Roots of Japan

Osaka

In the New York Times“52 Places to Go in 2017”, Osaka was listed at number 15 as a city for food lovers. Osaka is a city full of charm, with a food and entertainment culture that developed independently from the rest of Japan. The local “Osaka-ben” dialect is popular, and so is the city, a place filled with lively people. This is the Osaka that we would like to tell you about today.

After Tokyo, it is the second largest city in Japan, as well as the administrative, economic, cultural and transit center of Western Japan. With a population of 8.8 million, it ranks third largest in Japan, and it has an approximate area of 1,905㎢. Above all, Osaka is a large port city and thriving commercial center. It came third on 2018's list of The World's Most Liveable Cities, with Vienna at first place and Melbourne at second.

be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, alongside Asuka-dera in Nara prefecture. There are also two sites of ancient burial mounds; Mozu-kofungun in Sakai City and Furuichi-kofungun in Habikino City. Mozu-kofungun has the Daisen Kofun Burial Mound, which is the largest in Japan.

Osaka Castle, the iconic symbol of Osaka, was built between 1583-1598 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who brought about the first unification of Japan. Countless times over the years it was burnt down by fire or lightning but each time it was restored and repaired. Since then, it has been reinforced to withstand earthquakes, elevators were installed and the exterior walls have been repainted. The top floor of the castle we see today has been repainted to more closely resemble the original design of the Toyotomi period.

Cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves in fall add color to Osaka castle and attract even more visitors than usual. Speaking of famous places for cherry blossoms and autumn leaves, about 5,500 cherry trees bloom inside the Expo’ 70 Commemorative Park. In Autumn, around 10,000 trees add vivid color to the Japanese Garden and the Natural and Cultural Gardens. They hold special events each season so it's definitely worth checking out! What other tourist attractions can be found? Here are 10 places we carefully selected!

1/ Shitennō-ji temple
2/ Universal Studios Japan
3/ Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
4/ Namba (Dōtonbori / Shinsaibashi / Kuromon Ichiba Market)
5/ Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
6/ Umeda Sky Building
7/ Nipponbashi shopping district
8/ Shinsekai / Tsutenkaku Tower
9/ Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
10/ Tempozan Ferris Wheel

At the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, it is possible to rent a kimono at 500 yen for 30 minutes and take a stroll around streets set in the Edo period (1603 - 1868). Note there is a limit of up to 300 people per day. (Groups are not accepted.) Also, you can make your own cup noodles at the Cupnoodles Museum, or you might enjoy Namba Park which was named among the world's 10 best high-rise and rooftop green spaces, or visit the Water Clock at JR Osaka Station, which was also chosen as one of the world’s 12 most beautiful clocks by CNN America. Be sure to take a look if you are passing by!

How about watching a performance of the Japanese art of Ningyō Jōruri Bunraku, a form of traditional puppet theatre which was founded in Osaka and has been registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage? Three types of performers take part in Bunraku– the Ningyōtsukai (puppeteers), Tayū (chanters), and Shamisen (a three-stringed musical instrument) players. The puppets are manipulated by puppeteers while the Shamisen plays and Jōruri is chanted. Jōruri is not just a song but is accompanied by the Shamisen and includes descriptive words, gestures and actions of the characters in the play.

At the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka city, audio guides (English / Japanese) are available for 300 yen, so even beginners can enjoy a show! The kimonos worn by the puppets are noteworthy too. “Owarai” comedy also flourished as a form of entertainment for the common people, including Kamigata Rakugo (comedy storytelling performed in Osaka / Kyoto), Manzai stand-up comedy and Yoshimoto / Shochiku Shinkigeki theatre. It is said that in Osaka, a city of commerce, “Owarai” comedy most likely developed through people using smooth and gentle communication that would not cause offense.

No doubt the reason many people visit this city is because when it comes to Osaka, everyone thinks about good food!!! From the Edo period (1603 - 1868) it has been called “The Kitchen of Japan” as various food cultures developed out of this nationwide center of economy and commerce. It came to be known as the city where you can “eat yourself bankrupt”. According to this saying, the people of Osaka like to overspend on fine food. Osaka food culture; developed by a people so enthusiastic about food - no wonder it is a city filled with amazing cuisine! Let's see some of Osaka's must-eat foods.

1/ Okonomiyaki (savory pancake)
2/ Takoyaki (Octopus dumplings)
3/ Kushi-katsu (Deep-fried skewered meat and vegetables)
4/ Tessa / Tecchiri (Blowfish hot pot)
5/ Ikayaki (grilled squid topped with soy sauce)
6/ Doteyaki (beef sinew stew)
7/ Chiritorinabe Hot pot
8/ Sukiyaki (Beef and vegetable hot pot)
9/ Osakazushi (pressed sushi with toppings marinated in vinegar)

Most people have probably tried numbers 1 to 3. Numbers 4 to 8 are local cuisine, so give them a try! The area around Tsuruhashi (Korean Town) is known as a battleground between competing Yakiniku (BBQ) restaurants. As soon as you get off the train at Tsuruhashi station, the delicious smell lingers in the air. In Osaka we recommend going on an eating tour; it's fun to go food hopping! Eat till you drop.... and maybe even eat yourself bankrupt! You're feeling full, but isn't there is always room for a dessert or some sweets?

In Amerikamura (American Village) there are treats such as long soft-cream or giant cotton candy etc. You'll find yourself taking photo after photo. They taste great too so no wonder they are popular!There is also Keshi-mochi, a famous sweet beloved by the people of Osaka since the Edo period. It's a mochi rice cake filled with a sweet, smooth bean paste and covered with poppy seeds.

It can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days after production so it makes a good souvenir. Also, keep an eye out for sweets and souvenirs that capture Osaka's sense of humor! After learning about the local history and having a great time in the city, why not try eating yourself bankrupt? Osaka, a city that enjoys so much more than just eating. If you have never been here before, please come and visit! If you have, come again! You might just find yourself hooked.

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.