien invaders from another planet. Presentations have both Japanese and English captions and an environmentally friendly slant to them.The aquarium is at the west end of the Tempōzan complex, just past Tempōzan Marketplace.

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