Osaka, the cultural haven you must visit

Osaka is a fascinating city. It’s filled to the brim with delicious food and plenty of tourist attractions. However, it’s the less than obvious that will catch you offguard.

We’ve been to Osaka twice now, each visit with a different focus. In our first trip we admired Osaka for its famous aquarium, its engimatic skyscrapers, and its shopping.

Osaka Aquarium

One of the largest aquariums in the world, you’d best set aside a couple of hours for this attraction. It’s not like other aquariums – visitors are able to walk through and under the central exhibits, giving you several perspectives of your favourite underwater creatures. With crustaceans, jellyfish and giant rays and even giant swimming rats, you’ll be sure to see some unique exhibits. My favourite were the energetic seals, that were notoriously difficult to capture in a photo. Have you been yet, what’s your favourite?

Right next door there’s also an impressive ferris wheel, giving you an opportunity to rest afterwards with brilliant views of the city. How convenient! Take note – they also provide a discount (joint ticket) for aquarium visitors.

Best Osaka Shopping

Osaka is littered with shopping malls and arcades. My personal favourite is doguyasuji, where you can find shops filled with authentic Japanese kitchen items, including cooking utensils. The Japanese pride themselves on quality food – and their equipment is no exception. They often prepare with copper pots, which are adept at distributing heat well. At the very least, you should pick yourself up a traditional square omelette pan (I have one!) – a requirement if you would like to make yourself a traditional Japanese omelette at home. On my first trip to Japan, we learned to make these – it takes quite a bit of practice, but the end results are delicious. Check out this video demonstration. Amazing, isn’t it?


Food & entertainment in Osaka

Food culture in Osaka is unrivaled. At every corner and between is a ramen (thin Japanese noodle) or okonomiyaki shop. It’s important to note that there are several kinds of okonomiyaki, ie. Japanese savoury pancake. Osaka is famous for the flour-based battered version with cabbage and seafood, beef or pork – my personal favourite. Alternatively, the Hiroshima style is also renowned as a delicious noodle pancake mix. For those seeking a curious alternative, check out takoyaki octopus balls. I’ll let your imagination take care of the rest! Are you hungry yet? If all that sounds interesting, check out Dotonbori – but that’s not all you can find there.

Dotonbori (in the Namba district) is home to the main nightlife and entertainment area in Osaka. It’s basically the closest relative to Toyko, with its gigantic mall, excessively large TV signs and gangsters. However, let me tell you a secret. Keen adventurers should know there is more to Dotonbori than just its food and nightlife – its also home to a traditional Japanese theatre, which is one of my most favourite Osaka experiences.

There’s a few things fundamentally different about Japanese theater. Firstly, audience members are encouraged to yell out during the performance. This is a form of reassurance to the actors and provides them with vigor, whilst allowing the audience to connect with them. We attended a Japanese-only event found it quite fascinating, as it was a full house turnaround with the locals. Secondly, expressions and mannerisms of the actors is entirely different – emotions are highly exaggerated for effect that bring entirely different energy into the performance. It’s also one of the last remaining traditions that connects Japan to its origins. Lastly, Japanese theater can simply be hilariously strange – in our performance, the main character burst out of a mid-air box and flew away on an eagle (presumably into the proverbial sunset). Personally, I think Japanese theater is a vital experience in Osaka – read some other reviews and give it some thought!

NB. English translations for the show itself are sometimes provided but not always, be weary of this.

Would you recommend any other must-see experiences in Osaka? Let me know so I can check it out next time!