Osaka Kansai International Airport (KIX)

Osaka means "large hill" and that description of this major economic power still fits. Blessed with a superb natural harbor, Osaka has always been a center for commerce and trade, and by the late nineteenth century it was known as "the Manchester of the Orient" for its industrial prowess. Today, Japan's second largest city is the seventh largest metropolitan economy in the world and home to international companies like Sharp and Panasonic.

There's a lot of history in Osaka. The noble Osaka Castle, built in the 16th century, is a magnificent architectural specimen of feudal Japan. Once the largest of its kind in the country, the castle's museum and gardens make it an ideal first stop for newbies. Shitennoji Temple, the oldest in Japan and built over 1,400 years ago, offers another window into the city's glorious past.

Today's Osaka, from Art to Noodles

To experience modern Osaka, the subterranean National Museum of Art houses masterpieces by some of Japan's greatest artists including Tsuguharu Foujita,Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Leiko Ikemura — as well as works by European masters like Cézanne and Picasso. Nearby, the Osaka Aquarium is home to nearly 500 species, including a whale shark. For something a little more whimsical, fans of Cup Noodle (the popular ramen product) won't want to miss the Instant Ramen Museum. Where else can you create your own original instant ramen?

Osakans are notorious foodies, and visitors benefit from this passion. The seafood is fresh, the beef tender — and the fine restaurants many. A popular local dish to sample is Takoyaki — fried octopus dumplings.

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