Osaka – Once the Capital of Japan

Osaka – Once the Capital of Japan

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What to see and do
If you happen to be in the city around March and April, you will witness the cherry blossoms burst into bloom, one of the prettiest sights you can imagine. It heralds the arrival of spring and the best places to see a multitude of these blossoms are in places like the Nishinomaru Japanese Garden, Osaka Castle Park, the Osaka Mint with the a line of trees along the Okawa river, Nagai Park and at the Yodogawa Riverside Park. Stroll among the trees and sit down for a nice picnic and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.

The Osaka Castle is the city’s best known monument. Inside the castle is a museum that documents Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s life and the history of the castle. It is closed at the end and beginning of the year, so keep that in mind while planning your trip. You can also go for a stroll in the Naniwa Palace Site Park near the castle park. For a great view of the Osaka Castle, visit the Osaka museum of History where you can also learn about the city’s history. Visit the Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine, one of the oldest in the country, surrounded by a park and having a tranquil pond in its enclosure.

For the kids, the Osaka Science Museum is another great educational experience with activity centers on several floors, a planetarium and cinema halls screening science movies. Next stop could be the Imax theatre at the Suntory Museum, which is the largest in the world. Then visit one of the largest aquariums in the world, Kaiyukan, with over 11,000 tons of water and plenty of creatures of the deep. The largest tank with 5,400 tons of water represents the Pacific Ocean and is nothing short of overwhelming! On weekends, musicians and street performers offer additional entertainment to visitors. And don’t forget to take the kids to the Universal Studios, the second largest theme park in the country.

Another city landmark is the Umeda Sky Building which is a rather interesting piece of work. Take the escalator to the rooftop observatory for a great view of the city. The japan Mint is headquartered in Osaka, and is most visited during the cherry blossom season when over a million people can be found here strolling under the tunnel of trees.

Tsutenkaku tower, original built in the early 20th century is a symbol of reconstruction of the City of Osaka post WWII, and the rebuilt structure was designed by Professor Naito who also has Tokyo Tower to his credit.

Futuristic Escalator, Osaka

Futuristic Escalator, Osaka

If you need to relax after a hard day, visit Spa World and get an Asian or European themed spa and sauna. There are also pools with slides — fun for the whole family.

To get a taste of the city’s cultural heritage, visit the National Bunraku Theater, one of the last places in the world where the bunraku puppet show can be seen. The plays are accompanied by music and narration. Transcripts and synopsis in English are available. Other theaters include the Osaka Siki Musical theater; the Festival hall and the Symphony hall for modern and classical recitals; Umeda Koma and Shin-Kabukiza for Enka (form of Japanese music) performances; and the Banana Hall for more independent music.

To take back a tangible part of the city with you, try the numerous shopping districts in the city. Shinsaibashi is one of the more famous ones with huge department stores and independent boutiques. Within this area is the Amerika-mura or the American Village, more popular among the youth for the latest fashion trends. Horie street offers mainly Japanese brands. Places like Hep Five and Hep Navio buildings have more luxurious brands and shops, and cater to the elite. The Nippombashi area is known for its electronic goods, but there are other places like the enormous Yodobashi Camera where you can get spoilt for choice. Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street is among the longest straight and covered shopping arcade, roughly 2.6 km in length. It has been around since the Edo period and is a window to Osaka’s daily life.

What to eat
The people of Osaka are passionate about food and prefer the freshest ingredients available. Their cuisine is flavored with soy sauce which is milder and more salty than the one used in Tokyo. Some of the local delicacies include okonomiyaki (grilled pancakes with various stuffing), Osaka-zushi (Osaka style sushi with a distinctive square shape), unagi (eel) prepared in different styles, fugu (blowfish) is less expensive here than other Japanese cities, and takoyaki (octopus dumplings). In Osaka, you can forget about sake and try shochu instead. It is also a distilled alcoholic beverage and there are many varieties available all over the country.

Culture
The city is culturally awakened and there are many activities for you to do to enhance your cultural experience. Osaka is home to the puppet drama form called Bunraku. These puppets are two thirds the size of an average human. The puppeteers are completely visible to the audience. They not only move the puppets’ limbs but also skillfully manipulate their eyes and lips. Although language may become a barrier in understanding the full depth of the plays, the music and actions will give you a general idea of what’s going on.

If you have never seen a live sumo wrestling match then be in the city around mid March, after the plum blossoms have fallen. This is when the annual Osaka Tournament takes place. Colorful banners of the wrestlers are displayed at the venue (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium) and the oversized wrestlers can be seen walking the city streets.

Tenjin Matsuri is one of Osaka’s largest festivals on July 25th and 25th. Processions of colorful barges on the city’s rivers, lively performances and brilliant firework displays attract thousands from all over the country.


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