A mention of Japan to the average American often conjures up popular icons like the samurai, ninja and geisha, or it may remind us of our more recent love affair with reasonably priced electronics and sushi.  

While Japan was isolated from the West for large stretches of its history, the modern era has opened to us this rich, unique and sometimes mysterious land and culture. And what better place to experience Japan than in one of its most famous and prominent cities--Osaka.

Osaka served as the capital of Japan in ancient times and has carried economic, cultural and political influence for more than 1,400 years.  

As one of Japan's most vital centers of commerce and trade for hundreds of years, Osaka continues to bustle with areas like the Den Den Nippombasi Shopping District, which boasts an enormous selection of electronic tools and toys. If technology is your thing, you'll definitely be interested in the famous and amazing neon lights you can view from the Dotomburi Ebisubashi Bridge. For contrast, you should also check out the more non-technological and quirky Shin-Sekai District, where you would come to take a break from the gadgets and find some unique souvenirs.

Osaka is so famous for its cuisine and food culture that it has been nicknamed the "Kitchen of Japan." Combine this with the locals' knack for commerce, and you get places like the Doguya Suji Arcade, where you'll find a plethora of kitchen items, or the historic Kuromon Ichiba Market, where you can buy all manner of the freshest food and vegetables.  

After all of the shopping, it may be time for a break at the Museum of Kamigata Comedy and Performing Arts, where you can take in the exhibits on traditional Japanese comedy and storytelling. A walk through Nagai Park is also highly recommended, where you can experience another of Japan's finest arts--gardening. The flower gardens here are particularly beautiful.

A more general look at history is available at the Museum of Natural History, which is located within the botanical gardens and has exhibits concerning the history of life in vivid detail. Coincidence has it that Osaka is also home to Universal Studios Japan, where the history is decidedly on the less-than-natural topic of movies and Hollywood.

The average American visiting Osaka will encounter things both familiar and unfamiliar--but Western travelers are bound to find the trip exciting and culturally enriching. As you plan your eastern adventure to Osaka, get a look at some of your future experiences with this 360º desktop getaway.