Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Osaka and the nearby port towns have been a leading center of trade and an important urban area since Japan's early history. Located in the middle of the Kansai region, this economic powerhouse is Japan's second largest metropolitan center, ahead of Nagoya and only after Tokyo. In the late 1500s, Toyotomi Hideyoshi chose the area as his new headquarters and built Osaka Castle, making the city into the center of the nation's government. It may have even become the new political capital; however, this potential was soon lost when Tokugawa Ieyasu took over the country and established his new government in Edo in 1603. Historically, the merchant society of Osaka has always distinctly contrasted that of the imperial capitals. Osakans traditionally pride themselves for being down-to-earth, a little less formal and a little more open than their fellow countrymen from Tokyo and Kyoto with whom they have something of a friendly rivalry. Food is another area where Osaka stands out. It is a city of unique culinary style which places an emphasis on being filling, delicious, and inexpensive. Two of the most famous local specialty dishes are okonomiyaki, which is like a cross between a pancake and a pizza, and tako yaki which are grilled balls of batter with chunks of octopus inside. Like other major Japanese cities, there is a lot to see and do here, so here are our "Top 5 Recommendations in Osaka." Number Five: The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan Housing an impressive variety of marine life from all over the Pacific Rim, the Osaka Aquarium, Kaiyukan, is one of Japan's premiere aquariums. Each of the 15 tanks represents a different geographic region. The large central tank which is nine meters tall represents the Pacific Ocean and allows visitors to see creatures at various depths. This tank is also where the building's main attraction lives— a fully grown whale shark. The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan also has many smaller exhibits to explore and is a worthwhile place for both children and adults. Number Four: Osaka Station Although at one time Osaka Station was among Japan's darkest and most unpleasant major railway stations, after massive renovations it was re-born in 2011 as "Osaka Station City" and is now one of Japan's most attractive. One of the station's new landmarks is the large glass roof covering the platforms which gives the station a sense of open space. Located in Osaka's northern city center Kita, also known as the Umeda district, the station complex itself and the adjacent Grand Front Osaka shopping area to the north have an unlimited selection of attractive, modern shopping and dining opportunities. Also on the top of the station's north and south buildings are rooftop green spaces. And only a ten-minute walk from Osaka Station is the spectacular Umeda Sky Building, which is a 173 meters skyscraper known for its Floating Observatory on the 39th floor. Number Three: Shinsekai In Japanese, Shinsekai literally means "new world," and is the name of a popular shopping and dining district developed before WWII that still has a nostalgic feeling today. At the center of the district stands iconic Tsutenkaku Tower, which is the symbol of the area. Shinseki is one of the best places in all of Japan to try a dish called "kushikatsu," which is one of Osaka's specialty foods. Kushikatsu is a dish composed of skewered, battered, and deep fried foods ranging from chicken or beef, to vegetables, and there is even dessert versions. Many of Shinsekai's kushikatsu restaurants are open 24 hours a day, and it's said that they truly come alive after sunset. Only a few hundred meters from Shinsekai is Abeno Harukas, which at the time of its completion was Japan's tallest skyscraper standing 300 meters tall. Inside, it houses a hotel, art museum, Japan's largest department store, and an observation deck on the top three floors called Harukas 300, which provides impressive 360 degree views of the city and there are even heliport tours on the roof. Other nearby attractions include Shitennoji Temple, which is one of Japan's oldest temples and Tennoji Park. Number Two: Osaka Castle When it was constructed in 1583, Osaka Castle was the largest castle ever built in Japan, and has since only been surpassed by Edo Castle in Tokyo. Toyotomi Hideyoshi had it made as grand as possible with impressive moats, walls, palace and keep. His intention was that it would become the centerpiece of the Toyotomi clan's reign over a unified Japan. However, this never came to pass as the clan's rule was ended only a few decades later when Tokugawa troops destroyed the castle and the Toyotomi line was terminated. The reconstruction of the main keep which stands today was made in the 1930s with reinforced concrete and has a modern museum inside. It is still one of the most majestic castles nationwide and definitely worth a visit, especially in the spring as it is one of the best among Osaka's many hanami spots. Number One: Dotonburi Perhaps the most iconic scenes of Osaka are the Glico Running Man sign, and the mechanical Kani Doraku crab. Both of these are located in Osaka's busiest and most popular nightlife district, Dotonburi. Located in the city's southern center Minami, also called Namba, the streets of Dotonburi are best seen at night when visitors can get the full effect of all the neon lights. This is one of the best places to experience the food culture of Osaka. Restaurants here serve all the local specialty dishes and stay open all night. Situated within the Namba entertainment district, a trip to Dotonburi could easily be combined with a visit to the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum, a stroll down the atmospheric Hozenji Yokocho, or watching a traditional performance at the Shochikuza or National Bunraku Theaters. We hope this top-five list gives you a good place to start when planning your trip to Osaka. For more information about any of the places mentioned in this video or to explore another region, click the links on the screen now. Or head over to japan-guide.com, your comprehensive, up-to-date travel guide, first-hand from Japan. Thanks for watching, and be sure to subscribe for more videos about Japan. Happy travels.