No sooner had the winds of winter abated than it seems we already have the scorching heat of summer bearing down upon us. Thankfully, here at my desk in Osaka the air conditioning is in full flow and the water cooler at work is frequently replenished.
As these sunnier times come into focus and the deluge of the mid-June rainy season subsides, we are once again left to ponder how best to enjoy the rather clement weather while it is still here.
For many people in Osaka, it comes down to one of 3 choices: the beach, the beer garden or the barbecue.
The beach has never really been something I’m into. I don’t like sand. It’s course and dry and it gets everywhere.
Personally, I’d rather be sipping a cold beer than emptying the cement-like sand out of my shoes for the umpteenth time that afternoon.
However, I have already waxed lyrical about the delights of beer gardens in one of my previous posts, so today it is my turn to talk about that oh so delightfully delicious of summer sojourns, the barbecue in the park.
Perhaps one of the best things about Japanese summer barbecues is their diversity. Every time I am invited to one, it seems like each individual brought along a different kind of meat or a new, and usually delicious, side salad or other accoutrement.
The pot-luck approach that most Japanese take to barbecuing is one of the event’s most endearing traits.
Also, with an abundance of parks and rural landscapes nearby, the Kansai region certainly has plenty of places to act as worthy venues for your summer barbecue gathering.
So, without further delay, here are some of the top places you can consider for your Kansai summer barbecue party.
Sophia Lucero on Flickr
1) Tenmabashi Riverside, next to Tenmabashi Station, on the Keihan and Osaka Subway Tannimachi Lines.
This is perhaps better known as a scenic spot for hanami cherry blossom viewing parties in early to mid-April. However, the riverside affords some lovely views, and the trees give just the right amount of shade to make this a pretty good summer option too.
It is also in a very good, central location just about 10 minutes from Umeda by train. The close proximity of supermarkets and convenience stores also makes it easier to go for that all important “beer run” when stocks are running low.
Fraser Graham on Flickr
2) Yahataya Park, Osaka Minato Ward, next to Asashiobashi Station, Osaka Subway Chuo Line.
Yahataya Park is a bit out of the way, but still only about 15 minutes from Namba and 20 minutes from Umeda. It sits in that sweet spot where it is just far enough away to be a bit less crowded without being too far from the centre of town to inconvenience anyone.
The park is located about 2 mins walk from the southernmost exit of Asashiobashi Station and is within easy access of a number of convenience stores. If you’re lucky you will also be able to take advantage of some of the bench seating within the park too.
The nearby Yahataya Shopping Arcade has a couple of supermarkets and a butcher’s shop too, just in case some of your guests’ appetites prove to be a little too ferocious!
hiromitsu morimoto on Flickr
3) Taishobashi Riverside, Taisho Ward, 5-10 minutes walk from JR Taisho Station and Osaka Subway Nagahori Tsurumi Ryokuchi Line Taisho Station.
Again, this is a quiet, secluded spot that not many know about.
With Osaka Dome behind you, and the tranquil riverside in front of you, it makes for a lovely scene. It’s also very convenient as, in addition to the nearby convenience stores, you will also find the large Aeon shopping mall just 7 minutes or so walk from the riverside.
I’m not sure if, strictly speaking, a large scale barbecue would be ok here as you are fairly close to a busy road, but one of those small disposable ones should be fine. You will probably want to keep your party to less than 4 or 5 people too as its quite a narrow pathway and a popular spot for dog walkers.
m-louis .® on Flickr
4) Sakuranomiya, JR Osaka Loop line, 5 minutes from Umeda, 3 minutes from Kyobashi, Osaka
The area of Sakuranomiya sits conveniently between Umeda and Kyobashi, but is not as populous as either of them. The area is characterized by the beautiful river that cuts through the centre and acts as a border between Sakuranomiya and the neighbouring district of Tenma.
Along the banks of the riverside are numerous benches and seating areas, which as well as being a prime location for spring time hanami parties, also serves as a great location for that summer barbecue. You should be careful however and only have your barbecue in one of the designated areas dotted along the river. This is one of Osaka’s most scenic and tranquil areas, so naturally, as one would expect, the locals are quite protective of it. So please also, be careful not to be too noisy or leave any trash behind too. A great many local pensioners like to use this area as a dog-walking and jogging route too so watch your step! Even if you’re not quite in the mood for a barbecue, Sakuranomiya in the summer time is a great place to check out just for a relaxing walk and a cold beer by the riverside.
John Dunsmore on Flickr
5) Osaka Castle Park, 5 minutes walk from Osakajokoen Station, JR Osaka Loop Line.
The grand-daddy of them all as far as scenic parks go in Osaka, Osaka Castle Park is a great place to hang out all year round. Recently regulations have got a bit tighter with barbecues, but so long as your barbecue isn’t too big and you don’t create too much of a mess, you should be fine. And believe me when I tell you, from experience, there are few things more pleasurable in this city than to sit back and enjoy some good food and drink with friends under the warm sun with Osaka Castle atop the hillside giving the perfect backdrop.
So, get that grill dusted off, and head down to the supermarket, because the summer barbecue season starts here!
Rodrigo Murayama on Flickr