Osaka is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu. It is Japan’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo. It has been the economic powerhouse of the Kansai region for many centuries. In many ways it's the soul of Japan. Osaka is laid back and down-to-earth. It’s a great place to experience a large, modern Japanese city in all its glory and for significantly less money. The city is all about great food (and lots of it) and shopping, especially bargain shopping. Best of all, Osaka is packed with friendly and easygoing citizens who are at ease with foreign visitors. Indeed, it’s probably easier to have a good time in Osaka than any other city in Japan. So, if you’re coming to Japan, you owe it to yourself to spend some time in Osaka. It’s always a pleasant surprise!
Osaka is known for its food, in Japan and abroad. Author Michael Booth and food critic François Simon of Le Figaro have suggested that Osaka is the food capital of the world. Osakans' love for the culinary is made apparent in the old saying "Kyotoites are financially ruined by overspending on clothing, Osakans are ruined by spending on food." Regional cuisine includes okonomiyaki (pan-fried batter cake), takoyaki (octopus in fried batter), udon (a noodle dish), as well as the traditional oshizushi (pressed sushi), particularly battera (pressed mackerel sushi). Osaka is known for its fine sake, which is made with fresh water from the prefecture's mountains. Osaka's culinary prevalence is the result of a location that has provided access to high quality ingredients, a high population of merchants, and proximity to the ocean and waterway trade. In recent years, Osaka has started to garner more attention from foreigners with the increased popularity of cooking and dining in popular culture.
Things to do
Universal Studios Osaka
Universal Studios Japan (USJ) was the first theme park under the Universal Studios brand to be built in Asia. Opened in March 2001 in the Osaka Bay Area, the theme park occupies an area of 39 hectares and is the most visited amusement park in Japan after Tokyo Disney Resort. Universal Studios Japan currently has eight sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Visitors are able to enjoy many amusement rides, ranging from child-friendly carousels to thrilling roller coasters and simulators based on popular movies such as Spiderman, Back to the Future, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park
The construction of Osaka Castle started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. It was the largest castle at the time. However, a few years after Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightning in 1665 and burnt down. It was not until 1931 that the present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built. During the war it miraculously survived the city-wide air raids. Major repair works gave the castle new glamor in 1997. The castle tower is now entirely modern on the inside and even features an elevator for easier accessibility. It houses an informative museum about the castle’s history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is located in the Tempozan Harbor Village of Osaka’s bay area, and is one of Japan’s most spectacular aquariums. It introduces various forms of life inhabiting the Pacific Rim in a well-organized and impressive way. Marine life is displayed in 15 tanks, each representing a specific region of the Pacific Rim. The central tank, representing the Pacifc Ocean, is nine meters deep and home to a whale shark, the aquarium’s main attraction.
Located around Namba Station, Minami is one of Osaka’s two major city centers. It is the city’s most famous entertainment district and offers abundant dining and shopping choices. Take a stroll down Dotonbori Street. One of Osaka’s most popular tourist destinations, this street runs parallel to the Dotonbori canal. It is a popular shopping and entertainment district and is also known as a food destination. At night it is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanized signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign.
Koryu is a three-star Michelin restaurant in Osaka. This is a small and exclusive spot, with room to accommodate only 12 diners at a time, and the interior is sleek and chic, featuring polished tables and simple wood flooring. The service is attentive yet unobtrusive, and the flavors are balanced and strong. The chef will prepare the delicious traditional Japanese cuisine right in front of you and you will get a chance to learn about Japanese food culture while you enjoy your cuisine.
Dress code: Smart
Address: Esbas Kitashinchi 23, 1F, 1-5-1 Dojima Kita-ku,Osaka, post code 530-0003
Hours: Lunch 12:00-2:30 (Last order 1:00) Dinner 6:00-11:30 (Last order 9:30) Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
The first thing you will see after sitting down in one of the black leather chairs at this three star Michelin restaurant is the charcoal grill: Hitoshi Takahata says he wants to prepare dishes that leave an impression, and his specialty is char-grilled items. There are two types of set menu, and several grilled dishes to choose from, but the fragrant spare ribs are particularly popular – seasoned with red wine, honey and spices and steamed before being grilled.
