With its status as the main political, cultural and entertainment centre of Japan, Tokyo is one of the country’s most famous agglomerations. In turn, Osaka is often referred to as the heart of the Japanese cuisine. You can experience many views of Japan in this melting pot of customs, rich history and diverse flavours.

As a metropolis that never sleeps, Tokyo is associated with flashy neon lights and crowded streets. This is especially true for Shibuya, a shopping and entertainment district of Tokyo, which is considered one of the most important fashion centres in Japan, especially for young people. Its main intersection is called Japanese Time Square, which is mainly filled with shopping centres, boutiques and cafes. Harajuku, located between Shibuya and Shinjuku, is a place of joy, diversity, vanity, extravagant fashion, youth subcultures, as well as manga and anime enthusiasts practicing the so-called cosplay, that is, dressing up as your favourite characters from comic books, movies and games.

The Imperial Palace

However, the capital of Japan is still primarily a city with a rich past and tradition, where you can also enjoy silence. The Imperial Palace, the residence of the ruler of the country, is an ideal place if you want to relax from the hustle and bustle of the entertainment districts.
The area of the complex, which consists of gardens, buildings and pavilions, equals the area of Central Park in New York. Although the main building, which is the residence of Emperor Akihito, is not available to the public, you can try a walk through the garden paths, enjoying calmness unusual for Tokyo.

The city of temples

Although Buddhism prevails in Japan, many of the inhabitants of this country practice Shinto rites on a daily basis. Religion is an integral part of the national identity and is an expression of attachment to tradition. The most recognizable temple in Tokyo is Sensō-ji – it built in the mid-seventh century AD, and destroyed in 1945. Fortunately, it was carefully reconstructed eight years later. It is also worth checking out the magnificent five-story pagoda located next to it, which is an extremely important worship centre.
Another important temple is Sengaku-ji, a resting place of 47 famous ronins, whose tragic history was firstly popularized in a kabuki play and later books, comics and films. It is also a burial place of the ronins’ master, to whom the warriors were faithful until death. The object itself was built in 1612, and in the Edo period (1603-1868) it was one of the most important Buddhist temples in Tokyo.
foto: Redd Angelo on Unsplash

The castle and Dōtonbori

One of the important landmarks is located in Osaka, the third largest city in Japan, which in regards to scale can compete with the capital itself. This is, of course, Osaka Castle, also called the Golden or Brocade Castle, the most famous fortress in Japan. Its construction began in 1583 in the place of a former temple. The complex consists of 13 structures that cover an area of approx. 60 thousand m2, with the main 8-floor tower. Similarly to Tokyo, there is also an entertainment district in Osaka, namely Dōtonbori.
It is not only the heart and main artery of the metropolis, but also the essence of Japanese culture. You can find there numerous bars and restaurants, as well as theatres, cabarets and underground shopping gallery. This urban jungle can be enjoyed from the Umeda Sky Building, a 173-meter skyscraper, which consists of two towers connected by a bridge. From the viewing point, you can see not only the panorama of the city, but also Awaji island located in the Seto Inland Sea.
foto: Osaka, Redd Angelo on Unsplash
foto: Oskar Krawczyk on Unsplash

Street delicacies

Kyoto and Osaka are considered the culinary capitals of Japan. In the former, you can dine in expensive and exclusive restaurants, whereas the latter offers cheap and diverse dishes, thanks to which the city earned the name of “the nation’s kitchen”. The tourist and entertainment districts of Osaka are rich in numerous stalls serving Japanese dishes. However, it should be remembered that eating in public places is not perceived favourably due to the large number of people and the related problem of keeping the streets clean.
Therefore you should not walk and eat at the same – near the stalls you can find designated places protected by umbrellas and canopies where you can enjoy your meal. You should definitely try pancakes called okonomiyaki, or takoyaki – an octopus-filled dough ball, yakiimo – grilled sweet potatoes, or squid, and … melonpan – sweet bread with ice cream. Seafood lovers should definitely visit Kuromon Ichiba Market, where fresh catch is prepared and grilled in front of the client at numerous stands.

A moment of peace

You can relax in Kaiyukan Aquarium, one of the world’s largest public aquariums that offers several exhibitions that will have you discover the extraordinary diversity of the marine ecosystem of the Pacific Ocean. Apart from fish, this enormous aquarium is a home to amphibians, reptiles, mammals and marine invertebrates (about 30,000 creatures that represent 620 species).