Flights to Osaka: Medieval and modern metropolis
Osaka Castle oozes medieval elegance that contrasts with modern tower blocks in quirky Osaka. Look to the past in Shitenno-ji Temple's manicured gardens as you sip green tea and admire the ancient five-storey pagoda. Glimpse the future at Nipponbashi, where you can buy electronic gadgets unheard of outside Japan. The Osaka Bay development is a waterfront wonder; rides at Universal Studios Japan provide multi-sensory thrills and Osaka Aquarium's massive tanks promise an encyclopaedic view of sea life.
Meet the locals
After your flight to Osaka, join the crowds at the Doya-Doya Festival to see groups of men clad only in loincloths fighting like girls over an amulet. Chill out in an amusement arcade, where obsessed locals hammer away at action computer games and slot machines. Admire the obsessive 'otaku' in Nipponbashi who dress up as manga and anime characters. Why not try on a pigtailed wig or a robot costume yourself?
Eat and drink
Street food rules in Osaka. Specialist chefs fry takoyaki in pans designed specifically for the purpose. This sizzling combination of baby octopus and batter is often topped with mayonnaise, dried seaweed and bonito flakes. Or try 'Japanese pizza', really a cabbage-filled pancake reputedly invented in Osaka. Top with pork, shrimp or vegetables then slather in okonomiyaki sauce, rich in sweet and umami flavours.
Get down to party central on your Osaka holiday – a neon-lit extravaganza around the Dotonbori Canal. Sip specialist sake from cedarwood boxes in the more sedate bars west of Midosuji Dori in Amerika Mura. Or dive into Osaka's infamous, sweaty underground rock scene in venues across the city. Local bands perform for free outside Osakajokoen Station on Sunday afternoons. You can even strut your own stuff at open jam sessions.
Population: Osaka has the highest number of Korean residents of any Japanese city. Check out the vibrant Korean shops and restaurants in Tsuruhashi district.
Key dates: From 645 to 655 Osaka, then named Naniwa, was the unofficial capital of Japan and home to Emperor Kotoku.
Did you know? Osaka Castle has been destroyed many times. Today’s formidable wooden structure conceals a concrete core. There’s also a lift for the convenience of visitors to the Museum inside.
Getting about: Osaka has an excellent subway system. Don’t worry if buying a ticket seems confusing; there's usually a local on hand, happy to help.
Cavernous marble lobbies, centuries-old Persian carpets, crystal chandeliers the size of your house and high-rise restaurants with sweeping city views – our pick of Osaka hotels is nothing if not ostentatious.
When in Japan, eat sushi! Just don't try saying 'Honfukuzushi' after a few sakes. Raw tuna not your thing? Our pick of Osaka restaurants also includes fancy French fusion and Indian food so spicy it will make your eyes water.
Shopping in Osaka
As if the HEP Five's 170 shops aren't enough to keep you busy, the super-mall also has a ruddy great red Ferris wheel on top. Back on terra firma, our selection also covers iconic Japanese anime merchandise, bustling food markets and quirky bric-a-brac stores.
Think you can sink 100 shots and remain upright? If so, there's a plaque just for you on Cinquecento's infamous Wall of Shame. Dance 'til dawn at Sam & Dave's or – for a more sedate experience – enjoy traditional Japanese theatre at the Osaka Shochikuza.
Discover how Japanese craftsmen elevated pottery to an exquisite art form at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics. Or ogle the monsters inhabiting Osaka Aquarium. They’ll ogle right back at you. Three-metre crab anyone?