Friendly rivalries are sure to flare at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics in Japan. But off the field, we’re great mates with our northern neighbours. In fact, Australia and Japan share a list of 108 sister-cities and sister-states. Among them is perfect pair Melbourne and Osaka.
Packed with murals, markets and museums, Melbourne and Osaka have a common obsession with all things arty and gourmet.
Queen Victoria Market has become something of a Melbourne institution with its fresh produce, artisanal souvenirs, flower nurseries and food trucks.
Hosting food and music festivals, Federation Square is another top stop on a culture-vulture’s tour of the city. It is also home to the Australian Centre For The Moving Image, an interactive museum of movies, video games and television that will open again in 2020 after an exciting revamp. Next door is the National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre, dedicated to showcasing the work of Aussie artists.
Flinders Lane, Hosier Lane and Blender Lane boast paintings of a different kind: graffiti and street art that can be enjoyed on foot or bike.
If you’re still feeling active, St Kilda Adventure Playground and Werribee Open Range Zoo are great for getting wriggles out. For more of a fix of feathers, fur and fins, head to Melbourne Zoo and Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium.
Victoria’s coffee-craving, footy-mad capital is also the starting point for the Melbourne Osaka Cup. Spanning 5500 nautical miles south to north, this double-handed yacht race will next kick off in 2023.
Whether or not you arrive by yacht, you’ll find that Osaka – Japan’s food capital – has a lot in common with Melbourne. You might not find the hipster-brewed coffee of Fitzroy or Collingwood, but you’ll quickly discover Osaka has plenty of unrivalled treats of its own. Sample gyoza (fried dumplings), takoyaki (doughy octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes with shredded cabbage) in Dotonbori. Osaka’s most famous foodie strip is easy to spot thanks to its bright neon and recognisable octopus sign.
Follow your rumbling tummies further to Cupnoodles Museum and Osaka Takoyaki Museum, two of the quirkier, tastebud-tingling attractions offered by the city.
Melbourne might have the Australian Centre For The Moving Image, but Osaka ups the ante with Universal Studios Japan. The world-famous theme park contains a Minion Park and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, home to Hogwarts.
Osaka’s Aquarium Kaiyukan also trumps Melbourne’s SEA Life with its eight storeys and 15 enormous tank areas full of marine life from across the world.
For a castle of a different kind, soak up some history at the reconstruction of 16th-century Osaka Castle, which has a kids’ playground and open space for running around. Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the oldest shrines in Japan. First founded in the third century, it is a peaceful, beautiful site at which to soak up local customs.