Dress code: Smart
Address: Yamamoto pine building 1F, 1-21-2, Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 542-0082
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm (L.O.9:00) Closed on Monday
A two-star Michelin joint, Fujiya 1935 offers a quiet, elegant space in which visitors can enjoy contemporary dishes. It oozes a warm and friendly atmosphere and features large, spacious tables, quaintly decorated as well as a tasteful cream and wood design. The dishes here are beautifully presented with colorful flowers and dried leaves, and a top menu pick is the capellini with lavender and jumbo shrimp. The chefs serve all the meals personally, direct from their kitchen to your table.
Dress code: Business casual
Address: 2 Chome-4-14 Yariyamachi, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0027, Japan
Hours: Lunch 12: 00-1: 00 (LO) Dinner 6:00-8: 00 (LO) Closed on Sunday
Wasabi is a one star Michelin restaurant run by a female chef. Wasabi was created as the place for tasty deep fried skewers. Their goal is to create an atmosphere where weary souls can come to unwind at the end of the day, friends can enjoy themselves, and unaccompanied ladies can simply sit down and indulge. Each skewer is prepared to be visually entertaining, from the choice of our ingredients, to the final presentation. The menu features seasonal foods and natural-farmed vegetables prepared to satisfy the hearts and palates of every guest.
Summer in Japan lasts from about June to mid-September, depending on the location. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from approximately 21-32°C (70-90 °F). Mid-June starts the rainy season and lasts for about six weeks. July and August are typically the hottest and most humid times of year, and can be uncomfortable for sightseeing if you are averse to humidity. August is the season for summer festivals. Spring (March – May) sees a lot of the country ablaze with beautiful white and pink cherry blossom, celebrated with an increasingly popular festival. Temperatures during these months begin to rise and it is before the hot rainy season. Autumn is from September to November and is characterized by light breezes and cooler temperatures of around 7-10°C (46-50°F). It’s during autumn that many exhibitions, music concerts and sports tournaments are held in Japan. Early autumn brings the typhoon season which amounts in heavy rainfall. Japan’s weather in winter, from December to February, is quite dry and sunny along the Pacific coast and the temperatures rarely drop below 0°C (32°F). The temperatures drop as you move north, with the Central and Northern regions experiencing snowfall. Southern Japan is relatively temperate and experiences a mild winter. The mountains are covered in snow and it is a good time for skiing.
There are some cultural taboos that are important to know as a foreigner before traveling to Japan or any Asian country. It’s best to know ahead of time what is expected of you before someone accuses you of being rude! Here are a few rules of etiquette that could help you when you are traveling to Japan.
Bowing is one of Japan’s most well-known customs and can be used for a number of reasons. The most common reason is when you meet someone. Bowing is used in the same way as a handshake in other parts of the world. Bowing is also used when thanking someone or apologizing. The deeper the bow, the more respectful!
When you enter a Japanese home or restaurant, it is custom to remove your shoes and put on slippers that are provided for you. What one must remember is that the Asian lifestyle is mainly centered around the floor. The tables are low and they sit on the floor to eat, sleep and do all their activities. That’s why it is so important to have clean and warm floors.
Chopstick etiquette is very important in Japanese culture. Never use your chopsticks to point at someone, never wave them in the air or stab food with them. If you have a chopstick rest, you must use it with your chopsticks placed neatly together. Don’t use your chopsticks to take food from a communal plate or pass food with your chopsticks.
Avoid leaving tips at restaurants, bars or in taxis. The fact is, tipping is simply not expected – it’s really not a part of Japanese culture – so if you leave a tip it will only cause confusion, and almost definitely won’t be accepted!
If you wish to travel to Japan from Europe, the UK, the United States of America or Australia, you can enter Japan without a visa for a total of 90 days. You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business “visa free” stays of up to 90 days. Your passports must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan.
If you are wanting to travel to Japan and you are from South Africa, you must apply for a visa. The following documents are required when applying for a visa to Japan: a valid passport, completed application form, passport-size photograph, complete flight schedule and return air ticket. Tourists applying for a Japanese visa will require in addition a daily itinerary, hotel bookings and a letter from the bank stating you have sufficient funds. Please allow time for the visa to be accepted and your passport to be sent back to you.
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