24 hours in Osaka

24 hours in Osaka

CNNGo reader Vivian Morelli finds Osaka more grimy and grungy than its northern neighbour Tokyo, but loves it all the same for its food and nightlife

Don't let the concrete and highway overpasses deceive you: once you scratch the surface a little, you'll find that Osaka is friendly, lively, and so charming.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

Start your day with a bit of culture. Proudly standing in the middle of the city is magnificent Osaka-jo.

Although the original 1583 structure completely burned down last century, it's been fully re-constructed and re-furbished.

The interior of the castle presents eight stories displaying a great collection of documents and artifacts. The castle grounds are especially lovely during cherry blossom season in early April, but if you missed it, the park is always great for a stroll and a picnic, at any time of the year.

Don't let the concrete and highway overpasses deceive you: once you scratch the surface a little, you'll find that Osaka is friendly, lively, and so charming.

1-3-20 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Ōsaka-shi; open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; www.osakacastle.net
Cost: Free, ¥600 to go inside the castle



Head over to the Namba area to sample Kansai's local fare for lunch: okonomiyaki. Literally meaning "grill what you like," okonomiyaki is a savory pancake made of batter, vegetables such as green onions, and different types of meat and fish.

Practically anything goes in, ranging from cheese to kimchi. I like Chibo for its five floors of okonomiyaki, the river view, and sitting around the hot plate to watch the chefs prepare my favorite Japanese dish.

Chibo: 1-5-5 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku; open Monday - Sunday, 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.
Average cost: ¥600-1500 per person


Shopping in Namba

After a hearty lunch, take a stroll around Namba for an afternoon of shopping. The Shinsaibashi Arcade boasts countless shops tackling every taste.

Perfectly manicured salesgirls sporting huge hair bows will warmly welcome you into arrays of colorful clothes and accessories.

More upscale brands can be found a block west of the arcade, on tree-lined Midosuji avenue. Keep walking west and hit Amerika-Mura ("American Village") for its laid-back vibe and vintage shops.

Shinsaibashi subway stop, on Midosuji line (M19)/Nagahori line (N15)/Yotsubashi line (Y14)

El Pancho

El Pancho

If you've been abroad for too long and craving certain foods, I strongly suggest El Pancho for a delicious (and spicy) Mexican dinner.

Have a few tacos and sip on imported beer in a warm and colorful atmosphere. Try the burrito plate, which will fill you up for the rest of the day.

El Pancho: 8/F, 1-10-1 Shinsaibashi-suji; open 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.; www.el-pancho.com
Average cost: ¥1,000-2,000 per person

Dotonbori Bridge

Dotonbori Bridge

Walk back to Dotonbori Bridge and take the obligatory Osaka snapshot with the Glico man advert. Neon lights and over-the-top architecture abound in Dotonbori.

Just standing on the bridge amongst the crowds and looking at the neon lights reflecting on the water is enough to re-energize you before a night on the town.

Grand Cafe

Grand Café

Have a typical Osaka-style night out at the trendy Grand Café club. Before going in, make sure you stop by Triangle Park (a few steps away) to watch the youth culture come alive at night.

Have a few drinks in the spacious lounge, then head over to the dance floor for some electronic beats, or late 1990s remixes, depending on the night.

B1/F, 2-10-21 Nishi-shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku; open from 8 p.m.; www.grandcafeosaka.com
Cost: ¥3,000 per person cover charge, drinks from ¥500.



No Osaka night is complete without a post-drinking takoyaki feast. Takoyaki is baked octopus, and its birthplace is Osaka.

The dumplings are made of batter, diced octopus, tempura, and vegetables. The batter is baked into little balls, and topped with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise.

The best takoyaki is found in street stalls on Dotonbori, and Ootako Takoyaki is always a delicious choice.

Ootako Takoyaki: 1-5-10 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku; open from 10 a.m.; www.honkeohtako.jp
Average cost: between ¥300-600 for a set

Osaka Guesthouse KOMA

Koma Guesthouse

Catch a few hours of sleep at curfew-free Koma Guesthouse, a few steps from Namba. The beds are extra cozy, the tatami floors are lovely, and the staff is so friendly and makes you feel right at home.

My favourite place to stay in Osaka!

Osaka Guesthouse Koma: 2-3-12 Saiwai-cho, Maniway-ku; Sakuragawa station on Sennichimae line, exit 5; www.osaka-guesthouse.com
Cost: ¥2500; free Internet

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

The best way to end your stay is the Osaka Aquarium, if only to take a look at the two gigantic whale sharks sharing one of the largest tanks in the world, which can be seen on eight different ocean levels.

It's best to start the tour on the top floor, then descend around the main tank. On the bottom floor, the sight of spider crabs and other fascinating creatures that live in the abyss are well worth the admission cost.

The Osaka Aquarium is one of the largest in the world, and I suggest showing up early to beat the crowds.

1-1-10 Kaigan-dori, Minato-ku Osakako station on the Chuo subway line; open 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.; www.kaiyukan.com
Cost: ¥2,000 for adults, ¥900 for children


Osaka is the perfect place for a short getaway, if you're ready to eat the best foods in Japan, to stay up until dawn, and catch a glimpse at the most fascinating youth culture.