Our guide in Osaka, Japan ensured that we not only saw the area’s tourism highlights, but that we also got a glimpse of lesser-known parts of the vibrant city.
In Osaka, we stayed at the St. Regis, a stunning, centrally-located city hotel with exceptional service. We were greeted at our room by our personal butler. He offered a welcome drink, as well as information on dining options for the evening, as we’d casually mentioned at check-in that we were interested in recommendations. This type of intuitive, personalized service defined our stay there.
That afternoon, we met with our guide – a familiar face who had expertly escorted us in Kyoto. She led us into the heart of the bustling city. We toured Dotonbori and its culinary staples: little pancakes made with eggs and flour and topped with scallions and pork or chicken; takoyaki, a kind of gooey hushpuppy stuffed with octopus; and kushikatsu, deep-fried pork on a stick. We bounced from cart to cart, sampling these dishes, sushi and regional beers, moving and tasting our way through the streets with locals and visitors alike.
Osaka has incredible shopping and boasts miles of familiar retailers, luxury brands and unique thrift shops. One of its most famous shopping areas is called Amerikamura, which means “American village,” and it contains hundreds of inexpensive boutiques. It’s a shopper’s paradise. We could have easily lost ourselves in retail bliss, but we continued on to explore more of this vibrant city. Next we took a boat ride down the Dotombori River. This journey helped flesh out our impressions of the city, and we appreciated a chance to take in its charm from an alternative viewpoint.
Furthering our mission to see Osaka the way the locals do, our guide led us to a quieter area of town in the northeast part of Umeda that has an artistic and vibrant culture that could be compared to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was built with the intention of becoming a popular residential area, but as the neighborhood developed, building owners began to lease space to young entrepreneurs. The result? Rows of independently-owned cafes and restaurants and charming shops teeming with unique handmade goods. We loved walking the winding streets and chatting with the young business owners.
Our guide also took us to an expansive outdoor market where we were the only Westerners in sight. We felt like it helped us form a more cohesive understanding of this incredible, lively city.
We spent the rest of the day on foot and enjoyed a visit to the Floating Garden Observatory, an open air observatory built on top of the highest building in Osaka. The views of the bay and the seemingly endless line of mountains were stunning. We journeyed to the magnificent Osaka Castle, which was rebuilt beyond its former glory after its destruction during World War II. The castle has two moats—one filled with water, the other with thousand-pound stones, certainly a deterrence in its own right. The castle’s museum was also intriguing. We loved learning how every minute architectural detail has a story rich in significance and history.
When we parted ways with our guide, she gave us a gift—a leaf that had been trimmed from one of the bamboo trees we’d visited in Kyoto. It was pressed between a card and accompanied by a Japanese proverb, wishing us a safe journey home. It is as special a souvenir as the precious memories and tranquility experienced on our journey.
If you’d like to create your own memorable and exquisite adventure, please call The Accomplished Traveler on 212.586.2020.
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