It’s tempting to think of home-country analogies when travelling (“If Tokyo is London then Osaka is...”) but Osaka has its own flavour. It’s home to what many would agree is Japan’s most delicious street food, and is the place for a really fun night out. Few would describe Osaka as beautiful, and it hasn’t got the aesthetics of Kyoto or the scale and sights of Tokyo, but it does have its own distinctive bite; a perceptible edginess. At Selective Asia it is probably our favourite city in Japan. Soak it up and breathe it in.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
It’s been said that Dotonbori’s neon streets inspired the look of Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’, and the film certainly shares the district’s sci-fi nightscapes and frenetic, nocturnal energy. Throughout Japan, restaurant windows are adorned with unbelievably realistic shokuhin sampuru (wax food replicas) that make it easy to see what you’re ordering, and Dotonbori takes this to another level. Giant, mechanical models look down on you as you pass: a puffer fish, a mechanical clown, and (perhaps most famously) an arm-waving crab. This 350-year-old district is a gastronomic playground; follow your nose between street food stalls, and head straight for the takoyaki vendor with the longest line. If you feel overwhelmed, just watch where the locals go and you’ll find the best food in the city.
Step back 70 years or so to the Showa period at the Tsutenkaku Tower, which is a great place to immerse yourself in how Osaka looked after the war, before its transformation into today’s metropolis. Modern life comes back to the fore with Shinsekai’s shopping arcades, plethora of pachinko (slot machines), and parlours where men play shogi over a mid-afternoon shochu. Its roots are the city’s blue collar, and its retro streets haven’t been gentrified (yet). Amidst it all, an enticing aroma fills the air. Kushikatsu - skewers of deep fried meat and vegetables - are another of Osaka’s celebrated foods, and in the spirit of Shinsekai (where it was first created) it’s gloriously down-to-earth; perfect when washed down with a cold beer.
Probably the closest that Osaka has to a traditional landmark, Osaka-Jo may not be Japan’s premier castle, but the locals are incredibly proud of it and will likely ask often when you’re going to visit! Dating from the 16th century, its low, sloping walls are surrounded by a mirror-still moat reflecting the castle’s simple, sophisticated silhouette. It’s been restored over the years after being laid siege to, set on fire, and bombed, and there’s a high quality museum on site. In a nod to practicality, there’s also the addition of two very 21st-century elevators, one inside and another climbing the outside of the main tower, that have somewhat divided local opinion. A lovely place to spend a casual couple of hours.
Wander along the ancient trails of Kumano Kodo and its spiritual shrines, enjoying the peaceful, and enchanting surroundings as well as taking in the hospitality of local families along the way.