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Located close to Osaka Castle, the Osaka International Peace Center opened on International Peace Day, September 11, 1991, with the aim or preserving the memory of wartime misery and transmitting a message of peace to future generations. The center exhibits a large variety of historical items, including a reproduction of a one-ton bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force on Osaka during World War II. The displays comprise both actual artifacts and reproductions.
Ask Osakans what more than anything else symbolizes their city and the majority will tell you with pride that it is the Tsutenkaku Tower. Although the original tower, which was built in 1912, was destroyed in 1943, it was rebuilt in its present form in 1956. At 103 meters tall, the present tower offers a superb view of the whole of the city from the observation platform. The tower is actually located in the old downtown area and is surrounded by 'stand-and-eat' stalls and inexpensive clothing stores.
Created by Sega, this theme park features eight high-tech rides that are all very entertaining and original. Admission is JPY200 for adults and JPY100 for children under 14. If you ride the Ferris wheel on the roof of the building, admission is free. After the admission fee, each ride costs JPY500 or JPY600, though there are cheaper combo passes. A pass for all rides is JPY2,200 and a pass for three rides is JPY1,400. These prices include the entrance fee. The rides range from simulators that jolt you around to special-effects movies that interact with the participants. There are many arcade games throughout the place.
The zoo is located in Tennoji Park, southwest of the Shitenno-ji Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan. The park also has a circular garden called Keitakuen. The Tennoji Zoo, opened in 1915, houses 1,401 animals, including koalas, pandas, kiwis, reptiles, birds, mammals and a Tasmanian devil, which you cannot find in any other zoo in Japan. There is also a separate bird sanctuary, a reptile house that duplicates a natural environment and a hippopotamus. Pamphlets in English will help you find your way around this wonderful facility. Admission is free for junior high school students and younger than that.
Festivalgate makes for a fabulous day out for the whole family. It is principally a large amusement park, but it also houses restaurants, shops and a movie theater. The star attraction is a super-fast roller coaster that travels at almost 100-kilometers an hour. It is not for the faint-hearted, but children love it. There are so many attractions that you could easily spend the whole day here without doing them all. There is also an unusual theme park based on famous spas. If the excitement of the attractions brings out a sweat, step into one of the hot springs.
Conveniently located in Tennoji Park, just five minutes from Tennoji Station on the Midosuji subway line, the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art shows regular exhibitions of fine examples of traditional Chinese art such as paintings, calligraphic works and stone images of the Buddha. Japanese artworks, both old and new, are also on display (the basement may be rented as a gallery by contemporary artists). The museum also serves as a repository of a wide-ranging variety of Korean art pieces.
Riddled with an array of rides and attractions, Universal Studios Japan brings the world of movies to life. The theme park is the third in the Universal Studios' family and the first opened outside of the United States. Here, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter recreates J.K. Rowling's fictional world, inviting visitors to cast their own spells and sip on butter beer. Other timeless attractions include a ride though Jurassic Park, virtual roller-coasters and movie sets that offer a glimpse into what goes into the making of onscreen magic. Spread across its gargantuan expanse is a troupe of themed attractions inspired by the cities of New York, San Francisco and much-favored characters like Hello Kitty and Minions. Complete with a range of movie-themed restaurants, Universal Studios Japan appeals to adults and children alike.
Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the most famous shrines in Japan—so much so that shrines with similar names can be found all over the country. This shrine has a very long history and is widely venerated as the home of the guardian deity of sailors. Passing under the enormous archway gate, you come to the taiko bashi, or "drum bridge," for which the shrine is especially renowned. The bridge gets packed with masses of people on New Year's Day and other celebrations. Events are staged at the shrine all year round; New Year's and summer festivals are the most important ones.
One of the most visited attractions in the city, the Osaka Aquarium is a must on the city itinerary. The natural environments of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," the volcanic perimeter which surrounds the Pacific Ocean, have been recreated in 14 separate exhibits and populated with over 35,000 specimens representing over 380 species in the aquarium. Located in the harbor area of the city, the aquarium is centered on a huge nine-meter (27 feet) deep-water tank, which represents the Pacific Ocean. A range of animals from otters, seals, and sea lions among others are also a part of different exhibits here. The opening hours are seasonal so it is advised to check them well in advance.
Built in 1970 for the Osaka International Exposition, Expoland is one of the finest amusement parks in Japan. It houses over 40 attractions, including the longest roller coaster in the world, and makes for a fantastic day out for the kids. If you are not afraid of heights, you can ride the 85-meter-high Technostar and enjoy a spectacular view from the top. If you would rather keep your feet on the ground but still enjoy a little excitement, there is a ghost house. When you tire of the attractions, take a break in one of the 25 restaurants on the grounds.
The National Museum of Ethnology, or "Minpaku," was established in 1974 to provide the general public with in-depth information on people, societies and cultures throughout of the world. The museum also serves as a research institute for ethnological studies, drawing scholars from universities and academic institutions in Japan and other countries. In addition to its permanent displays, the museum regularly mounts special exhibits on various themes or topics. The museum's collection of ethnological artifacts presently numbers more than 220,000 and is increasing annually.