Osaka is an interesting place to live. You’ve probably heard me say that countless times before, but it really is.
What I love about this city especially is the way in which every district seems quite distinct and offers its own flavour, with its own sights to see, foods to taste and venues to visit.
And indeed all of the above is certainly true when one talks of Osaka’s Minato Ward. Perhaps best known as the home of the world famous Osaka Kaiyukan one of the best aquariums on Earth, (which one of my colleagues discussed here previously), there’s a lot more to Minato than meets the eye.
So, please come and join me today as I take you on a tour of some of Minato Ward’s lesser known sites.
1) Diamond Point:
Anthony Surace on Flickr
Shingo Okamoto on Flickr
Situated a short 5 to 7 minute walk from the rear of the kaiyukan, Diamond Point is a lovely location from which to look out into the Pacific Ocean beyond Osaka’s southernmost district, Suminoe Ward. If you are fortunate enough to get here between 5:30 and 6:30 PM you can witness one of Japan’s more beautiful sunsets. Sit back and bask in the warm summer glow as that red orb slowly fades out over the ocean!
2) Tempozan Marketplace:
Guilhem Vellut on Flickr
Again this is another area that is easily accessible from the kaiyukan. Coming from either the train station or the bus stop you actually have to walk past this, a rather large shopping centre, to get to the aquarium. Inside Tempozan Marketplace you will find a host of souvenir shops, fashionable stores, toys and sweets shops for the kids, not to mention an outstanding food court. Western travellers who have perhaps grown a little weary of the vastly different foods offered by traditional Japanese cuisine may take comfort in the Subway sandwich bar and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant situated within the food court. To the rear of KFC is the “Food Street”, a series of tunnel like corridors dotted on both sides by various restaurants selling all kinds of traditional Osaka foods. From the deep fried, breaded food bits of “kushikatsu” to the more familiar yakitori chicken skewers, you’ll also find a delicious curry shop in there too.
Laura Tomàs Avellana on Flickr
If you’re there with the kids then perhaps the more comfortable environment of Coco’s Family Restaurant, complete with its special kids menu, would be a good fit.
However, as far as food goes, when you visit Tempozan Market Place there is one restaurant that should always be at the top of your list: Bab Ul Hayat.
Bab Ul Hayat is a Turkish buffet restaurant, offering fantastic food from an all you can eat menu for the very competitive price of 1,600 yen per person. Soft drinks are included for free with unlimited refills. If you fancy something a bit stronger, a selection of imported Turkish beers and wines are also available for a nominal additional charge. If you have any Muslims in your travelling party then you will also be pleased to know that the food prepared at Bab Ul Hayat is also fully Halal. If you have a sweet tooth then you can also order a Turkish Ice Cream for an additional ¥150 (¥300 if you’re just buying the ice cream). Turkish ice cream is quite unique, with its thick, sticky texture making for an altogether different eating experience from what you may expect.
The best time to visit Bab Ul Hayat is on a weekend evening, when in addition to the great food they also have a traditional belly dancing show.
Yuxuan Wang on Flickr
After a good meal, why not round off your day with a ride on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, one of the tallest in Japan, which gives a great view of the sea on one side and the Bentencho and Universal Studios areas on the other.
3) Namihaya Ohashi:
Keith Rose on Flickr
It may not look like much from the bottom, but if you can be bothered to scale the steep slope to the top of the Namihaya Bridge then you are in for a treat. This particular bridge has one of the highest elevations of any bridge of its type in Osaka. As such from the top one can enjoy stunning panoramic views of the entire city. From Osaka Dome and the Yodogawa River in the west, to the great monolith of Osaka’s Tsutenkaku Tower. The Tsutenkaku is dwarfed however by its shiny new neighbor, Japan’s tallest commercial building, Abeno Harukas, which comes in at more than 350 metres in height. Namihaya is a popular place for locals to gather on the morning of January 1st each year, as we can watch the sun rise over the city for the first time of the year.
chiaki (c_c).6 on Flickr
4) Glion Museum:
Ken Schwarz on Flickr
Head back over the Namihaya Bridge to Osakako and you’ll find the Glion Museum of Classic Cars. The museum is a 5 minute walk to the south of Osakako Station on the Subway Chuo Line. Formerly a red brick warehouse counstructed in 1923, the museum is one of the few examples of pre-WWII architecture that is still in daily use in the area. Inside you will find all manner of classic cars, both foreign and domestic. The undoubted jewel of the crown however is the Rolls Royce Phantom, which is also available for purchase, if you happen to have a couple of hundred million yen going spare!
5) Legoland Discovery Centre Osaka:
ARTS_fox1fire on Flickr
A recent addition to the Minato District, having just opened last year, Legoland Discovery Centre occupies the top floor of the aforementioned Tempozan Market Place Shopping Centre. Among the many exhibits you will see inside the centre are perfect Lego replicas of various landmarks not just from Osaka but from all over Japan. This is very much one for the kids, but judging by the amount of time I spent messing around with the Star Wars Legos in the gift shop there’s plenty here for adults too.
Tzuhsun Hsu on Flickr
So, there you have it, amazingly all of the above mentioned attractions are less than 10 minutes walk from my front door. That’s the beauty of living in a city as vibrant as Osaka, sometimes all you have to do to see something magical is open your window!