A Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan
Japan’s third largest city, Osaka, is transforming into the country’s creative capital.
Osaka has long been known as the “kitchen of Japan” for its expansive food culture, but it’s also slowly emerging as the country’s hub for creativity with new museums, innovative boutiques and cutting-edge galleries.
The recently opened multi-purpose facility, Knowledge Capital (3-1 Ofukacho, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-001, http://kc-i.jp/en), situated in the north building of the new Grand Front Osaka development, is packed with hotels, shops, malls, bars as well as creative spaces. The six-floor compound is home to members-only coworking space Knowledge Salon comprising small-scale offices and conference rooms, as well as a theater, convention centers and a public laboratory. Apart from these great facilities, Knowledge Capital also provides staff known as “The Communicators” who can help launch your ideal project by putting you in touch with industry insiders. For instance, if you want to develop an innovative running shoe, the staff can connect you with designers and manufacturers to help make your dream a reality—or, at least, a prototype. These prototypes are then showcased at The Lab, an open laboratory that allows you to gather real feedback from members of the public in order to improve and refine your product.
Knowledge Capital is also packed with more than 20 exciting concept stores, or what they call Future Life Showrooms, featuring many famous brands. The Asics Running Lab, for example, offers foot 3D foot mapping services in order to fit you with the perfect running shoe. Meanwhile, at the Mercedes-Benz Connection you can find a café and a “Trial Cruise” service that allows you to test-drive almost 20 of the German motor manufacturer’s models. Just remember to prepare your international license in advance. On top of these, there are many more cool fashion, living and furniture shops.
With all that technology, you’re bound to work up an appetite. And true to form, this venue also offers up a glimpse into the future of food. For starters, there’s the Smart Camp concept restaurant that grows all its vegetables in the City Farm, sat just next door on the 6/F. By peering through the restaurant’s large windows, diners can see just how the vegetables are grown in an advanced temperature-controlled room. Choose from healthy fresh-veggies-only or low-carb choices, all overseen by Kiyomi Mikuni, a chef renowned for his unique take on French cuisine. Another can’t-miss food experience here is eating farmed tuna at Kinki University Fisheries Restaurant. The university fisheries lab is renowned for its bluefin called Kindai—the first ever raised in captivity from the egg—which it serves up here. Kindai is being touted as a healthier and more eco-friendly option, prized for its lower mercury content, as well as fattier, more delectable taste. Book ahead or prepare to join the queue as locals flock there for lunch (11am-3pm) and dinner (5-10:30pm). If you have an unquenchable thirst, there’s a selection of bars that are open until 4am.
In Osaka, you can even get creative with the most humble of meals, instant noodles. The Instant Noodle Museum (8-25 Masumi-cho, Ikeda-shi, open Wed-Mon 9:30am-4pm, http://bit.ly/ZdlhmR) tells the story of the invention of the world’s first instant noodle product by Momofuku Ando in a small shack in his the backyard in 1958. On top of this, visitors can also create their very own one-of-a-kind cup of noodles. There are two workshops here. The first is the Chicken Ramen hands-on workshop, which requires booking in advance. The less time-consuming option is heading to the My Cup of Noodle Factory where you can decorate your own noodle cup and even concoct your own flavor. Entrance is free but you have to pay 500 yen (B147) for the Chicken Ramen workshop or 300 yen (B88) for a noodle cup.
For those who want to try their hand at small but cute art pieces, look no further than Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum (1-6-4, Namba, Chuo-ku, open Tue-Sun 11am-6pm). This small museum is hidden amid the bustling area of Namba, a popular spot for shopping and food. Here, you’ll find the original woodblock prints of Kamigata Ukiyoe that trace back to the Edo Period (1603-1868). Most of the works on display were created for the famous kabuki actors of that era. You can also join a small workshop to learn how to make your own print under the supervision of Takano Seiko, the museum’s director. Admission is 500 yen (B147) while workshops range from 500-1,000 yen (B147-B294) for beginner and advanced courses and must be booked three days in advance. Apart from your own artwork, you can also purchase souvenirs in the form of notebooks, bags and small art pieces. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/12AwKyY.
In the Frame
Another must-visit for art in the city is the National Museum of Art (4-2-55 Nakanoshima, kita-ku, Osaka City, open Tue-Sun 10am-5pm. www.nmao.go.jp). With its emphasis on contemporary art, the museum brings to town many world-renowned exhibitions, the latest comprising works from Pablo Picasso. The museum currently houses over 6,000 art pieces, spanning nihonga (Japanese-style painting) and sculptures to industrial designs from local artists. The normal admission fee is 420 yen (B124) and but special exhibitions vary in price. Check the exhibition schedule at http://bit.ly/VyjwC1.
Osaka’s main shopping streets are all found in the Shinsaibashi and Namba areas, but if you’re looking for something more creative and fashionable, head to the Minami Horie or Kita Horie area. Once known for its many lumber dealers, this neighborhood is now home to stylish fashion boutiques, hip cafés and cool furniture shops. Just across the street is Amerikamura (American Village), a vibrant enclave of shops and restaurants where East-meets-West. Trendy young locals love to gather here to chat and shop amid the narrow graffiti-strewn streets. The area is a great place to while away an afternoon in Osaka, whether it’s taking photos of the weird and wonderful architecture or simply people-watching.
Where to stay
InterContinental Osaka (3-60, Ofuka-cho Kita-ku Osaka, JA 530-0011. http://bit.ly/19iYnkx). This newly opened hotel at Umeda Grand Front Osaka is situated conveniently in the middle of the business district. Rooms range from B7,980–B32,390.
Cross Hotel Osaka (2-5-15 Shinsaibashisuji, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, www.crosshotel.com). This top-ranked hotel from Tripadvisor is nestled amid Osaka’s most famous shopping street, Dotonbori. Rooms from B4,397-B8,450.
How to get there:
Thai Airways, Japan Airlines and ANA All Nippon Airways operate daily direct flights to Kansai International Airport from B19,000 and then it’s an hour’s bus ride to the city.
|Address:||A Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan, Osaka, Japan|
|Report a correction|