It’s a travesty that I have lived in Kyoto for over two years and, until a month ago, had never visited Osaka. Only 45 minutes by local line train or 15 minutes by Shinkansen, if you’re feeling flush. Luckily my flat sits on the Keihan line, whizzing me from Gion-Shijo to Kitahama (central Osaka) in 47 minutes.
Why go to Osaka, I wondered? I live in Kyoto after all, home of kaiseki cuisine, cultural capital of Japan and so full of shrines, temples and important cultural assets that I won’t even make it to every one in this city, let alone anywhere else… Osaka is different though. A major metropolis whose people have personalities as bright as the neon lights of Namba and as oversized as the towering skyscrapers of Shin-Osaka. The food is cheap and utterly delicious. Forget tiny bite size portions, perfectly plated-up. That’s not their style. Osakans are famous for okonomiyaki, takoyaki, kushiage and apparently, anything that’s a little messy. The nightlife is famously raucous and if you break through the superficial (but super fun) surface, there’s even a spot of culture to be appreciated. Here’s how I’d spend 24 hours in Osaka…
The castle is obviously atop of the cultural highlights hit-list. The parkland surrounding it is beautiful and it’s facade a treat for the eyes. But I wouldn’t waste time or money going inside. The museum is substandard and the cheap, dated decor does not match the grandeur of the exterior. Instead, pull up a rooftop seat at the neighbouring The Landmark Square and admire the scenes whilst sipping on something tasty.
After a spot of sightseeing a coffee pick-me-up would go down a treat. LiLo coffee roasters in Shinsaibashi is a short tube ride away and they pour a pretty mean cup of Joe. The café is quaint, the staff are friendly and the area surrounding the shop is a hive of activity, filled with quirky food stands and masses of stereotypically Osakan vintage shops, frequented by the city’s coolest kids.
Fueled by caffeine, this is the perfect time to pound the streets of Shinsaibashi down to Dotombori and Namba. Go with an empty stomach. Every other shop has a chef whipping up takoyaki, a hot plate sizzling with stuffed okonomiyaki or streams of students standing in line for almost-incandescent, candy-hued soft serve.
If you’re lucky you might just happen upon an event that is as peak Japan as I have ever witnessed. The huge Cosplay Festa at Nippombashi, Osaka’s answer to Akihabara. Cosplay and anime are now so famously associated with young Japan that it often appears on visitor’s must-see lists for the lengths that these super fans go to in creating their costumes, many of which are hand-made, mimicking their favourite characters. I stumbled upon this huge once-a-year festival when visiting, but if you want to see cosplay in Osaka head to Den Den Town on a weekend for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of these fantastically turned out characters.
No trip to Osaka would be complete without an excursion to Temma. One stop from Osaka station, this incredible little area is home to alleys filled with bars and restaurants bursting with the scent of freshly fried karaage and sweet-smoke from charcoal grills. In my opinion, it’s the only way to round off 24 hours in Osaka.