Eat, pray and love your way through the urban heart of Western Japan
Though it has four distinct seasons, Osaka has few extreme temperatures, making it a good travel destination year-round. Spring and autumn are the top tourist draws, but late May and September are warmer and less crowded. Always have an umbrella just in case.
EAT TILL YOU FALL OVER
Must-try bites include takoyaki (octopus batter balls), okonomiyaki (Osaka-style pancakes), and doteyaki (stewed beef tendons). Unagi chain Jinen serves a fabulously decadent unagi sushi topped with a pat of butter. For less heart-clogging fare, try Endo Sushi for Edo-style sushi or Yoshino Sushi for vinegary box-pressed sushi.
The Glico Man athlete striking a victory pose at Ebisubashi Bridge is a favourite with locals and tourists alike. No less recognisable is Kuidaore Taro, the bespectacled clown dressed in red and white – find him at Nakaza Kuidaore in Dotonbori. There is also Billiken a.k.a. ‘The God Of Things As They Ought To Be’ in Shinsekai – a visual cross between a Kewpie doll and a laughing Buddha, he’s said to bring good fortune.
Hanami, or ‘cherry blossom viewing’, is the quintessential Japanese activity in spring. Get your blue tarps out and head to Osaka Castle Park in early April, when the cherries and locals are out picnicking in full force. Other beautiful sakura spots include Kema Sakuranomiya, with nearly 5,000 cherry trees lining Okawa River; Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park; and Osaka Mint Bureau, where the yaezakura double cherry blossom tends to be in full bloom in mid-April.
Night time is the right time for a spectacular city view. Observation decks at Abeno Harukas, Umeda Sky Building, Cosmo Tower and Tsutenkaku Tower all have you covered for your romantic getaways.
THIS IS SPA TOWN
Onsen hot spring baths are one of the most affordable luxuries around. Soak your tired limbs at Spa World, which has 16 types of public baths, eight kinds of stone saunas, an indoor pool and massages. The best part: it’s open almost 24 hours a day.
NOT JUST A RIDE
No trip to Osaka is complete without a visit to Universal Studios Japan, especially if you’re a Potterhead – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and the Butterbeer!) brings all your literary dreams to life. The Japan-only ride Space Fantasy is also unmissable. Tip: arrive early, and use the Single Rider lines to bypass hours-long queues. You won’t regret it.
DON’T STOP THE MUSIC
Catch a gig at Billboard Live Osaka, with its ever-rotating cast of stellar international and local music acts such as Ray Parker Jr., Corinne Bailey Rae and Takuya Kuroda. Music-makers should try a lesson at the Taiko Centre for an experience in Japanese drums AND an intense workout. Musical boot camp, anyone?
Pay homage to its inventor and learn about the history of this college-student staple at the Instant Ramen Noodle Museum. Entry is free, but you can also whip up an original cup ramen creation for an additional fee.
Shinsekai is one of Osaka’s most underrated neighbourhoods. Get cozy with the locals at Jan-Jan Yokocho and stuff your face with kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), udon, and Korean barbecue. Tsutenkaku Tower, Osaka’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, is not to be missed.
For more on Osaka check out our April 2017 edition here