As a student and resident of Kansai Gaidai, or for those of you wondering where to study in Japan, living in the Kansai region provides you with immediate and excellent access to many major cultural, historical, and tourist locations. Take a moment to just look at where Hirakata is located; almost smack dab in the middle of Osaka and Kyoto, two of some of the most culturally rich and historically significant cities in all of Japan. This article will be broken up between the next few posts detailing some of the most noteworthy and recommend places to visit within the Kansai Region including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.

Naturally, I’ll start with Osaka. For many of you, you would have arrived at KIX, or Kansai International Airport. Welcome to your new home for the next 6-9 months. Osaka is a culturally rich city with many characteristics and customs unique specifically to the Kansai region. For instance, did you know that each are of Japan has their own dialect? In and outside of Osaka, the local dialect is referred to as Osaka-ben or Kansai-ben. The difference in dialects can range between anything from slight variations in the pronunciations of words to completely different words for certain objects or greetings altogether. While it’s specific to the Kansai region, Japanese from other areas can quickly pick up on the regional dialect of others. If you’re travelling to Tokyo, Sapporo, or even Okinawa, don’t be a afraid to use a little Kansai-ben to let them know where you’re from! Here’s a few notable words and phrases specific to Kansai-ben/Osaka-ben that you can easily start using:

  • Ōkini – おおきに: Thank you        (Tokyo-Ben: ありがとう)
  • Honma – ほんま: Really              (Tokyo-Ben: ほんと)
  • Meccha –   めっちゃ: Very            (Tokyo-Ben: とっても)
  • Nande Ya Nen – なんでやねん: What the heck/hell (You got to be kidding me)
There are so many more phrases used in everyday Kansai-ben but these are just a few you’ll here almost everyday if you’re regularly interacting with your Japanese friends. I’ll leave the rest up to you to learn. There’s plenty of sites available online you can use to brush up on your Osaka-ben.

Going Out

Giraffe Osaka Nightclub next to Dotonbori Bridge - Photo courtesy http://giraffe-osaka.net/lang/en.htmlThere’s several clubs in Osaka you’ll likely visit or at least hear about for those of you looking to go out on weekends. Most of the more popular clubs are in the entertainment district of Osaka known as “Namba”on the Dotonbori Canal. There’s one particular club popular among students called Giraffe Osaka (ジラフ大阪). When I used to go, if you arrived before a certain time, admission was free and women received free drinks for the whole night. It appears now that ladies still enter free before 9 PM, while men pay 1500 and receive one free drink upon entry on Fridays and Saturdays. This entrance fee increases significantly however to 1500 for women and 2500/3000 (Fri/Sat) for men after 9 PM. I can’t say if women still receive free drinks for showing up early but if they do please comment below to let us know! You can find more information about Giraffe Osaka here.
Be aware, going out in Japan usually results in all-nighters. A typical weekend night of clubbing usually goes as follows:

Drunk half naked salaryman on train - Original source unknown

  • 5 PM – Meet up with friends. Catch train to Namba, Osaka.
  • 6 PM – Find a Nomi/Tabehoudai (All you can eat/drink). Fuel yourself for the evening.
  • 8 PM – Buy liquor from a Konbini to sustain your buzz. I’m still convinced drinks in Japan are watered down.
  • 9 PM – Arrive at Giraffe early to avoid the ridiculous entrance fees.
  • 12:30 AM – If you’re still at the club, you might as well stay, you’ve just missed the last train home (終電, Shuuden).
  • 1 AM – Some clubs have started to close down between 1 and 2 AM, ushering you over to their sister bar. Though many stay open until 5 AM. If you’re tired of clubbing but have missed your last train home, go here to see what else you can do.
  • 5 AM – The first trains start running again (Shihatsu). Catch the local train home when you’re ready to call it a night. The first Keihan train makes every stop on the way back to Hirakata.
  • 6 AM – Arrive in Hirakata; the buses have not started yet. Take cab or a refreshing 20-30 minute walk home. For a shorter walk, I recommend you get off at Makino station and make a pit stop at the Lawson Konbini for hangover supplies.

Things to See & Do

Osaka has endless amounts of activities, places, and things to do on any given day of the week. Here’s a brief list of recommend ways to spend an afternoon.

Temples/Shrines:

  • Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
  • Daianji Temple
  • Hokoku Shrine
  • More Here

Shopping:

The neon lights of Dotonbori - Photo courtesy http://blog.gaijinpot.com/neon-lights-dotonbori/

  • HEP Five Tower: A major shopping and entertainment centre located in the commercial district known as Umeda. Many large retail chain stores and boutiques are located here. I recommend the HEP Five Ferris wheel during the evening hours for fantastic and/or romantic view of the city.
  • Shinsaibashi: A major shopping area located just north of Namba, across the famous Dotonbori bridge. A covered street complete with any kind store you can imagine from clothing (H&M, Uniqlo), electronics, to pet shops and many others.

Osaka Castle during the Spring Cherry Blossoms - Photo courtesy pcwallart.comAttractions:

Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, Japan - Photo courtesy http://heyworld.jp/destinations/kansai/osaka/skybuilding.html

  • Osaka-jo (Castle): An obvious must-see when in Osaka on a beautiful day. Definitely recommended during cherry blossom season.
  • Nekko Cafe / Owl Cafe: The Namba and Shinsaibashi districts are filled with these, and many other variants. They’re pretty self explanatory, upon entering you purchase a drink then you get to spend time with kitties, owls, puppies or even maids ;).
  • Umeda Sky Building: One of the most recognizable buildings in Osaka, the Sky Building is complete with a market in the bottom, a rooftop observatory and large garden observatory with an amazing view during the sunset.
  • Osaka Aquarium: Recommend purchasing an Osaka Kaiyu Ticket from any JR station Midori No Guchi.

 

Check out our next post covering the best of Kyoto!

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