Osaka is a bustling metropolis that still retains the alluring atmosphere of its vibrant past
The third largest city in Japan by population and home to almost 2.7 million people, Osaka was a bustling economic hub during the 16th century Edo period. The city is also the birthplace of some of Japan's most iconic gastronomic delights. Here, you can surround yourself with over a hundred Michelin-starred restaurants, neon-lit streets and ancient architecture from yesteryear.
Asako Onoyama, Chief Concierge of InterContinental Osaka shares a 24-hour itinerary to help you uncover the Kitchen of Japan or as locals call it, Tenka no Daidokoro.
10:00am: Begin your day with a visit to the two-towered Umeda Sky Building. Towering 173 metres over Osaka, it is an architectural icon with its dramatic sci-fi structure and metallic exterior. Visit the floating garden observatory balanced in the middle of the towers and enjoy the fresh air and panoramic views of the city.
Head to Takimi-kōji Alley at the tower's basement,which brings to life a Shōwa-era (1926-1989) market street filled with cafes and eateries waiting to be discovered. Indulge in authentic Japanese fare at Okonomiyaki Kiji. Tucked in the corner of the food area and identified by its red noren (traditional fabric divider) at its door, the traditional and charming eatery serves one of the best okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) in town.
12:00pm: Make your way by taxi to the famous Osaka Castle Park. Over 430 years old and surrounded by a 3-meter deep moat, the formidable castle houses a number of artefacts such as samurai swords, elaborate paintings and folding screens. Wander through the serene gardens and stone fences that once protected the city and immerse yourself in its history. Admissions to the castle museum costs 600 Yen (JPY) per adult, and if the queues for the elevators are long, use the stairs to reach the top of the castle to take in stunning views of the park and Osaka.
2:00pm: Satiate your hunger by hailing a cab to arrive at Kuromon Ichiba Market (Black Gate Market), Osaka's oldest and biggest fresh food market. It supplies fresh seafood to professional chefs and restaurants in Osaka, so be assured that the variety and quality of the food will satisfy even the pickiest gourmand. Seat yourself down in a Yatai (eating stall) and order up some must-try delicacies like Otoro sashimi (raw fatty tuna belly slices), fugusashimi (raw puffer fish slices) and Unagi (grilled eel).
3:00pm: Clear your mind as you gaze at the mesmerising ocean life at one of the largest public aquariums in the world, just 20 minutes away by car. The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan offers you a unique chance to explore the Pacific Ocean's 'Ring of Fire' through vivid representations of the natural environment found at different ocean levels. Get up close and personal with the largest fish in the ocean, the graceful whale shark, as well as over 380 species of rays, fish and other beautiful underwater creatures.
6:00pm: Take a 15-minute taxi ride back to Osaka's best known shopping area, Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street. Established in the 16th century, the street is filled with kimono tailors, fast food restaurants and hip fashion boutiques that still pay homage to its historical past. Shopping lovers and foodies can walk on the same cobbled pathways and wander down the same alleys as samurais and market goers once did, as you experience what this vibrant city has to offer today.
Some of Osaka's gastronomic delights can also be found here, and must-tries for dinner include:
Okoyomiyaki, a savoury pancake filled with an abundance of lettuce and meat, topped with sweet brown sauce and fluffy bonito flakes
Takoyaki, grilled batter balls filled with octopus and topped with sweet brown sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes
Kitsune Udon, thick wheat noodles in savoury broth accompanied by a piece of fried tofu
8:00pm: Time to catch a glimpse of Japanese nightlife. Take a 10-minute walk to Dotombori, a lively street along the river with an exciting array of bars, restaurants, eye-catching neon signs and moving displays. The serene river reflects all the neon lights, creating an enigmatic and colourful atmosphere. The stone-paved alley is lined with Osaka's best street food and drinks, bringing to life the iconic Osaka phrase kuidaore, which roughly means, 'to extravagantly ruin oneself by indulging in food'. Treat yourself to one of Osaka's most popular version of takoyaki at Takoyaki Kukuru, which attracts long queues of tourists and locals for its generous fillings and fluffy texture.
10:00pm: If you're staying at the InterContinental Osaka, be sure to experience the magnificent train systems of Japan and enjoy a short 20-minute train ride back to the hotel at the end of the day's activities. A one-day train ticket is available at the Osaka Visitor Information Center and it offers you unlimited rides on the Osaka subway, New Tram, and buses.