It was not even the end of October yet, but on a trip to IKEA with a friend of mine, I saw what seems to be an earlier occurrence year by year, the first Christmas tree of the 2015 festive period. Indeed with this early dawn of the Christmas season more and more people in Osaka and indeed all across Japan are already looking to firm up their plans for Christmas 2015.
At the forefront of this will be the thousands of families and young couples striving to find that special place to share their perfect Christmas dinner. So, what options are available and where should one go for that all important Christmas feast. As always, it really depends on what you are looking for.
First of all, a few important pointers.
Unlike most western countries, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are just regular working days in Japan. So, unless you have a particularly accommodating boss, or, like me, you’ve been saving up your annual leave in anticipation, you’ll probably have to make your plans for the evening time.
Also, if you’re planning a romantic Christmas meal with your better half, and they happen to be Japanese, remember that to the average Japanese person, it is Christmas Eve, and not Christmas Day that is viewed as the most romantic day to enjoy your festive dinner date.Also, somewhat strangely, for millions of couples across Japan each year, the preferred restaurant of choice for Christmas dinner may seem somewhat bizarre.
For many Japanese, when it come to the ideal Christmas dinner, you can keep your roast turkey, or your plump goose, and your fine dining just won’t cut it.
For, when they think of a romantic Christmas dinner, it is North America that they look to for inspiration, most specifically, the state of Kentucky.
Photo: geraldford on Flickr
Yes, dear readers, I refer of course to the eponymous Kentucky Fried Chicken. The exact origin of Japan’s Christmas time fixation with this all-American family favourite remains a little blurry, but according to anecdotal evidence from some of my friends and colleagues, it goes back to an aggressive advertising and Christmas promotion campaign that KFC launched across the Japanese media of the day during its fledgling years in Japan back in the 1970s.
Photo: jpellgen on Flickr
As absurd as it may sound, in terms of pure numerical data, KFC is undoubtedly the number one choice for Christmas dinner in Japan, with prior booking, sometimes several weeks in advance, required at almost all of their restaurants across the country.
It’s not only KFC themselves, convenience store chains like 7-11, Family Mart and Lawson are also getting in on the Christmas act with their own “special Christmas edition” fried chicken, Christmas cakes, and other assorted desserts.
Of course, when it comes to giving your loved ones a Christmas dinner they will never forget, no matter how cutesy the ads on TV may be, a KFC bucket and a 7-11 cake just won’t cut it.
So, here are some classier ideas for Christmas with a difference in Osaka.
Hotel Seagull, Minato-Ku, Osaka
Anyone who has ever visited Osaka’s famous Kaiyukan Aquarium will probably have seen the Hotel Seagull. Jutting out somewhat awkwardly on the coastal landscape. The food here is not of the highest quality, but it is of a standard equal to a decent level restaurant.
What you are paying for at the Hotel Seagull is not the food, but rather, the atmosphere, the ambiance and of course the stunning ocean views.
Photo: Jose Oller on Flickr
The entire dining room is encased in a glass front, allowing for beautiful views across the harbourside, out towards Cosmosquare and, on a very clear day, perhaps even as far south as Kobe and Awaji Island.
Also, what better way to round off your romantic dinner together than with a gentle stroll along the seafront afterwards, with your loved one on your arm.
Also, depending on the weather conditions for that particular day, I can also attest that this particular area of Osaka can give some of the most stunning, beautiful and indeed breathtaking sunsets, making it a favourite with both courting couples and families alike.
Straddling Osaka’s Fukushima and Nishi Wards, and a mere 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre hub that is Umeda, Nakanoshima has a tranquility and a peaceful quality all too rare in today’s sprawling urban landscapes. Much like the aforementioned Hotel Seagull, Nakanoshima is not the epitome of high cuisine, but again the food is good and more so, it is the atmosphere that really sets it apart.
Photo: chiaki (c_c).6 on Flickr
It is difficult to choose one particular bar or restaurant in this gorgeous riverside area, as such things are plentiful. I recommend, if time allows that you talk a walk along the riverside by yourself one afternoon and “scout out” the best spot for your ideal Christmas dinner. The nearby Fukushima district also offers a variety of dining options to suit all tastes and budgets, and thanks to Christmas being “just another day” in Japan, they will all be open for business throughout the holidays.
Grand Front Osaka
But then again, perhaps tranquil cityscapes aren’t really your thing. Perhaps you would rather enjoy your Christmas dinner with a loved one as you both survey the city of Osaka in all its urbanized splendor. If that’s the case, then you can’t go wrong with Grand Front Osaka.
Located just a stone’s throw from JR Osaka station, this shopping and office complex has an entire floor devoted to bars and restaurants, most of whom are once again running special Christmas menus this year.
Photo: Japanexperterna.se on Flickr
Whether it’s Spanish, Barbecue, Japanese or just about any other food fad you desire, Grand Front has you covered.
What’s more, the high rise view gives beautiful perspectives across the entire city. Stretching as far as Wakayama in the east and Hyogo in the west.
Finally, you can round off the evening in classically romantic style with a gentle stroll around the rooftop gardens, just be sure to wrap up warm, those December winds can be chilly!
Osaka may not be synonymous with the notion of a romantic Christmas, however, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be this December 25th.