You’re on a trip of a life time in Osaka and it’s raining outside – what is there to do? take on a takoyaki food crawl, discover little boutiques, explore a castle, and catch a tradition Japanese puppet performance. You’ll barely notice the rain.
Catch a performance at the National Bunraku Theatre, where traditional Japanese puppet dramas are staged. The art form features large puppets, each of which require three skilled puppeteers to bring them to life, acting out centuries-old tales accompanied by a distinctive style of shamisen music known as jōruri and a narrator known as a tayū (chanter).
Occupying a contemporary tower, the Osaka Museum of History has an impressive array of exhibits, including reconstructions of palaces and bridges and a life-size replica of an archaeological dig. From the 10th-floor observatory there are uninterrupted views to Osaka Castle on the opposite side of the Yodo River.
Visit Osaka Castle, the iconic green-roofed symbol of the city, and really get a sense for its dramatic history by trying on a traditional samurai helmet, surcoat and kosode kimono. And this being Japan, you can then have your photo taken ($6) for a take-home souvenir of your grown-up dress-up session.
Totally representative of the city, takoyaki are small fried balls with pieces of octopus inside, which are served piping hot and smothered in sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes.
There are restaurants and stands all over the city, but Osaka Takoyaki Museum at Universal City has five popular takoyaki shops under one roof, so you can try all of them at once.
Because the Japanese spend so much time commuting, train stations are mini cities in themselves. Osaka Station is mammoth and filled with restaurants, gourmet supermarkets, a Daimaru department store with an amazing food hall selling endless Japanese dishes to take with you, and a procession of little boutiques selling pretty fashions at very reasonable prices.
Hyper-lit Dōtonbori, with its swathes of neon advertising lighting up the night, has some of the best food in town sold from bustling take-away shops. Don’t understand Japanese? Gyoza are for sale under giant replicas of the delicious dumplings; puffer fish under the giant puffer fish; crab claws under the giant crab… You get the idea.