Exciting, idiosyncratic and simply delicious – welcome to the ‘kitchen of Japan’
A guide to exploring Osaka in 12 hours:
As Osaka is known for its food, you should start the day as you mean to go on – by eating. Head out early to Osaka Central Wholesale Fish Market, near Noda train station. Here you’ll find Endo Sushi (endo-sushi.com), a restaurant that has been serving the region’s freshest sushi for over a hundred years.
While in the Fukushima-ku area, pay a visit to the National Museum of Art (nmao.go.jp), a few minutes’ walk from Higobashi station. A subterranean building housing mostly Japanese and foreign contemporary art, it can be found by its striking entrance sculpture resembling metallic butterfly wings.
Head into nearby Kita Ward (aka Umeda), the city’s major commercial and business district, for all the shopping and mainstream entertainment you’ll need. Check out HEP Five (hepfive.jp) for an all-under-one-roof department store, and take a ride on the huge red Ferris wheel sitting proudly on its roof.
Take a lunch break at the Michelin-starred Takama (Tel: +81 66882 8844), a humble, wooden-furnished eatery that serves the best soba noodles from the Fukui region. Choose from the smooth, aromatic Mori soba or the plain Inaka soba; both are thinly cut, delicate and delicious.
You can’t leave Umeda before ascending one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks: the Umeda Sky Building. Harsh and imposing as the building may be, it boasts a glorious ‘Floating Garden’ observatory (kuchu-teien.com) on its top floor, where you can take in unrivalled views of Japan’s third-largest city.
Time for some culture. Take the JR Loop Line to Osakajokoen Station and stroll over to Osaka Castle (osakacastle.net). Rebuilt several times since its original construction in 1583, the castle was once the biggest in the country. Surrounded by citadels, turrets, moats, and a sprawling garden, the castle provides a welcome mid-afternoon break from the city excitement.
Head back west to the Tempozan Harbor Village of Osaka’s bay area and you’ll find the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (kaiyukan.com). A remarkably colourful and cubist building, the aquarium consists of 15 tanks, each containing marine life from a specific region of the Pacific Rim.
To get a peek at the quirkier side of Osaka, check out the ‘New World’ town of Shinsekai. An amusement park district built in 1912 to replicate New York and Paris at the time, Shinsekai was neglected for decades, gaining a slightly unsavoury reputation in the process, but now it serves as a popular shopping and dining area with shop fronts and signboards cascading with primary colours.
Head north to Shinsaibashi station, home to Osaka’s most popular shopping district (shinsaibashi.or.jp). Centred around a seemingly never-ending arcade of food outlets, shops and boutiques, you’ll feel like you’ve seen every face in Osaka by the time you’ve made it to the end.
Once you spill out of the southern exit of the shopping arcade and have taken an inevitable selfie in front of the famous Glico running man neon sign directly opposite, cross the foot bridge to Dotonbori, a street full of tourists and locals piling out of restaurants serving Osaka’s beloved native dishes. For its famed okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), try Mizuno (mizuno-osaka.com), a family-owned restaurant with a mouth-watering selection.
If you have an extra day in Osaka, don't miss out on the spectacular Universal Studios Japan. For further information, visit usj.co.jp