If you're in the Western Hemisphere, a trip to Japan is a major commitment. Aside from the financial investment, it also requires you to have a decent amount of time on your hands. And while we can't shave the in-air hours it takes to get to the other side of the world, we can spare you the endless hours you may spend planning your trip from scratch.
Say hello to Osaka, Japan's third largest city, which boasts a burgeoning nightlife and culinary scene that rivals that of any other major city in the world. In my recent travels to this wholly unexpected destination, I found cultural inspiration everywhere — from ancient temples and castles to spontaneous breakdance performances and cutting edge cuisine. To explore Osaka for yourself, check out the 60-second video above and cut-and-paste guide below. You'll find lots of helpful info for your next big trip across our beautiful globe. Just promise you'll bring me back a souvenir?
To Eat & Drink:
Meat is the name of the game when it comes to Tonkatsu — specifically, delectable fried pork you'll dream about later.
This is basically Japanese for Octopus Balls, and let me tell you they are G-O-O-D. Watch the chef make them in front of your eyes, and bring them with you as you walk through bustling Osaka.
Cooking meat right at your table ensures your meal is just as you like it. Fresh, fun, and delicious.
Totti Candy Factory
Everything is cuter in Japan. Why should cotton candy be any different? When you need a sugar rush, come here for beautiful cotton candy that's bigger than your head.
One of the coolest parts of the city is discovering unknown speakeasy bars in places that feel like awesome buildings but turn out to be locally owned darts bars. We're in.
This marketplace is a must-see for super fresh fish (yes, fugu!), snacks, fruit, and the most incredible, over-the-top melons to give as gifts.
I coined this place the home of "Sumo Soup" because of its hearty hot pots, which can feed a whole family.
Ever wonder what a fried food train looks like? Well, wonder no more. Just head down to this super casual eatery for fried everything. It gives a whole new meaning to fast food.
Okonomiyaki (or Japanese pancakes made of cabbage and various yummy proteins) may just be my favorite foreign culinary discovery. It's totally addictive, and will completely change your understanding of what cabbage can do.
It's fine to just do one thing if you do it well. Such is the case with skilled Fugu chefs that have made a life and art of serving blowfish, a delicacy in Japan that can only be prepared by certain masters. This restaurant is a well-kept secret that certainly knows what its doing.
To See & Do:
There's a gigantic castle in the middle of the city in a beautiful park where food trucks pull up to serve shuffling tourists. There's also a moat. No, it's not a mirage.
Wander through the hushed, beautiful gardens of this ancient temple and you may be lucky enough to bear witness to a spiritually awakening ceremony you'll never forget.
Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN
I never thought I'd say this, but... This aquarium rules. Take an afternoon and get lost among the sharks, penguins, and jellyfish.
Banpaku Kinen Koen
As a New Yorker it's hard for me to admit, but Central Park can't keep up with Osaka's crazy (and family friendly) expo park, complete with small rides, statues, and swan-shaped paddle boats.
Nekonojikan Cat Cafe
If you're a cat person, a niche subcultures person, or, heck, a cafe person, this particular wonder is for you.
Smartball New Star Pinball
Okay, so we can't really call it an arcade, but these old-school pinball machines are oddly addictive. Beware: if you plan to stay an hour, you'll end up staying two.
As a kimono enthusiast, I thought I knew what it meant to don one of these special garments. Boy was I wrong. Spend a day in traditional Japanese garb to truly feel like a million bucks — and learn a little about the tradition behind the dress, too.