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Japan's third largest city, the industrial metropolis of Osaka, lies just 26 miles (42km) south of Kyoto. Osaka is an ancient city, powerful in the days of the feudal lords and samurai. Now the city is a commercial hub, focused on making money, and having a good time: it has a reputation in Japan as the best place to eat, drink and be merry.
It is worthwhile visiting the city just to see the magnificent Osaka Castle. Osaka's castle dates back to the 16th century, built by the powerful lord, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. It was rebuilt following World War II, renovated in 1997, and is today a national treasure. The city has a number of attractions, including museums dedicated to science, wood-block printing, peace, and even ramen! There are also a number of beautiful temples, and the famous Bunraku Puppet Theatre. Other attractions in Osaka include an impressive aquarium, a spa with a bathhouse that can accommodate 5,000 people, and Universal Studios Japan, a theme park focusing on the American movie industry.
Osaka offers many of the same hardcore shopping opportunities that Japan's other major metropolises do, with the most famous shopping district, Shinsaibashi, offering a mixture of department stores, fashionable boutiques, and Western stores. Nipponbashi is the best places to go for electronics.
Osaka food has its own flavour, putting its distinctive stamp on everything from soshi to Okonomiyaki, (DIY-style curbside fare). You'll find cheap and easy food (including Western fare) at Tsuruhashi Fûgetsu, or treat yourself to shabu shabu at Harijyu. After dinner, head to Bar Kama Sutra, the top karaoke spot in Osaka. The liveliest nightlife is found in Dotombori.
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