Formerly known as Naniwa, the first capital of Japan was established in Osaka in the seventh century. If we turn the pages of history, it is revealed that Osaka served as the gateway to culture and trade. In fact, it was nicknamed “Nation’s Kitchen” during the Edo period for being a gathering and distribution center of commodities. Today, it is the third largest city in Japan and it wouldn’t be wrong to state that Osaka is among the most underrated travel destinations in the world.
Osaka is located almost in the center of Japan. The first step on your trip to Osaka should be to take a flight to Kansai International Airport. Since Osaka is well connected with almost all the other cities of Japan, tourists also have the option of taking a train from say, Tokyo, or any other city. Similarly, opting for a bus ride is also another, cheaper alternative. The adventurous ones can take a ferry to the Osaka International Ferry Terminal located at Nankō in the Osaka Bay Area. Thus, there is no dearth of options to access the Osaka area.
Some of the must visit destinations in Osaka include:
• Floating Garden Observatory: Overlooking Osaka is Umeda Sky Building, which happens to be Japan’s first tall building with a rooftop observation deck called the Floating Garden Observatory. As per records, it is the 12th tallest building in Japan, yet has become an iconic one.
• Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine: Founded in the year 211, Sumiyoshi-taisha happens to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan. Sumiyoshi-taisha enshrines three gods (kami) said to protect travelers, fishermen and sailors. Its architecture is purely Japanese as it was constructed before Chinese architecture influenced the design of temples in Japan.
• Osaka Castle: A recreation of a seventeenth century castle that played an important role in the unification of Japan, Osaka Castle today perfectly bends history and modernity. The Castle has an authentic looking exterior but is a modern concrete building inside. It’s one of the best places in Osaka for cherry blossom viewing or ‘hanami’.
• Shitennoji: Constructed in 593, Shitennoji was the first Buddhist temple constructed in Japan. It was burned down at various junctures in history, which further attracts tourists to the temple today.
Osaka has a temperate climate, with the summers being hot and humid and the winters cold. The autumn months are usually sunny and cool. Osaka is best avoided during summers as the temperature, usually in the range of 26-34°C tends to get sticky, which can make travelling quite uncomfortable. If you want to witness cherry blossom, what is locally known as ‘hanami’, then April to May is the best time to visit. To catch leaves changing colour, travel enthusiasts suggest that October and November are the best months. During the above mentioned months, the temperature is moderate and there is hardly any rain. However, tourists should note that the ‘hanami’ season is also the time when most Japanese take their holidays. So, if you’re planning a vacation during that time, ensure that your reservations are done well in advance.
Osaka is not a place which would figure on top of travel destination lists, yet, it is a region full of possibilities waiting to be explored!