If Tokyo is the ego of Japanese urban identity, Osaka may be the id. Sure, there’s a refined spirit and accomplished tradition to be enjoyed (the castle is a perfect example), but it’s the honest, pulsing infrastructure of light, sound, and taste that shines through. Osaka force-feeds all the senses, and never stops to apologize.

A less glamorous history might have pushed the city into Tokyo’s shadow, but visit for yourself and you’ll see that Osaka stands fine on its own. It’s the seat of Japanese food appreciation and an energetic community, so many of the best parts are scattered around its busiest neighbourhoods. Here are a few sites to showcase the curious mix of traditional and ultra-modern that has come to define – and enhance – Japan’s third largest city.osaka japan

1. Osaka Castle

It may technically be a reconstruction of the 16th century original, but Osaka’s monumental castle is just as formidable as any ancient palace still standing. It’s physically enormous, with several roofed tiers, and it perches on sprawling park grounds that are circled by an exceptionally wide moat. The castle complex certainly grabs your attention, and the art and armor exhibits inside tell a bit more of the tale. If you walk up to the eight floor deck, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the city, but the scene is equally impressive from the ground – especially if it happens to be cherry blossom season.osaka castle