What to do and Where to stay in

Friendly, food-loving Osaka is Japan’s third-largest city and capital of the western Kansai region. Its location makes it a good jumping-off point for exploring other destinations including Kyoto, which is just 15 minutes away by bullet train. But there’s plenty to discover in the city itself. The urban sprawl has both high-tech skyscrapers and one of Japan’s most historic castles. And this is an excellent place to sample Japanese cuisine – the city’s unofficial slogan is “kuidaore” (“eat until you drop”).

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Experiences in Osaka

Far more compact than Tokyo, Osaka is easy to navigate thanks to an efficient metro system. The Yodo River flows through the north side of the city, and most of the sights extend from the central JR Osaka Station, so you can see things on foot. A good place to start is Osaka Castle, which is fascinating for older children interested in Japan’s samurai history. After impressing them with the art and armour on display, head up to the eighth floor observation deck for 360-degree views of the city.

In the south part of town, Dotombori has a photogenic canal with pedestrianised walkways. This is a lively night spot but also home to great restaurants and Hozen-ji, a tiny temple with a moss-covered Buddhist statue that worshipers splash with water to show their respects. Other great family-friendly attractions include Osaka Aquarium, Universal Studios Japan and Tennoji Zoo. Kids Plaza Osaka is an enormous play zone and science museum with hands-on exhibits and interactive displays.

Osaka is also a great place to discover “shotengai” (market streets) with 100-yen shops and game centres that will keep youngsters busy. They are also usually covered, which also makes them a great option for a rainy day activity. Discover everything about noodles at the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, then join the queue of locals at Umeda Hagakure to sample their speciality: cold noodles.

For families looking to explore the great outdoors, there is a variety of green spaces in and around the city. Try the 106-hectare park surrounding Osaka Castle, Utsubo-koen park or catch a 30-minute train to Minoh Falls for a hike amidst forests and waterfalls.


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