Looking directly up at Umeda Sky Building in Osaka


Tokyo has size and Kyoto has history — but as anyone will tell you, Osaka has the kind of cool most cucumbers can only dream of.

If you think the Japanese are reserved, you’ve obviously never been to Osaka. Whether it’s their rough-and-ready local dialect or their reputation for wisecracks, Osakans are proudly different — and their city is too. (They even stand on the opposite side of the escalator to the rest of Japan, but that’s just the beginning).

Many theorize that Osaka’s bold, brash energy is a legacy of its mercantile past. While Tokyo was the center of straight-laced samurai culture and Kyoto of imperial nobility, the raffish port-town of Osaka was all about making money, spending it, and having a good time in the process. All these years later, a visit to Osaka is still more about the lifestyle and atmosphere than any particular sight, though there are plenty of big-ticket experiences to be had here too.

A visit to Osaka is about indulging in kuidaore (“eat til you drop”) beneath the giant animatronic crabs and glowing pufferfish of neon-drenched Dotonbori. It’s about exploring the manga shops and cosplay cafés of Den Den Town. It’s about rummaging in the thrift stores of Amerika Mura, and seeking out offbeat experiences you can’t find anywhere else. Want to design your own pot noodle? Spend the day at an onsen theme park? Ride rollercoasters at Hogwarts? Do it in Osaka.

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