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bootlegga Osaka - A travel report by James
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Osaka,  Japan - flag Japan -  Ðsaka
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Osaka might be Japan’s 2nd largest city but it doesn’t take second place to Tokyo. Known for its industry, the Yakuza, and high cost of living, it is a great place for a visit. report of the month contest
Jan 2006

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
If Tokyo is known as the capital and for its political focus, Osaka is the heart of Japan’s mighty industrial economy. Most major Japanese companies either have their headquarters here and/or a major factory producing goods for the world. It focus on the economy and building fortunes is so well known in Japan that the standard Osaka greeting (moukarimakka ) roughly translates to “Are you making money”, not hello!

Osaka itself comprises almost 20% of all of Japan’s GDP, making its economy bigger than Hong Kong or Thailand. Located in the rough centre of Japan, Osaka has roughly 17 million people living there.

While it is not Venice, Osaka is dotted with canals because in its early history, they were vital to the city’s commerce. Today most of the canals figure prominently into the festivals held throughout the year.

For those of you who have seen the movie Black Rain, you’ll also know that Osaka is home to the Yakuza, or Japanese mafia.

Located in central Japan, the climate is mild and temperate in the winter with little or no snow to quite hot and humid in the summer. Late August and September are considered typhoon season and you can expect plenty of rain and/or cloudy days. Osaka is easily accesses by either ship or plane, with flights landing at Kansai International Airport from all over the world.

There are also several major festivals held throughout the year. The Toka Ebisu festival is dedicated to the god of commerce and hopes for financial good luck in the coming year. In the spring, Hanami (Cherry Blossom viewing) is by far the most popular activity. The Sumiyoshi Matsuri is held in August and features portable shrines carried through the streets. Over a million people take in the Mido-Suji Parade every October.

One of Osaka’s most interesting attractions is the first one most visitors see. It is Kansai International Airport, the first airport in the world built on a man-made island.

Favourite spots:
The view from Osaka Castle
The view from Osaka Castle
My favourite spot in Osaka was Osaka Castle and its grounds. Located in the heart of the city, it forms a massive park that is open to all free of charge. Those who wish to visit the museum inside the reconstructed castle have to pay extra though. Still, the castle was rebuilt exactly as it was during the heyday of the Samurai and it is incredible. Spread over roughly one square kilometer of some of the most expensive real estate on Earth, it is the grand vision of a 16th century Japanese warlord.

What's really great:
Shin-Umeda Building
Shin-Umeda Building
Osaka is the perfect foil to Tokyo. Where Tokyo is white collar, Osaka is blue collar. Where Tokyo is about power, Osaka is about money. They even ride on the opposite side of the escalator in Osaka just to be different! If you hated Tokyo, there is a good chance you will love Osaka.

Hep 5 Mall has a giant whale hanging from its ceiling.
Hep 5 Mall has a giant whale hanging from its ceiling.
While Tokyo has Disneyland, Osaka has Universal Studios Japan, similar to Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida. It is filled with rides based on famous movies like Terminator 2, Bask to the Future and Jurassic Park. They also have a special themed area for the kids, Snoopy Studios.

Another great marvel is the Shin-Umeda building that can seen from across Osaka. It is two large skyscrapers connected together by a massive complex on top that is several stories tall. The observation deck there offers a great view of Osaka.

Much like the Harajuku area of Tokyo is where young Japanese hang out, Amerika-mura (America Village) in Osaka is very similar. It got its name from shops that began importing American goods in the 1970s. The area is full of clothing stores, goods shops, cafes, galleries and other interesting diversions. It is usually full of young people wearing unique styles of clothing. There are several flea markets and performances on the weekends as well.

A market in Osaka
A market in Osaka
As with Tokyo, your best bet is to stay in a ryokan (Japanese inn). They tend to be family run and are far cheaper than the average hotel. Instead of paying $100 US a night, you can generally pay about $60-70 per night. The one drawback for ryokans is that many of them have curfews, after which the staff locks the door and goes to bed themselves.

A couple that are nice in Osaka are the Ebisu-so Ryokan in eastern Osaka and the Kameya Ryokan in western Osaka. Due to the fantastic subway/train system, both are close to most major sights.

If you are looking for a hotel, the Park Hotel Rinkai in southern Osaka is a pretty good bet. It is a little more than the above ryokans, but it is a hotel without a curfew.

All three can be found here;

Dotomburi nightlife
Dotomburi nightlife
The Hard Rock Café can be a hell of a lot of fun on the weekends. I know it’s not really a night club, but it has plenty of good looking people having a great time.

The place to head is Dotomburi, the best place in Osaka for nightlife.

A game where you can catch a lobster for dinner!
A game where you can catch a lobster for dinner!
The Hub is a British-style pub that offers good food and beer at affordable prices, at least for Japan. While you will find pubs pretty much everywhere, once again, Dotomburi is the city’s best known place for night-time fun.

Restaurants have displays to help you choose.
Restaurants have displays to help you choose.
Osaka is the heart of the Kansai region, which is well known throughout Japan for several local delicacies, including Takoyaki (octopus dumplings), Okonomyaki (halfway between a pancake and omelet filled with a variety of ingredients including cabbage, pork/shrimp, and eggs), Shabu Shabu (similar to meat fondue but cooked in broth), and Kitsune Udon (udon noodle soup with fried tofu).

The Umeda and Dotomburi areas of Osaka have dozens of restaurants serving these dishes, maintaining Osaka’s reputation of the best place to eat in Japan.

Other recommendations:
The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto
The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto
Osaka is the heart of the Kansai region of Japan and is close to plenty of great places to visit. Kyoto and Kobe are less than an hour away by train. Kyoto is very traditional and full of temples and shrines, as it was the Japanese capital before Tokyo. Kobe is a more modern, cosmopolitan city with a thriving Chinatown.

Himeji Castle in nearby Hyogo-ken is about another 30 minutes past Kobe on the train. If you love Japanese castles, Himeji Castle is the best maintained and grandest in all of Japan, so make sure you stop and check it out.

Published on Tuesday February 14th, 2006

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Mon, Mar 27 2006 - 11:22 AM rating by terje

Congrats on RoM! :-) I enjoyed the report.

Thu, Mar 16 2006 - 07:28 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Congratulations for your RoM! Is wonderful!

Mon, Mar 06 2006 - 02:55 PM rating by isaacmolina

very fantastic report

Tue, Feb 21 2006 - 11:06 PM rating by eirekay

GREAT Report with terrific photos!

Tue, Feb 14 2006 - 01:57 PM rating by mistybleu


I really enjoyable read. -Misty-

Tue, Feb 14 2006 - 10:51 AM rating by bear495

As always, this is a nice job. You really were informative in all aspects. Thanks for the submission.


Tue, Feb 14 2006 - 10:06 AM rating by frenchfrog

Really good report, very informative.

Tue, Feb 14 2006 - 07:08 AM rating by davidx

Actually you make me feel that I should dislike both Osaka and Tokyo. [Kyoto sounds far more up my street.] However that's just me and does not detract from the excellence of your report.

Tue, Feb 14 2006 - 06:21 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii james,well this is really a great report

Tue, Feb 14 2006 - 04:27 AM rating by rangutan

Excellent and extensive report on an important and BIG world city. A lot of time invested here, it is perfect!

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