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Osaka - Japan

While not as packed to the walls with sights and sounds as Tokyo, there will be no shortage of things to do in Osaka. Historically a city dominated by Japan's merchant class, entertainment has a long history of thriving here. From large sports stadiums and theme parks to museums and theaters, Osaka has many choices to offer visitors looking to be entertained.

Theme Parks
There is no bigger entertainment attraction in Osaka than Universal Studios Japan, which opened in the Spring of 2001, and is exceeded in size only by Tokyo Disneyland in terms of popularity and prestige. The expansive complex is made up of several miles of rides, entertainment shows, and demonstrations, with some of the most spectacular thrills and special effects you will find anywhere in the world. There are numerous opportunities for shopping, eating and relaxation here as well at the Universal Citywalk.

One of the more interesting theme parks is Freizeit Tenbencho, an indoor water park in Osaka's Minami-ku, which has swimming pools, giant slides and other attractions that provide fun for the whole family. Another option located only a few minutes from Osaka Station in the Hep Five shopping mall is the Umeda Joypolis, where you will find a number of small-scale thrill rides at reasonable prices. In the same building, positioned on the roof, there is the enormous Hep Five Ferris Wheel that rises some 340-feet above central Osaka. One other amusement complex in Osaka is Festivalgate, an eight-story structure that houses shops, restaurants, a movie theater and several rides, including a roller coaster that wraps around the building.

Another entertainment possibility with universal appeal, especially among Osaka residents, is the Osaka Dome, where the Kintetsu Buffaloes, demonstrate why they are among the nation's top contenders. Take a seat in the rowdy bleachers for an unforgettable experience. Japanese baseball fans are incredibly spirited, and Osaka's fans are notoriously noisy and rambunctious. Only 15 minutes west of Umeda Station, just over the Hyogo prefecture border, is the home stadium of the Hanshin Tigers baseball team, Hanshin Koshien Stadium.

Sports in Osaka are hardly limited to baseball, however. Although their popularity does not quite surpass that of the local baseball teams, Cerezo Osaka and Gamba Osaka are two professional J-League soccer teams that command quite an energetic following. Each team has its own stadium, and loyalties in Osaka are fiercely divided between the two.

Besides baseball and soccer, there are also dozens of other sporting events you can catch throughout the year at the Osaka Dome and other venues. These include a yearly sumo tournament, professional kick boxing and pro wrestling matches, among others. Those wishing to participate in sports are best advised to pay a visit to Maishima Outdoor Activities Center where, besides camping grounds and picnic areas, there are numerous facilities for various amateur sports. As well, the Osaka Pool in Minami-ku has world-class facilities for competition swimming that are open to the public all year, and ice skating in the Winter.

Music and Theater
On a more cultural level, Osaka is well-known for its live entertainment, both music and theater. One of the more prestigious locations to catch live music is the Blue Note Osaka, where only the best jazz, R&B, blues and rock bands headline.

A few other popular live houses where you can catch some high-energy rock shows include Shinsaibashi Muse Hall, Rockets, Umeda Heat Beat, and Bayside Jenny in the Tenpozan area. For easier listening, the Big Cat in the Big Step shopping center frequently hosts musicals and classical concerts, and for the best live comedy acts, the Namba Grand Hanam is legendary. Numerous comedians and drama acts that are now rooted deeply in Japanese popular culture made their debuts here.

Museums and Galleries
Looking for an educational day out?  Look no further than Osaka. For Japanese, Chinese and Korean art, try the Municipal Museum of Fine Art.  Another option is to spend an afternoon viewing the fascinating displays of world culture at the National Museum of Ethnology, or to gain some insight into ancient Japanese culture at the Osaka Prefectural Museum of Yayoi Culture. The National Museum of Art, with its contemporary displays, and the Suntory Museum Tempozan, with its 20th Century posters, also come highly recommended.

If you are looking for some simple, free entertainment in the form of people-watching, then the best place for you is the "American Village," or Ame-mura. This area, comprising several square blocks of the Shinsaibashi, is jammed with shopping centers and retail outlets, restaurants and bars, and people from all walks of life, more than you will find anywhere else in the city. It is here, among all the diversity, that you realize Osaka is indeed one of the world's largest cities and a delightfully entertaining one at that!

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