Despite this being our second trip to Japan, it was our first time visiting Tokyo's grittier cousin, Osaka. A short Shinkansen ride from Tokyo, Osaka is often paired with Tokyo
Shinsekai is a bit like Tokyo's Shinjuku, just on a much smaller scale. While Shinsekai is much older (and presents itself in that way) you'll find much of the same kitschy stuff as you would in Shinjuku. While Osaka itself is a little less polished and grimier than Tokyo, Shinsekai embraces that aspect a little more than other parts of the city might.
While not in Osaka proper, Himeji Castle is a short ride West and was one of the highlights of our trip. It is an absolute must if you're in the Osaka area and well worth half a day of your time. The most impressive castle I have seen in Asia.
Walking around the castle grounds is amazing, but going to Otokoyama Haisuiike Park just a little Northwest is well worth the view.
I don't get too personal on my blog – but the big focus of our trip this time was to get "married" somewhere in Japan. We chose a remote location on old train tracks, just Northwest of Osaka in Nishinomiya.
I had heard of the Tower of the Sun sculpture years ago. I don't remember where I saw it for the first time but I remember being enamored with the look. Artist Tarō Okamoto created it for the 1970 World Expo in Osaka. It still stands today and is the anchoring feature of the '70 Expo Park in which it is located.
There is a museum inside of the statue featuring its 4th face (the other 3 are viewable from the outside) but I unfortunately did not get a ticket in time. Heading here may not be worth it unless you really want to see the tower. Not much else in the area worth checking out.
While its neighbor Himeji Castle is arguably one of the best castles in Asia, Osaka Castle is still a beautiful view in its own right. The view from the 9th floor of the Osaka Museum of History across the street is phenomenal.
While we enjoyed Osaka I don't think it's a place I would recommend to first-time visitors to Japan. I don't want to say it's just a smaller version of Tokyo, because that's both untrue and unfair to the unique Osakan culture, but with Kyoto so close it almost makes sense to visit Osaka as a day trip in my opinion.