About Maddie S
Lives in London, United Kingdom
Since Sep 2014
Hello! I'm Maddie- a native NYer whose Wanderlust has taken her abroad again and again. Having lived in six countries, and visiting others for school, work, leisure, and sport, I've adopted many localities, and am an admirer of a great many more. An avid scholar of language and culture, I hope to keep expanding my travel repertoire, and sharing great stories with the rest of the travel community. To give you some background on my travels, I spent months each year since childhood in Old Montreal, where part of my family lives. Summers were spent visiting folks in Ft. Lauderdale and L.A. My first big trip outside of the US on my own was to Australia & New Zealand at 12- I caught the bug early! I then moved to Japan where I studied for part of high school & uni. I am very familiar with Japanese cities, Sapporo and Osaka especially. Some of my favourite travel destinations include Goreme, Dubai, Marrakech, and Queenstown. (Plans for 2015 include China & Uganda!) Nice to meet you!
Religious Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Department Stores, Shopping Malls
Specialty & Gift Shops
Points of Interest & Landmarks, Gardens
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Neighborhoods, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Specialty & Gift Shops
Spas, Amusement & Theme Parks, Onsen Resorts
If there is one must-see for any visitor to the city, Osaka Castle is it. In addition to being a historically significant architectural and artistic marvel, it is easy to plan a full day of activities around a trip here. Its 15 lush acres of grounds provide visitors with much to do and see, nestled away into parkland that's gorgeous in any season. Osaka Castle itself is eight towering storeys strategically built on a rock-face overlooking a picturesque moat. With a long, chequered history since the 1500s, as an army stronghold and an arms storage facility, today it houses a museum dedicated to retelling its past, and outlining its importance throughout various periods. The structure itself, repaired to its Edo-era glory, boasts a fantastic view of the city from its top floor, and of the gilded golden koi fish that sit on the wings of the roof, guarding over it. Visit for the history, the beauty, the art, and the artifacts; and afterwards, enjoy a stroll around the grounds, exploring the many fortifications and gates that stand strong to this day.
Osaka Castle Park, located alongside the castle, is one of the largest public parks in the city. Its grounds contain elegant maple and ginko trees, spacious fields and sports pitches, a duck pond, and the Castle Keep Tower - from whose spire there is a lovely view of the cityscape and parklands. Old fortifications dot the greenery, and beautiful old gates still stand solemnly along the walkways. Home to street stalls during lively festival days, the Castle Park is a great place to stroll and get some fresh air after visiting Osaka Castle.
The Buddhist temple of Shitennō-ji was the first of its kind in Japan, having been commissioned in the year 593. With a far longer lineage of use and refurbishment than Osaka Castle, the Temple was built by Prince Shōtoku to pay homage to four godly Kings and to bring order to his lands. As such, the structures which still stand today include the ancient hospital and welfare institute, nestled close to the treasured Golden Pavilion, a five-storey pagoda of splendid vermillion which houses a detailed image of the god Kannon. Great gates contain and protect the complex, which is generally serene even during the high tourist season. After the bustle of some of Osaka's busier attractions, Shitennō-ji is a wonderful way to take a peaceful step back into the past and experience it for yourself. It is truly a treasured piece of Japan's spiritual history.
Hōzen Temple, a paragon of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, provides a lively and interesting contrast to Shitennō-ji Temple. Marvel at the detail in the obsidian devil head tiles, pray for good luck at the shinto shrine, or enjoy the fresh incense-perfumed next to the scenic pond. The main attraction however, is the statue of Mizukake Fudo (officially Fudo Myoo), designed to be a fearful reminder of the power of justice, with its glowering expression and towering size. As it happens, the face of the statue was too handsome to be feared! Legend has it that a woman went there to make a wish and poured shrine water over it. Then, when she placed her hands together to pray, moss suddenly appeared covering the statue. Today, that moss not only hides the face of the statue, but it is lovingly preserved by locals and visitors alike. An interactive shrine experience, Hōzen is not to be missed.
Namba Parks is part-park, part-shopping complex, and you will be amazed at how seamlessly these concepts fit together here, where ascending parkland rises eight storeys high, comprising of fields and forest, waterfalls and streams. The shopping center is built on top and astride the greenery, with terraces, cafes, and a rooftop garden lining the route into the super-modern retail canyon - a shopper's paradise containing no less than 120 stores and restaurants. With much to choose from in terms of cuisine (from pizza to bibimbap, snacks to fine dining), plus a cinema to visit afterwards, Namba Parks is a great place to end your day on a relaxing note of food, fashion, and film.
Osaka Station isn't merely a train station. Located in the Umeda district (and attached to the Umeda Station complex), it is more accurately described as an underground city, where shopping is the most popular pastime. Housing many unique Japanese fashion brands, and a number of restaurants and bakeries, Osaka Station is a great place to kick off a day exploring the Umeda district. Browse its complex maze of shops, sit down to a breakfast of fresh-baked breads and Japanese tea, or visit the Daimaru department store for a few bargains or last-minute essentials for your trip.
