Looking directly up at Umeda Sky Building in Osaka

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 theorise that Osaka’s bold, brash energy is a legacy of its mercantile past. While Tokyo was the centre 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.

Connects with

Kinki

Whoosh into Kyoto’s futuristic central station on the bullet train and you’ll be greeted by karaoke bars and concrete, not Zen gardens and mysterious shrines. But don’t let that fool you.

Kinki

Come to Koya for age-old mountain temples in mist-wreathed forest; stay to feel close to something deep and old and mysterious.

Kinki

With so many temples and shrines squirreled away in its mountains and valleys, it should come as no surprise that hiking in Japan is almost inseparable from pilgrimage.

Chugoku

What do you think of when you think of Hiroshima? Delicious, noodle-based layered pancakes? Retro streetcars trundling through the streets? World Heritage shrines and friendly deer?