The Japanese province of Kansai has Kyoto as its temple goddess, but working-class Osaka adds the down-to-earth charm of a very modern Japanese city to the province's list of attractions. By day, the city celebrates its river and castle, and at night Osaka is lit by a rainbow of neon.
Get beneath the skin of Osaka with a little history and culture, a few street parades and processions, and a good-sized serving of great food.
Day 1: Marvelous Museums
Find out what made Osaka tick over the centuries at the Museum of History, covering ancient, medieval and modern developments. If porcelain is your passion, there are more than 2,700 pieces to peruse at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics. The city’s Museum of Modern Art focuses on regional contemporary art, and big-screen 3D movies are screened at the Suntory Museum’s IMAX theater. And no visit to Osaka is complete without a visit to its wonderful castle, taking you on a journey to Japan’s feudal past.
Day 2: Festive Osaka
Osaka has a full calendar of annual events, leading off with Toka Ebisu (January 9 - 11), when crowds flock to the city’s Imamiya Ebisu Shrine for lucky tokens. Spring events are a special feature, including plum-blossom and cherry-blossom seasons at Osaka Castle. The city’s biggest festival is July 24 - 25 when Tenjin Matsuri fills the streets with parades and fireworks. There’s more fireworks in early August when the Yodogawa River lights up. Danjiri Matsuri (September 14 - 15) features huge street processions and floats, and in November the fall colors are celebrated at the city’s parks.
Day 3: Sushi to Ramen
Osaka is a city that’s known for its extravagant approach to food – dining out is called "kuidaore" here, meaning "eat until you drop". Sushi and ramen or udon noodle soups are served in massive food courts in Kita, or tiny backstreet dens in Minami. Try the local specialties okonomiyaki, a grilled pancake made with meat or fish; octopus takoyaki dumplings; rare shabu shabu beef; and bite-sized kushi-katsu pork skewers.