A big metropolitan city has always its own charm. From its dynamic scenery to its distinctive hustle and bustle, every big city in the world will always have something unique and different to offer. In Japan, many travelers visit Tokyo for this reason, however, do you know that just three and half hours away from there, lies another city that is completely different and has its own originality. Welcome to Osaka!
Being the second largest metropolitan area in Japan, Osaka was known as a merchant city in the past that served as a center for the rice trade during the Edo period. Now the city has transformed into one of the most developed metropolitan areas and serves as a major economic hub for the country. During my last visit to Osaka, I just had a weekend to spend therefore it was important to get a good selection of highlights to get the idea and feel of the entire city in a very short time.
The Hotel: Ritz Carlton Osaka
To choose the right hotel while traveling is almost as challenging as choosing a house! There are many great hotels in Osaka but there are only a few that can really understand and cater for all of your needs. Ritz Carlton Osaka situated right in the heart of prestigious Nishi-Umeda business and shopping district is definitely a hotel that fulfils that role.
As one of the city’s grand hotels, Ritz Carlton Osaka delivers luxury to the highest standards but very subtly. The Skyview Junior Suite for example, provides a 64 sqm space that is enhanced not only by Osaka’s stunning panoramic skyline but also with luxurious amenities such as Nespresso coffee machine and Italian marble bathroom. Fatigued travelers can go directly to the spa and get rejuvenate through the treatments offer by their talented therapists using ESPA products.
Of course for hungry travelers and serious food critics, you have come into the right hotel. To get some authentic and delicious local flavors in a beautiful Japanese garden-inspired ambiance then you should definitely try out their newly renovated Hanagatami. Serves all Japanese classic food types from sushi
, this is a place that will make you say oishii
As an avid foodie, I was also impressed with La Baie , the French restaurant that serves exceptional modern French dishes using Japanese best local produce. However the best culinary highlight in this hotel for me actually lies inside their casual all day Italian dining called Splendido that is led by vivacious Chef Oriana Tirabassi. A familiar name for those who used to meet her here in Jakarta few years back, now Oriana is in Osaka wowing the crowd not only her impeccable Italian flavors, but also with her outstanding afternoon dessert buffet that is served everyday at 2.30PM. Seasonally changed, at the moment she is serving mango buffet featuring everything about Japanese mango from sweet to savory. Honestly, this buffet is very famous in Osaka and you will need 2 weeks advance reservation.
History: Osaka Castle
As one of the iconic traditional sites in Osaka, this castle for some reason reminds me of Japanese famous TV show: Takeshi Castle. Built in 1583 this castle is surrounded by citadels, gates, turrets, moats, impressive stonewalls and gardens. This rather unfortunate castle has been rebuilt few times and the last one completed in 1997 after being severely damaged in 1945 during the Second World War.
Inside this renovated castle we can find history of Japan and Osaka as well as beautiful vistas of the city. It is a great place to visit with family not only to learn about history but also to enjoy the great outdoor scenery of Osaka, especially in the garden area.
Art: The National Museum of Art, Osaka
Just 10 minutes walk from Ritz Carlton Osaka, this museum across Dojima and Tosabori rivers has out of this world architecture and an astonishing collection. Designed by renowned architect César Pelli (who built the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur), the façade of this museum almost looks like a gigantic yet beautiful titanium amorphous alien. It is interesting to know that this museum was actually built as an underground building due to the limitation of area.
Collection wise, this museum has quite a solid selection of modern art and postwar era from western world including Paul Cezanne, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso, Boris Mikhailov to Japanese renowned artists such as Miyako Ishiuchi, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Nobuya Abe and many more. Aside from that, the museum also hosts various exhibitions. Currently, they have an exhibition of the great terracotta army of China’s first emperor that is going to last until October 2nd
Fun: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Now, this is definitely the ultimate fun place to visit in my opinion. Who doesn’t know or like the whole magical story of Harry Potter and his adventures. Well now in Universal Studios Osaka you can really visit Hogwarts and have a memorable fun by taking their 4K3D forbidden journey inside Hogwarts castle. Everything that you know about the series from catching the golden snitch on a broom during a game of quidditch, to go face-to- face with the dementors and run from the firy breath of a dragon before finally facing Voldemort himself is all in one ride. Call it a ride of a lifetime because it does feel like one.
Universal Studios in Osaka of course also offers many more ways to have fun from challenging roller coasters to a “mind game”s zombie house that require not only team work but time and good stamina as well. I dare you to try this one!
Shopping: Shinsaibashi Suji
Osaka like many other metropolitan cities has its serious shopping areas and one of the most famous is called Shinsaibashi Suji. Known as one of the oldest and busiest shopping destinations, it runs about 600 meters in length, and is packed with various brand names from local to international, including independent boutiques and of course interesting restaurants.
If you are into branded items such as Cartier, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Chanel that are affordable, then you are in the right place. Here you can find many shops that sell great quality second hand branded items from jewelry to fashion bags. And is also known as a place to find traditional kimono tailors new or vintage style. I was in such ecstasy when found a vintage kimono for literally just US$15! It is almost felt like stealing.
Flying: SQ615 Business Class
Like choosing a hotel, it is quite crucial to choose the right airline for your trip. Flying business class is an expensive proposition so really has to be worth the fare. Singapore Airlines (SQ) is one of the most prestigious brands in the airlines industry has always been one of my preferences when traveling.
The SQ service culture starts with a great smile and an exceptionally well-mannered approach which makes them my two best reasons for flying with them. Every business class can offer top-notch wine or champagne and usually serve great food – that’s expected but good quality service is rather rare… especially one that actually remembers your likes and dislikes. In my opinion, this is why SQ has so many hardcore fans. Oh and their great business lounge also makes a difference. You should give it a try!