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Japan Travel Tips: Osaka

Osaka is Japan's third largest city and is a part of Japan's second largest metropolitan area so there really isn't any one thing tourists come to Osaka for. Attractions range from the more modern like the aquarium or Universal Studios to historic castles and temples. There are all sorts of shopping and entertainment centers as well as world class dinning including Michelin star restaurants. There really is something for everyone who visits Osaka.

During our visit in April of 2016 we got to see a fair number of sites and they all left lasting impressions on us. Except Dōtonbori. That was an absolute tourist trap. I don't know why everyone talks about that place like it is a must see attraction. Yes, the massive neon signs were cool but it was super cramped and dirty (which was rare for Japan) and there were massive lines for everything. It felt like the Las Vegas strip.

Maguroya Nakatsu

When we were planning our trip to Japan we watched a lot of Mark Wien's videos and came across this article he wrote about an izakaya bar in Osaka called Maguroya Nakatsu.

I am a massive fan of tuna sushi. The way it just melts in your mouth is heavenly. I can say, without hyperbole, that the tuna I had at Maguroya Nakatsu was the best I have ever eaten. It was so good that if you could only go to one place during your visit to Osaka, Maguroya Nakatsu should be it. There is no doubt in my mind. I guarantee that I will go back to Osaka at some point in the future primarily so I can eat at this izakaya bar again.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of Osaka's greatest tourist attractions.

The centerpiece of the aquarium is a massive four story tank in the middle of the building that houses the main attraction, a whale shark. It is over 12 meters in length which makes it the largest sea creature I have ever seen in person. Visitors walk down a ramp that wraps around the central tank allowing them the see the animals from all different elevations and angles. Along the outside of the ramp are a dozen smaller tanks that showcase specific species or habitats.

I have been to the Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto and I remember being completely blown away by the size of it. Having now been to the Kaiyukan, Ripley's seems tiny in comparison. Standing in front of that central tank as a whale shark swam by is not something I will soon forget.

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Next to the Kaiyukan aquarium is a giant ferris wheel called the Tempozan. It gives an amazing view of the Osaka skyline including the aquarium. We went during the day but have heard that at night, when the city is all lit up, the views are amazing as well.

Pokémon Center Osaka

Osaka Station City consists of two massive buildings that flank the Osaka Station. You could easily get lost inside here for hours looking at all the cool shops and entertainment but there is one specific place I would point out.

Inside Osaka Station City's south tower is the Pokémon Center Osaka. A portion of the thirteenth floor is set up to to sell only Pokémon merchandise and I guarantee you that you cannot fully comprehend how much merchandise there is to sell until you see it. If you are a Pokémon fan this place is a must visit but I could also recommend it to the average tourist just so they could get a sense of how big Pokémon is in Japan.

Universal Studios Japan

We were planning on visiting Universal Studios Japan but unfortunately the timing just didn't work out and we had to cut it from our trip. We have heard nothing but great things and the attractions will feature themes that you would never see outside of Japan. Stuff like Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy, Godzilla, Hello Kitty, Nintendo, Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, etc. There is also stalwart attractions like Jurassic Park, Sesame Street and Shrek. They even have a Harry Potter attraction which has live owls.

The most unique attraction I've heard of is Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, a live action show actually based on the Waterworld film that is full of water stunts and pyrotechnics.