Kita (Umeda district)
A fabulous 175m skyscraper, the Umeda Sky Building (northwest of the Osaka train station) was named after the northern Osaka neighbourhood where it stands. The building is famous for the garden-observatory that joins its twin towers and offers a fantastic view. Built in 1993, this incredible structure's design and materials are both elegant and innovative.
Originally built during the 10th century in homage to Sugahara no Michizane, the Temmangu Shrine (2-1-8 Tenjinbashi), the starting point for the procession during the Tenjin matsuri festival, was reconstructed during the 19th century. Tenjinbashi-suji, the longest commercial artery in Japan (2.5km), neighbours the site.
Osaka-jo (castle district)
The symbol of the city and of the unification of Japan, Osaka Castle (1-1 Chuo-ku, tel. 06-6941-1144) is a concrete replica-built in 1931 and restored in 1997-of the 16th-century granite fortress that was constructed under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Inside the building, a magnificent collection of artifacts traces the history of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the castle and Osaka. The castle's eighth-floor observation deck offers spectacular views of the metropolitan area.
Located in southwest Osaka, the Osaka Museum of History (1-32 Otemae, tel. 06-6946-5728) is housed in an impressive modern building. You should begin your visit at the top and work your way down, moving from the past to the present. The museum features are replicas of ancient buildings and the Naniwa ruins, as well as other historic exhibits.
A small green haven in the middle of downtown Osaka, Nakanoshima is where you will find the Museum of Oriental Ceramics (1-1-26 Nakanoshima, tel. 06-6223-0055), which boasts the most world's most comprehensive collection of Chinese and Korean ceramics.
The Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine (2-9-89 Sumiyoshi, tel. 06-6672-0753) was raised in honour of the Shinto deities to thank them for allowing a third-century Empress to safely cross the sea to Korea. This shrine stands out amongst Shinto shrines in that it was built before the arrival of the influential Chinese Buddhist style. It features a superb collection of stone lanterns, as well as its famous arched red-lacquer bridge.
The Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium (1-1-10 Kaigan-dori, Minato-ku, tel. 06-6576-5501), one of the biggest in the world, boasts dazzling architecture and an immense tank that is home to a whale shark.
Located next to the aquarium, the Suntory Museum (1-5-10 Kaigan-dori, Minato-ku, tel. 06-6577-0001), another impressive architectural masterpiece, includes an IMAX theatre and an art gallery.
Osaka's Maritime Museum (2-5-20 Nanko Kita, tel. 06-4703-2900) pays tribute to Japan's first port city. The stunningly-designed dome that houses the museum seems to emerge from the sea. Accessible via an underwater tunnel, the museum's collection includes a replica of a 17th-century boat.
South of Osaka
The National Bunraku Theatre (1-12-10, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, www.ntj.jac.go.jp) is one of the few places where one can see traditional Japanese puppet theatre today.
The popular Dotonbori neighbourhood attracts numerous visitors who come to stroll along its pedestrian streets, especially at night when they are lit up by a multitude of neon lights and signs. The area is home to an impressive number of restaurants, bars and shops.