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Osaka Castle

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Osaka travel guide

Osaka Local time

Bustling and energetic, Osaka is a thriving metropolis with a distinct commercial culture and with a regional identity that sets it apart from elsewhere in Japan.

On the surface, the nation’s third-largest city may seem to lack the sophistication of Tokyo, or the cultural refinement and traditional townscapes of nearby Kyoto. But it more than makes up for these with its enthusiastic embrace of modernity. The city bursts with eclectic street culture, vast underground shopping malls and futuristic architectural landmarks - and that’s before we even get to the food.

Osaka has museums in abundance (from the National Museum of Art to the Osaka Science Museum and the Osaka Museum of History), and the city’s aquarium is one of the best in Japan. Then there’s leafy Osaka Castle Park, which makes a peaceful escape from traffic-filled streets.

However, to really know this city means mixing with the locals. Eat a regional snack or sip a beer with the good-humoured Osakans and you’ll soon understand more about Japanese culture than by simply visiting a pristine temple.

Indeed, this is a city defined by its people. More than anywhere else in Japan, Osakans are friendly and outgoing, and it’s easy to strike up a conversation. They are also very proud of their local dialect, which they consider warmer and more expressive than standard Japanese.

But more than anything else, they love good food. The city has a deserved reputation as foodie heaven, with fresh produce from all over the country passing through here thanks to its status as a major port. One local saying that sums up the mentality is kuidaore, which simply means ‘Eat until you drop’. There are great restaurants all over the city, from high-end dining to traditional and cheap street stalls.

You certainly won’t go hungry here, and that’s just one of many factors that make Osaka a great place to get to grips with urban Japan.

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