- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Go to Osaka, Japan
Ask most people where they want to go in Japan, and they'll likely reply without a moment's hesitation -- “Tokyo, duh.”
Romantic Kyoto may come a close second, or tropical Okinawa, but the Japan bucket list rarely includes rough-and-tumble Osaka -- Japan's third-most-populated city, yet one that is often overlooked by overseas tourists.
Bayside Osaka -- gutted by World War II bombing and rebuilt rapidly, haphazardly -- certainly lacks the picturesque architecture and alluring natural scenery of other Japanese cities.
And its enduring role as one of Japan's economic command centers hardly seems like a reason to stir from your couch. So why visit Osaka at all?
Osaka has a bevy of mouthwatering culinary goodies
What better way to start the list than food! Because of Osaka’s rich cuisine, it has been said that people would probably end up spending more on food than on anything else. Its reputation in the food industry dates back to the Edo Period (1600-1800) wherein it gained the status as Japan’s rice-trade hub.
Flashback today, Osaka boasts various signature dishes that will make you kuidaore or “eat until you drop.” These dishes include its best-selling pancake-like seafood and/or meat dish called Okonomiyaki, fried flour and egg balls with grilled octopus filling called Takoyaki, and thick wheat-noodles with soup and deep fried tofu called Kitsune Udon.
Korea is a heartbeat away
One other thing that makes Osaka perfect for travelers is its access to another beauty in the East—Korea. Just a train-ride away, Korea Town is nestled in the working-class district of Tsuruhashi, which looks like a labyrinth of food and Korean goods. Here, you can get a slew of KPop memorabilia, Korean fashion pieces, and the ever famous—Kimchi. For locals, the sign of Korea Town’s presence is through the smell of the Japanese-style Korean barbecue called Yakiniku.
Spa from around the world
Spa, pools, hotel, baths—you name it! Osaka’s massive onsen or spa called Spa World, has been getting rave reviews from tourists around the globe for its all-in-one features.
Spa World offers European to Asian spas with designs that mimics places from the said continents, which are perfect for solo and family travelers. They have snack bars inside as well as shopping stores for easy access to items needed for the water parks.
And the best part? You can experience everything for more or less $20 a day!
Famous modern landmark
Arguably, the most noticeable architectural wonder in Osaka’s skyline is the striking Umeda Sky Building. This piece of art by architect Hiroshi Hara was the result of the civic leaders in the 80s’ vision to build a “City of Air.”
At present, it is being occupied by offices but most importantly, it holds the grandiose “floating garden” observatory suspended between the twin towers. Underneath the ground are markets and restaurants which mirror the 20th century Osaka.
World-class Water World
In the blockbuster movie “Jaw”, the man-eating shark kept every viewer on the edge of their seats as it preys on their victims. Some find it horrifying to watch these sharks on a small glowing screen, how much more a living and breathing one behind an acrylic glass? But don’t be, there is more equally interesting marine life at the Kaiyukan Aquarium at Tempozan Harbor Village that you will discover. Fun fact, Kaiyukan is Osaka’s pride since it is one of the world’s largest public aquariums.