Japan’s third-biggest city has thrown off its shackles and stepped out of the shadows to light up the sky with glaring neon signs and a larger than life outlook. Giant octopuses cling to buildings and bustling restaurants pack in the crowds in this great and garish place, which is Japan at its most friendly, extroverted and flavourful. So dive in headfirst to experience an all-out sensory assault of delicious food, shopping cathedrals and glittering temples.
Dotombori Bridge bathes in the multicoloured, jewel-like lights of signage-plastered buildings, and the neon lights dance on the canal's waters below. Osaka is known as the nation's kitchen, and the Kuromon Ichiba Market has served as the city's spot to tuck in for almost 200 years. Full of street food stalls - try pufferfish, savoury Okonomiyaki pancakes, or ginger and onion flavoured octopus, among the endless feast of exotic flavours.
Osaka Castle is another of the city’s landmarks, built in the 16th century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. A modern museum now waits inside, where you can learn about the country's history, and why this castle is a symbol of Japanese unity. Be sure to take the elevator up to the observation deck for a panoramic view of Osaka's spread. A colourful park encloses the castle and blooms with an ocean of pale pink cherry blossom during the season - the elegant black tiers rising from the pink haze below is one of Osaka's most alluring visions. Kyoto’s peaceful cultural treasures and temples are also just a short jaunt away on Japan’s sleek trains, should you wish to explore further afield.