In the bitter cold winter months most people prefer to coop up inside rather than venture into the outside! In Osaka, however, there are plenty of activities to do during the winter which are sure to pull you out of your cosy warm bed and into Kansai’s popular prefecture! Here’s a look at 5 things to do in Osaka during the winter!
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In Japan ice skating is a very popular activity during the winter months and as such there are many places to enjoy this winter sport. Osaka is a city that has several ice skating rinks (both small and large) during the winter months. The most notable are Naniwa Ice Skating rink, Grand Front Ice Skating Tsurun-Tsurun and Mazuren Intec Osaka Pool.
Naniwa Ice Skating rink is located in the Namba area at the Naniwa Sports Centre. This rink is fairly large and so there is plenty of room to skate around! The Naniwa rink is open all year round, but it is particularly good to go during winter. The price for adult entry is 1,400 yen. The Grand Front Tsurun-Tsurun rink is a mini rink set up in front of Grand Front and Osaka Station, and thus is very easy to get to! Rental skates are free and the rink has a pretty atmosphere that you can enjoy whilst skating. Adult entry is 1,500 yen and the rink is open from November until the 4th of March.
Mazuren Intec Osaka Pool is another good place to go ice skating. The pool is located in Minato-Ku, Osaka city and during the winter what is usually a swimming pool is transformed into an ice skating rink! Ice skating is available from November until late March, however the rink does also host events and has some days when it is not open to the public. Adult price is 1,400 yen.
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Another popular winter activity in Japan is to go to a winter illumination. Illuminations in Japan are pretty displays of lights shown in various artistic ways and in various locations! Some popular Osaka illuminations that are still on now include the Osaka Castle Illuminage, Osaka Kaiyukan Illumination and a brand new illumination called Sakuya Lumina.
Osaka Castle Illuminage is an annual illumination that, as the name suggests, is located in Osaka Castle grounds. It takes place in the Castle’s Nishinomaru Garden and the illumination displays traditional scenes from the Japanese Edo Period to the Meiji Periods! The illumination is available until the 3rd of March and is open daily from 17:00 until 22:00. Access is 1,200 yen.
The Kaiyukan Illumination is a smaller illumination that is situated outside the Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium. The aquarium itself is a very popular sightseeing activity and during the winter months the surrounding areas of the aquarium are decorated with pretty sea life themed light displays. The Aquarium and its illumination are both located close to Osakako station and the illumination is free to view (tickets for Kaiyukan Aquarium itself are 2,300 yen for adults).
Sakuya Lumina is a new special illumination event that also takes place in Osaka Castle grounds at a special venue. The castle’s natural surroundings are used to create a beautiful illuminated night walk, using digital art and lights! Unlike the other illuminations Sakuya Lumina is more than just an illumination and is actually an interactive story as well! This event is open until 2021 and tickets cost 3,200 yen for adults with tickets available online
! The illumination is open from 18:00-22:00.
Festivals (or matsuri) in Japan are often associated with the summer months, as this is when the majority take place. However, in winter too it is possible to celebrate Japanese culture by attending one of Osaka’s winter festivals! Popular winter festivals include Dojima Yakushido Setsubun Omizukumi festival and Ichiya Kanjo festival.
Setsubun is a traditional Japanese ceremony that is meant to drive evil spirits away from the home. The Dojima Yakushido Setsubun Omizukumi festival is one of Osaka’s best setsubun festivals and includes fun activities such as bean throwing and wearing scary “Oni” masks! This festival is located near Kitashinchi on February 3rd from 3pm until 9pm, and is free to attend.
Ichiya Kanjo Festival is held at Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Shrine every February to show thanks for good fortune of young girls. The festival involves many parades, dances and shows in traditional dress which showcase some of Japan’s wonderful traditions. The festival takes place at 2pm on February 20th and again is free to attend.
Amusement parks are always a popular activity, and it is an especially good idea to go during the winter season when crowds are at their lowest! Osaka has its fair share of amusement parks including the hugely famous Universal Studios Japan (or USJ), which is often a must-visit for most tourists. As USJ is typically at its most busy during the spring/summer months, those who go in the winter will find you are able to experience more rides and less queues during winter visits! Winter trips to USJ also mean you can experience the park’s winter events such as Universal Wonderful Christmas (open until early January) and winter in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Osaka is also home to Japan’s oldest amusement park, Hirakata Park! Hirakata Park is located in Osaka’s Hirakata City and although not quite as popular as USJ there is still a lot of fun to be had at the park, particularly during winter. In winter the park has its own special “Winter Carnival” open until the 3rd of March! Activities available include ice skating, snow play, a big snow slide, a snow world and more!
If you are more into nature then these last two activities are for you! Winter in Japan is the season for strawberries and so there are many opportunities to unleash your inner farmer and go strawberry picking! Most strawberry farms allow all-you-can-eat strawberry picking for 30 minutes to 1 hour and they are normally located away from the city centre. Some popular strawberry picking farms include Kishiwada Kankounouen Farm, located in Kishiwada and 2,000 yen for adults; Yu Noen Farm Muratake, located in Izumi and 1,500 yen for adults; Osaka Harvest Hill, located in Sakai and 1,600 yen for adults not including the park’s entrance fee.
The second winter nature activity is plum (ume) blossom viewing. Everyone is familiar with the popular spring activity of seeing/viewing the beautiful Japanese cherry blossoms, but not everyone is aware of the equally beautiful plum blossoms that are available to view from mid-February until mid-March! Plum blossoms come in a variety of pinks and whites and there a good few spots in Osaka where you can go to see the pretty blossoms. The best places to see plum blossoms in Osaka are at Osaka Castle Park grounds (admission free) and Expo ’70 Commemorative Park (250 yen admission for the whole park!).