Osaka locals have their own dialect and are perhaps a bit brasher than Tokyo-ites, so a visit here is bound to be lively. The city comes alive at night when the bars and restaurants along neon-lit Dotonbori street are set abuzz with the crowds sampling its thriving food scene. Joining the throng is a real highlight here, for Osaka is dubbed "the nation's kitchen" - we recommend trying as many delicacies as possible; from 'takoyaki' (grilled octopus in perfectly circular dough) and 'okonomiyaki' (savoury pancakes), to 'gyoza' (fried dumplings) and 'kushikatsu' (battered vegetable and meat skewers) - trust us, they're all a million times better than they sound!
And why not continue embracing the nightlife with a spot of karaoke? Another draw for us is the Jazz Boat which plies the canal nightly with an excellent 5-piece live band on board, so you can drink in the music whilst gazing up at the building-high bright billboards as they flicker in the dark. The iconic ‘Glico’ Running Man sign is impressive when seen in person, as is the 'Kani Doraku' crab sign, as they reflect their vivid colours across the waterway.
While Osaka is arguably best seen at night, the city has plenty to offer in the daytime too. It boasts an impressive castle, an array of shopping areas, a selection of museums and several pieces of modern architecture. At sunset, venture up the Umeda Sky Building to admire the sprawling cityscape at its finest, or even visit the observation deck at the top of the tallest building in Japan (which also houses the Marriott Miyako Hotel) for a truly phenomenal view. Osaka is also ideal for families as it is home to the world’s biggest aquarium (called ‘Kaiyukan’) and Universal Studios, complete with a popular Harry Potter World attraction.
Thanks to its central location and the incredibly efficient train network in Japan, Osaka can easily be included in a tour of this wonderful country. We suggest visiting it before or after other key destinations, most notably Kyoto and Nara, and also recommend spending time in the alpine basin of Mount Koya nearby (if you are after a gentler pace).
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