After our delightful afternoon in Nara, we returned to Osaka and began to experience our host city (the third largest in Japan [2.6 million] behind Tokyo [8.9 mil] and Yokahama [3.6 mil]), for thus far, she had only been a place to lay our weary heads. What we found was an energetic, colorful city.
Our first stop was the Umeda Sky Building, which is actually 2 tall buildings (173 meters, 35 floors high) joined at the top by a “Floating Garden Observatory”. Now, if you are like me, you take the name at its word and think there might be a garden up there. But nope, we were greeted by a Christmas themed glass observatory with romantic sites for couples to take pictures. Interesting concept. Apparently many Osakans go on dates, and get married, here. And above the observatory was a rooftop landing where we took pictures of the setting sun and the city skyline by night. It was quite stunning, really!
Once back on terra firma, we then took our time and enjoyed a German Christmas festival that was set up outside the Sky Building. It was quite unique, seeing Japanese vendors selling bratwurst and beer in lederhosen and Santa hats.
Enjoying the festival was unexpectedly comforting. Not only did it allow me to experience a bit of Christmas spirit in the cold and dark (knowing my Christmas this year will be in the summer sun!), but it also reminded me how small the world is. And how no matter where you are in the world, you can find people of similar cultures or similar beliefs, if only you look. So naturally, we raised a glass in celebration of this fact and of the season (as you do).
After enjoying the festival, our last adventure of the day was to see the Midosuji Illuminations in the Yodoyabashi district. Again, we had no idea what to expect, but went here on the suggestion of one of the locals. We followed the masses and alas found what all of the buzz was about…spectacular (and I mean spectacular!) light shows projected on the front of large buildings. As you can see from the video, they were magnificent! Apparently such illuminations were happening in different parts of the city every evening during this season. If you can’t see the video for some reason, please visit the following link to get an idea of their grandeur.
After the illuminations, weary from the wonderful day in Nara and vibrant evening in Osaka, we then went home for a good night’s sleep before embarking on our last day.
Since Osaka is known for its shopping and food, we spent our last day exploring the dynamic shopping and eating districts of Dotonbori and Shinsaibashisuji. These areas consisted of street after street of shopping arcades, eateries, and various colorful billboards on the sides of tall buildings. We had well and truly found the colorful, bustling, energetic center of Osaka. The closest thing I have to compare it to is Times Square in New York, though on a more intimate scale.
We took in as much of this as we could before becoming overstimulated (we’re country folk!) and ducking into a local coffee shop for some quiet time. Mmmm.
This was our last outing before heading back to the hotel and on to the airport.
Thank you, Osaka, for showing us a marvelous time on our quick trip!