PopulationMetro: 17,165,000
Japan’s fast-rising third city wants you over for drinks.

Japan’s third-largest city is an oft-overlooked treasure trove of architecture—both modern and classic—culinary scene and surprisingly kinetic nightlife. To say nothing, of course, of its commercial might.

This city has the swagger of a place that was the capital of what is today modern Japan a millennium before Tokyo. Osaka does today what it’s done well for centuries: entrepreneurialism, food distribution and living high off the spoils of both.

Osaka served as “the nation’s kitchen” as the distribution point for rice, the most important measure of wealth. Since industry begets industry, It is now home to 13th most Global 500 companies on the planet, with a Top 50 rank for global Prosperity. Amazingly, the city’s economy dwarfs Hong Kong’s and the entire nation of Thailand’s.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 43
Product
Product 23
Programming
Programming 25
People
People 23
Prosperity
Prosperity 45
Promotion
Promotion 14

But it’s the city’s impressive #17 ranking in our Programming category, led by Top 10 global Nightlife and #15 Culinary scene that is making Osaka the fastest-rising Japanese tourist city.

According to the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau, 2017 was a record year for the city, welcoming, for the first time, more than 11 million international tourists, an increase in arrivals of 18% compared to 2016.

They come for the unique nightlife, like drinking inside a replica submarine at Bar Shinka that’s almost impossible to find, complete with moving machinery.

Those who prefer their evenings a little more energetic head to Round1 Stadium Sennichimae, the massive 24-hour entertainment complex with all manner of games—from batting cages to mechanical bulls. And yes, you can take your drink along.

There’s even a craft brewing scene that would make Portlanders proud, on full display at the 23-tap Craft Beer Works Kamikaze.

For a more classic experience of Osaka, head to National Bunraku Theater to experience the locally crafted bunraku (puppet theater), founded in Osaka in the 1600s. Another must-see of that vintage is the Osaka Castle, an immersive quick catch-up on Japanese history in an Osakan context.

For a front-row seat to where the past meets the future, head to Kuromon Ichiba Market, the massive covered food market that supplies Osaka’s booming culinary scene and—probably a bit of Tokyo’s as well.