I spent New Years in Osaka. Osaka is usually considered Japan’s 2nd largest city with 2.6 million people. Actually, the city that comes 2nd in terms of population is Yokohama, with 3.6 million people. But Yokohama is basically an extension of Tokyo, so if you look at the Tokyo metropolis as one entity, then the Osaka metropolis would be number 2. However, there is another way to calculate population that does place Osaka second. If you look at the number of people who are in Osaka by day, the city surges to 3.7 million. People commute in from bedroom suburbs and nearby cities such as Kobe. So, during the day, Osaka is bigger than Yokohama.
Osaka has a really different feel from Tokyo. Tokyo is the capital and the center of big business, but Osaka is more of a center of industry. It originally was built up as a city of merchants, so it was never high class. Osaka culture is all about food. And there is a lot of good food in Osaka. Osaka is often referred to as the nation’s kitchen (天下の台所). Some of the famous food of Osaka include Takoyaki (octopus balls), Okonomiyaki (lit. made as you like it, sometimes called a Japanese pancake, but also sometimes compared to pizza), and sushi.
While I was able to eat some good food in Osaka, I wasn’t able to do much sightseeing. In Japan, Christmas is a great time to travel because everything is still open, but New Years is another story. Almost everything was closed from December 30th through January 3rd. One place that was open was the Umeda Sky Building, which has an observation deck that offers a great view of the city. We went up there after dark and I took these pictures.