ADVERTORIAL • April 2019
Osaka, quirky, bustling and untamed, has always been a bit off the tourist grid. However, new direct flights from Heathrow with British Airways now takes travellers to the heart of this dynamic Japanese city. Travel writer and novelist Ray Bartlett gives us six great additions to your Osaka itinerary
Stunning even from the air, Osaka Castle (pictured) is the one must-see tourist site in the city. A beautifully restored exterior overlooks sprawling gardens, blooming cherry trees, and lotus-flower-filled moats. There’s a sense as you walk the grounds that you’re not just seeing a site, but stepping back into a Japan from centuries ago. Inside, check-out the museum detailing the history of the castle’s construction.
Don’t miss: the view at Ōtemon gate; a striking scene with the moat and castle that’s even better during the cherry blossom season (March-April).
With a brand new Harry Potter exhibit, at Universal Studios you can wave your magic wand, drink glugs of butterbeer, and watch muggles hop from attraction to attraction until your heart’s content. As in many theme parks throughout Japan, coming here dressed up as your favourite fictional character is a popular pastime, so expect to see plenty of cosplay (Minions, Cookie Monsters and more) as you wander around.
Don’t miss: the chance to snap a selfie with ‘Kitty Chan’ herself at the park’s Hello Kitty Fashion Avenue.
With a name that’s hard to pronounce and a description that belies its tastiness, okonomiyaki (pictured) is often overlooked. It’s a classic savoury pancake made with a batter that’s mixed with cabbage, green onions, pork, shrimp (sometimes squid) and topped with a barbecue sauce, powdered seaweed and mayonnaise. Osaka is one of the best places in Japan to eat this tasty delicacy and shops serving it are just about everywhere.
Don’t miss: the fried noodle dish yakisoba, often found on the same menu.
Kyoto and Nara: these two stunning gems have more classic tourist sites than we can list, but they’re an easy day trip or weekend jaunt from Osaka and make a great escape from the city’s urban jungle. Visit the deer park in Nara and see hundreds of wild deer, pay your respects at the Kiyomizu temple (pictured), or go full Zen at the rock garden, Ryouanji. Less well known – but just as great – is the Moss Temple (Kokedera), where you must complete a set of sutras before being ‘released’ to wander the mossy grounds.
Don’t miss: the placid perfection of the Gold Temple, Kin Kakuji.
Some of Osaka’s best attractions are after dark – its many districts offer a host of great places to have a drink, from craft micropubs and stand-up salaryman bars, to posh, reservation-only nightclubs where you will need to dress to impress. Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street, in Tenma district, is Japan’s longest covered shopping arcade, spanning over two kilometres, with pubs, bars and clubs at every turn. Raise a glass and say, “Kampai!”
Don’t miss: a mouthwatering meal at Kantipur, one of the area’s finest restaurants.
Though the Osaka area isn’t generally blessed with the geology that makes for good onsens (hot springs), Arima Onsen is a notable exception. The town (pictured above) is a nest of little atmospheric inns and hotels, all of them boasting rich, mineral-laden baths. The public baths, Kin-no-yu (Gold Bath) and Gin-no-yu (Silver Bath), are worth dipping in, too. The former is named for its yellowish, ‘golden’ water, which comes from a high iron content. The latter is a very unusual radium bath - while we would caution about the benefits of self-medicating with radium, many Japanese swear by its healing powers.
Don’t miss: dipping your tired feet into the public ashi-yu (foot onsen), and letting the life’s stresses melt away.
British Airways flies to Osaka four times a week, beginning in April 2019. To book your direct flights to Osaka click here