At first glance, Osaka seems like a replica of Tokyo -- the fast-paced urban lifestyle punctuated by busy people, modern buildings, bustling train stations and noisy pachinko parlors. But in this major hub in the heart of the Kansai region, a piece of the authentic Japan is waiting to be discovered. From the oldest Buddhist temple Shitenno-Ji with its gate that dates back 1294 to the most significant Shinto shrine Sumiyoshi Taisha, to the kabuki performances at Osaka Shochikuza, you'll get more than a glimpse of the amazing strength and beauty of this majestic Japanese city.
Kick off your tour at the Osaka-Jo, a reconstruction of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's original 1583 castle with its extensive memorabilia and displays. Hozen-Ji, a peculiar little temple that's said to bring good fortune to those in the water trade is also worth a look. Marvel at the more than 1,300 ceramics on display at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics. If you've got kids in tow, the best place to take them is the Osaka Aquarium, which houses whale sharks other really cool fish. Universal Studios Japan, with its rides and other attractions, is another sure-fire hit with families. In the Tennoji Park Complex, visit the Tennoji Zoo where you can see a variety of endangered and exotic animals in their natural habitats. For those who want a refreshing taste of the Osaka countryside, a day trip to the Chihayaakasaka Village in the Kongozan Mountains is the way to go.
In no other place in Japan can you find as many places to eat as Osaka. Locals even have a term for the plethora of eateries: "Kuidaore" or "eat till you drop." Chanko nabe, kaiseki ryori, okonomiyaki, oshi sushi and Osaka ramen are just some of the many authentic Japanese foods you can find in restaurants all over Osaka. In the basement of Umeda Sky Building, Japanese fare is available at the restaurants in the Takimi-koji Alley. Relaxed dining can be had at the Dotombori Arcade or the Sennichi-Mae Arcade. There are traditional Japanese and international eateries in Osaka's Kappa Yokocho shopping complex.
You'll never run out of places to shop in Osaka. Underground shopping malls – including Namba City and Namba NanNan -- can be found near Namba Station. Old and new shops can be found on the Ebisubashisuji Shopping Street. Nine floors of shopping can also be had at the Big Street Shopping Mall in the America Village. Other good places to splurge include Oimatsu Dori, Herbis Plaza and the Hankyu Higashidori Shopping Street.