Not far from Osaka Station, Grand Front Osaka is as contemporary a shopping experience as Japan has to offer. Showcasing the best in progressive eco-friendly architecture, it features a relaxation plaza surrounded by water in its entranceway, a rooftop garden on the ninth floor, terraces on various levels, and its southern and northern walks are lined with ginko and zelkova trees. The greenery allows you to take a deep breath, even when surrounded by the many other shoppers here to browse Grand Front's 250 plus shops. Restaurants, cafes, exhibition spaces, and dessert spots can be found in between the best of Japanese local designers and international brands. Grab a hoji-cha parfait on one floor, and wash it down with a sakura latte from Starbucks on the next. A wonderful place to shop, explore, eat, and take in what's current and trendy in the city.
The 40 storeys of the Umeda Sky Building make it one of the tallest buildings in Japan, and one of Osaka's most memorable landmarks. Its unique design features escalators encased in glass tubing, suspended between its two towers, which lead all the way up to its greatest height: an upper atrium that contains the luminous 'floating sky garden.' This rooftop observatory offers a delightful view of the city (especially at sunset or nightfall), with a glowing floor that mimics the lights and colors of the galaxy on an inky black backdrop. The Umeda Sky Building also features a lower observation deck with interactive exhibits, a gift shop with great souvenirs, a restaurant near the top, and a basement filled with more unique dining options.
If you're going to shop, you may as well go all out and shop 'til you drop. HEP Five is perfect for a night filled with entertainment and retail therapy. HEP stands for 'Hankyu Entertainment Park,' and with good reason: along with 100-plus shops and eateries catering to the hippest of the hip, there is also a ferris wheel with a great city view, and a gigantic piece of installation art (in the form of two red whales suspended from the ceiling) to enjoy here. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is embedded into the building, and has maps of the city inside its carts, so you can see where you've been and where you're headed.
To combine some of Osaka's traditional charm with its modern flare is essential, and starting your day in the Shinsaibashi district is a great way to do it. This famous shopping street is covered by a glass dome, making it a good spot to visit whatever the weather. Close to the interesting streets of Dōtonbori and Amerika-mura, it is a well-located launch point for a day's exploration, but worth checking out in its own right too. Its many shops and stores boast some of the best names in brands, plus everything from curiosity shops to specialty shops to luxury fashion. It is an amazing place for finding the latest trends at a discounted price, and perfect for working up an appetite before visiting Dōtonbori (nearby foodie haven).
As a lunch stop, Dōtonbori won't disappoint. With its free-spirited decorations and flashy neon signs, let Dōtonbori's cuisine culture pull you in to its warm (if a little odd) embrace. Situated alongside a lively canal, there is no such thing as subtlety in this area of Osaka, where giant mechanical crabs and huge octopi statues adorn shop fronts, tempting passers-by with promises of what specialty food lies in wait just beyond their doors. The area is considered the best place in the city to try some of Osaka's signature dishes - from 'okonomiyaki' (Japanese pancake), to 'takoyaki' (fried octopus in dough) - at a low-cost. And as this is THE place for 'kuidaore' ('eat until you drop' philosophy), go all-in, and experience udon, yakiniku grilled meat, ramen, and red-bean cakes fried street-side. With delicious food at every turn, and a happening nightlife to tempt you back later, the bravado of what was once Osaka's theater district will sweep you up and leave you feeling full and satisfied.
If you are looking for a taste of Osaka's heritage while you are in the area, take the time to stop by the National Bunraku Theater. Bunraku is the city's traditional form of story-telling through puppetry, developed in the early 1800's. It involves puppeteers (Ningyōzukai), narrating chanters (Tayū), with shamisen music and taiko drumming providing the soundtrack to the tale. Along with Osakan Bunraku performed here, there are frequent manzai, shamisen, and rakugo shows (all traditional forms of entertainment) in the smaller of the two halls.
Casinos and restaurants make up the difference in an area dotted by shops favored by the local Japanese here in Tenjimbashisuji. With reasonably-priced clothing, quick snack food markets, and lots of special deals - all being energetically advertised to you - this area is a fun way to get an authentic feel of daily life in Osaka. Definitely worth a detour to wander a few of the streets along its lengthy, enclosed boulevard.
The Namba Yasaka Shrine is a quick stop, but it leaves a powerful impression. The entryway is marked by the huge, gaping jaw of an embellished stone animal - unlike any other temple construction you'll find in the area. Inside, the purifying waters of the Shinto shrine rest alongside gorgeously detailed protective stone statues of lions, and war memorials that help keep the memories of the temple's past struggles alive.
Whether you'd like to end your time in Osaka here, or spend an entire day here - and forget about sightseeing altogether - you can't go wrong with a visit to Spa World. This eight-floor complex spares no expense in offering its guests a relaxing, world-class onsen experience. The onsen (natural hot spring) itself is found on the fourth and sixth floors, while other floors bring to life specific sauna and spa cultures from around the world - from the European Zone (with ancient Roman bath, a Greek medicinal bath, a Spanish open-air spring, a Blue Grotto with healing mud and Finnish saunas), to the Asian Zone (featuring Japanese outdoor baths in smooth, scented wood, a golden Persian spa, an exotic Bali bath, and an Islamic stone bath). Not enough to tempt you? The entry fee also gives you full access to the communal pool with water slides, the massive food court (with every kind of ice cream imaginable), relaxation and game rooms, plus multiple themed saunas.