It's a one-hour flight from Tokyo to Osaka, the third largest city in Japan, but we always recommend taking the train, which is only an hour longer but a whole lot more exciting. A must on any first trip to Japan, Osaka is a large contemporary metropolis and the leading industrial and trading centre in western Honshu, but also boasts much fascinating heritage. The magnificent castle was built in 1586,
and Bunraku, Japan's famous puppet theatre, developed here in Osaka in the 17th century. On any Osaka holidays, make sure to visit Tenmangu Shrine; take a walk to Nakanoshima Park (home to some 4,000 rose bushes) and wander around the Museum of Oriental Ceramics. This being Japan, Osaka is also a gourmet destination, so don't forget to try the local specialties: kushi-katsu (deep fried meats) or fugu-nabe (the infamous puffer fish). And for some retail therapy, the town is full of galleries and malls.

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