It may not have the cinematic myth of Tokyo, nor Nara’s picture-perfect cherry blossoms, but Osaka offers an alternate tourist experience that is no less special for it. Very much an Asian tourist destination – last year the top three visitor countries were China, South Korea and Taiwan – the Western tourist should not disregard this distinctly Japanese offering, with its recent influx of restaurants, boutiques and bars.
Recently deemed the third most liveable city in the world behind Vienna and Melbourne, perhaps of most interest is the city’s cuisine. Ninety-one Michelin-starred restaurants dotted throughout the neighbourhoods of Tsuruhashi, Fukushima and elsewhere represent local cuisine at its most authentic.
Naniwa Kappo Kigawa
With a fifty-year history, this celebrated institution specialises in kappo – the delicate preparation of a selection of small plates. The freshest sashimi and local vegetables are presented exquisitely; with the incorporation of French techniques for a unique take on Japanese cuisine. Ask for the omakase (the chef’s selection).
A theme park crossed with a spa may sound the wrong side of relaxing, but Spa World deserves a visit in order to envelop oneself fully in the Osakan experience. The onsens, or springs, are heated to around 40 degrees centigrade and separated by continental zones (Asia, Europe) as well as gender – for reasons that will become quickly apparent on entry.
The Conrad Osaka
In Osaka, and indeed large swathes of Japan, some of the best hotel experiences are offered by international chains. Take the Conrad Osaka, just recently opened and a stone’s throw from tourist attractions such as the National Art Museum and a traditional puppet theatre. Contemporary, with Japanese touches, the rooftop bar 40 storeys up offers city-wide views.