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Osaka Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in OsakaWhere to Stay
As a main business city, all hotels in Osaka have modern amenities and conveniences. However, the city is sprawling, so best to pick something that is in an area with good restaurants and shopping. Also keep in mind where you'll have good transport options, like the Namba and Shinsaibashi areas, located in the Minami district, which is the cultural and main tourist center of town. You can find the Sheraton Miyako and ultra fancy Ritz Carlton here. Budget hotels can be found around the Shin Imamiya JR rail station area.
Avoid: If at all possible, avoid coming here during the Golden Week national holiday period from the end of April through the first week of May. Hotels tend to be booked solid and rates at a premium.
What to Eat
Osaka has plenty of traditional cuisine, such as okonomiyaki, which is a do-it-yourself Japanese version of a meat and veggies crepe or pancake. There are hundreds of hole-in-the-wall okonomiyaki shops around town; Okonomiyaki Madonna is one of the more noted restaurant hotspots. Takoyaki (octopus in fried dumplings) are also an Osaka favorite, and are sold by street vendors everywhere or you can even go to the Takoyaki Museum out in Konohana by the bay. For renowned international cuisine, Osaka has its fair share of top notch spots, such as the esteemed Wolfgang Puck Cafe, also in Konohana.
Be Sure to Sample: Okonomiyaki and takoyaki.
Things to See
You will never get bored in Osaka as it's full of unique attractions. Top of the list include the Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium, which is one of the biggest in the world. The Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo Disney Resort are located out in the eastern Osaka Bay area and are top draws. More traditional choices include the Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Naka-no-shima Park or the city's prized Osaka-jo castle/museum which is on most visitors' itineraries. For something unusual and fun, try the Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda.
Take It or Leave It: If you are in town in March, the Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament is well worth trying to get a ticket for; it's a great glimpse into Japanese tradition and one of the biggest local events of the year.
Places to Party
The Kita, or north area of Osaka has become a big party spot. Kitashinchi is a neon nightclub and bar area resembling Tokyo's Ginza. Just north of this, Umeda is home to a lot of hip bars and clubs like Sam and Dave's, a huge dance club that is packed most evenings. Other Osaka nightlife options include the Shinsaibashi area of Minami where pubs like Cinquecento have excellent cocktails and good vibes.
Avoid: Yakuza stripper bars. While most foreigners will not even be allowed in these, the ones that do entice single men tend to be big bucks ripoff joints and not worth messing with.
Where to Shop
from the ultra modern to the traditional, there is plenty to find when you go shopping in Osaka. For anything electronic, from cameras to calculators, try the huge Den Den Town, with over 150 shops in Nipponbashi. If you want to take home a takoyaki fryer, head over to Sennichimae Doguya Suji in the heart of Namba. Other souvenirs, like chopsticks, kimonos, yukata robes, or even frozen takoyaki snacks to bring home to friends can be found in many of the malls and shopping arcades that are all over the city.
Best Local Souvenir: Yukata/kimono, chopsticks, frozen takoyaki.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Considered one of Japan's oldest cities and its first capital, Osaka has been a prominent presence in the archipelago since ancient times. Bound by mountains on three sides, the city opens onto Osaka Bay in the west and is divided by a number of rivers, most notably the Okawa. Thanks to these waterways and Osaka's busy commercial port, the bustling metropolis is known yet today as the City of Water. Since the settlement's early days, it has been a center for trade, accessible to China and Korea, as well as to other Japanese locales. Even as recently as the 19th century, Osaka was driving the country's economy and was nicknamed the Kitchen of the Realm for the variety of foodstuffs it routed to the nation and had available within its boundaries. In fact, the city's reputation for incredible cuisine hasn't abated in the years since. The modern age has, however, led Osaka to bolster its status with entertainment facilities, including the Osaka Dome and Universal Studios Japan. If culture and heritage are more your style, take in the Osaka Museum of History for a glimpse of local history, browse the fine art holdings at the Municipal Museum of Fine Art, the ceramics collections at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, or... Read more »