Historically, Osaka was the capital of Japan. Today that title belongs to Tokyo – but Osaka remains the third largest Japanese city. When you’re not marvelling at the cherry blossoms surrounding Osaka Castle, or wandering the gardens of the centuries-old Sumiyoshi taisha, it’s easy to lose yourself in more modern pursuits, from shopping in Shinsaibashi to clubbing in Namba.
And that’s not forgetting Dotonbori, the heart of Osaka, which has enough flashing neon signs to rival Times Square or Piccadilly Circus.
Yet perhaps more than any other city in Japan, Osaka is a destination for food lovers. It’s called the kitchen of the nation, where the local attitude to dining is summed up by the concept of kuidaore which means 'to eat oneself bankrupt'.
Needless to say, people in Osaka appreciate a good meal and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Hole-in-the-wall street joints in particular are an essential part of the Osaka experience. You shouldn’t leave without trying the takoyaki (balls of flour filled with octopus) or okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake filled with veggies and meat) from one of the many street stalls.
Even more warm and inviting than its restaurants, though, are Osaka’s people. The city’s residents are famously hospitable, and even with a population of nearly three million, Osaka maintains the air of a friendly, small-town community. You’ll probably find the locals are happy to chat or offer travel tips.