At first glance, Osaka seems to stand in the shadow of Tokyo. But this city of almost three million has its own spirited character that provides rich dividends for the traveller who takes the time to discover it. Nicknamed the “nation’s kitchen” during the Edo period as it was the centre of the rice trade, Osaka’s culinary landscape is so rich that its citizens have coined the expression kuidaore: to eat oneself bankrupt. It’s no surprise then that the city is home to 137 Michelin-star restaurants, offering everything from exquisite kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course meal) to divine yakitori (grilled meats and vegetables on skewers). But as locals will tell you, some of the best food experiences can be found at food stalls and family-owned diners, which serve up hearty, Osakan favourites like kushikatsu (deep-fried meat skewers). And just like its no-frills food, Osaka’s citizens are refreshingly down-to-earth and colourful. So whether you’re enjoying one of the city’s many festivals, museums or pretty parks – or simply asking for directions – chances are you’ll be doing it while sharing a laugh with one of Osaka’s friendly locals.