Konnichiwa Japan! First stop: Osaka

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I've wanted to visit Japan since I was 9 and a girl at school introduced me to origami and Hello Kitty. A very short trip to Tokyo a couple of years ago confirmed my hunch that it was my kind of place. And after two months here, it's become one of our very favourite countries. We've seen and done so much but, first of all, let me tell you about Osaka.

Osaka is big (it's actually one of the largest cities in the world), but the centre of the city feels fairly small. Within Japan it's known as being a city that's obsessed with food and is home to lots of the country's favourite dishes (hello okonomiyaki!). Nowhere near as many visitors come to Osaka as Kyoto or Tokyo, so there's a much more local vibe.

Neighbourhoods

We walked a lot in Osaka, pretty much every day involved 10 hours of walking and then collapsing exhausted in our apartment each night. There are so many different neighbourhoods but we loved Dotonburi/Shinsaibashi for shopping, eating and nightlife, Nakazakicho for vintage shops and galleries, Tachibana-dori (aka Orange Street) for boutiques and trendy coffee shops, and Den Den Town for electronic and manga stores.

Shinsaibashi

Shinsaibashi

Osaka Tower

Art gallery

Tsuruhashi Koreatown

Koreatown is a labrynth of market stalls underneath the railway tracks at Tsuruhashi station, expect kimchi shops and a whole street of bbq restaurants.

Korea town market

Central fish market

Osaka's fish market is meant to be a great alternative to Tsukiji in Tokyo because it's much easier to see the tuna auction. After waking up at 3 am, taking an expensive taxi to the market and walking around in the cold, we were pretty disappointed to arrive to this:

Empty fish market

Yep, turns out it was closed that day. We did cheer ourselves up with a 5 am sushi breakfast though.

Endo sushi bar

Sushi set

Kuromon Ichiba

Okay, so this is another food market (Osaka isn't called the nation's kitchen for nothing), but this one is open all day and right in the centre of the city. All sorts of Japanese treats are served up here, including pickles, kobe beef and mochi (tip: the ones covered with cocoa taste just like truffles).

Market stall

Market stall

Where to eat

Okonomiyaki restaurant

Where to stay: base yourself in the Namba area, which is the entertainment district of the city and full of restaurants (we stayed in this airbnb apartment).