Osaka, Japan's third largest city and home to over two and a half million residents.
Located on the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, Osaka is the central metropolitan area of the Kansai region and a vibrant foodie scene has resulted in it being nicknamed the 'nation's kitchen'. Divided into neighbourhoods such as Kita and Minami, you will hear the lively intonation of Osaka dialect as you ride the escalators standing on the right instead of the left, as in Tokyo. Wander along the numerous urban canals to soak up the bright lights and intriguing cultural differences of this bustling city.
When to go?
Visit in spring for mild weather and sakura (cherry blossom) season. July and August bring hot summer nights with fireworks, festivals and street food taking over the city. If you're travelling at this time of year, carry a fan and make the most of these summertime experiences.
Who to take with you?
Someone adventurous with an appetite for fresh seafood who is not afraid to try (sometimes whacky) Japanese delicacies.
Most likely to bump into?
Street-food sellers peddling exotic snacks on every corner.
While Osaka does have a castle, historical landmarks and a national art museum, you'll properly discover its delights by gorging on local cuisine while wandering the streets of Dotonbori. This is where you will find the best street food with takoyaki (balls of battered octopus) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) being local specialties. Take a ride on the Tempozan ferris wheel - which was once the largest in the world - for sweeping views of Osaka Bay and the surrounding area.
How to get there
If you're flying internationally, you'll arrive at Osaka International Airport, but domestic flights usually go to Itami Airport. When you get there, take an airport limousine bus into central areas as taxis are quite expensive. Osaka can be reached by train from Tokyo in two and a half hours, while the bus takes eight hours. Transport throughout the city is well established with a well-connected subway system to get around.