Osaka to host 2025 World Expo

Osaka's Shinseki nightlife area

Hot off the heels of the announcement of a new direct BA flight connecting Osaka's Kansai International Airport to London Heathrow in April 2019, the news has arrived that Osaka has won the bid to host the 2025 World Expo.

The 2025 World Expo will be the second time for Osaka to host the international event since it previously hosted in 1970, and the third time for Japan as a whole, given the 2005 World Expo held in Aichi prefecture.

The event will see over 150 countries take part in the exposition and an estimated 28 million people visit Osaka from other places in Japan and abroad. Osaka wins out over competition from Baku, Azerbaijan and Yekaterinaburg, Russia with a campaign focused around the city being a "living lab" for advanced technologies such as AI and VR. As a result of the win, there are plans to build an entertainment district with resort facilities on the island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay, as well as to quicken the pace of infrastructure projects like the extension of railway links and redevelopments around the bay area.

With the Rugby World Cup in 2019, the Olympic/Paralympic Games in 2020 and the World Expo just announced for 2025, it is another in a series of large-scale international events drawing visitors to Japan over the years to come.

What is Osaka all about?

Food

- known as the Kitchen of Japan, Osaka is home to the Japanese soul food (not necessarily sushi, sashimi and miso) that's becoming increasingly popular on the UK high street. Okonomiyaki savoury pancakes, Takoyaki balls of battered squid, Kushi-katsu deep-fried meat and vegetables on a skewer, Fugu pufferfish, Iyayaki fried squid pancakes are but a few!

Aside from the act of chowing down itself, you can visit the Dotonbori riverside district with all kinds of neon billboards, mechanised signage and backstreet eateries, the Suntory Yamazaki whiskey distillery, the Naniwa Kushinbo Yokocho food theme park as well as numerous Michelin-starred restaurants.

Dotonbori nightlife

Entertainment

- Osakans are known for being much more casual and playful than people in Tokyo and Kyoto, with a characteristic dialect and sense of humour. Experience Osakan culture hands on by sampling nightlife around Dotombori and its restaurants, Shinsekai with its street food stalls and pachinko casino parlours, and Uranamba for bars, nightclubs and alternative arcades and cafés. Also a partner of IGLTA, Osaka is a city with a strong LGBT scene and a history of drag culture.

The party doesn't stop there - festivals and events, both traditional and modern form a big part of what Osaka offers. All sorts of folkloric celebrations happen regularly, as in the rest of Japan, but Osaka is also host to the massive Summer Sonic international music festival and Sumo tournaments, as well as being home to the biggest baseball team in Japan, the Hanshin Tigers, covering two of Japan's biggest national pastimes.

An if you're looking something more family-orientated then there's always Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Kaiyukan (one of the world's biggest aquariums) and shopping options aplenty - for quirky Japanese merchandise, artisanal crafts and souvenirs look no further than Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Arcade (the largest in Japan) and Namba Parks sky garden shopping plazas.

Danjiri Matsuri

Art + Design

- Osaka is a metropolis of retro-futuristic cityscapes, blending dynamic youth culture with well-preserved contemporary architecture from throughout recent years. A pilgrimage site for architects and Tokyo's 'hipster' sibling city.

For a dose of neon, take a trip to the Shinsekai area, with its characterful bars and food stalls remaining from the boom and bust period of Japan's economic bubble. Or, if you;re looking for something more central, why not stroll around areas like Amerika-mura with its retro fashion boutiques, street art and Blade Runner aesthetic.

The mean streets of Osaka have also been the birthplace of many famous Japanese artists and designers: Tadao Ando the grandfather of minimalist Japanese concrete design and pioneer of the Art Island movement across the nearby Setouchi region is one example whose structures can be visited in Osaka. Chiharu Shiota whose mind-bending art installations have captured the international community's attention and premiered across the globe, including the Venice Biennale in 2015, also calls the Kansai capital home.

It's easy to see why the city produces such visionary artists as a day of pavement pounding will reveal otherworldly structures in very ordinary places: the vibrant Disney colourings of the Maishima Incineration Plant, the wild frontage of Namba Yasaka Shrine, the space-age Umeda Sky Building, glitzy roof terraces and art museums of Japan's tallest skyscraper the Abeno Harukas, the cosmic undulations of the Kyocera dome, and the long, sleek javelins of the National Museum of Art Osaka.

Tower of The Sun Osaka

Travel Hub to the Kansai Region

If you're planning on exploring Western Japan a little more, Osaka makes for the perfect base. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail of Wakayama, the Mediterranean islets of the Seto inland sea, the floating castle ruins at Takeda and of course the temples of Kyoto are all within easy reach of Osaka by rail.

Kumano Kodo rafting

Seto inland sea

Takeda floating castle ruins in the snow