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Things You Must Do In Osaka in Winter

By Lucy Harris
07 February 2020
Things You Must Do In Osaka in Winter

Edited by Emma White

Known for its modern architecture, diverse nightlife and world-class food scene, Osaka is one of Japan’s top destinations for travellers worldwide. Not as painfully cold during the winter months as other Japanese cities, Osaka is a great choice for a winter getaway. Witness the world famous Osaka castle winter illumination, celebrate the New Year like an Osakan local, sample the city’s winter delicacies and experience the magic of its winter festivals. Here’s your guide to Osaka in winter, with all the information you’ll need to make the most of Osaka’s winter season and to help you discover the best Osaka winter activities on offer. 


Winter illuminations 


One of the most well-known Osaka winter attractions are its winter illumination events. Illumination events are extremely popular in Japan during the winter months, with most big cities putting on a number of light festivals for both locals and tourists to enjoy. Osaka’s winter illuminations are split into two separate events under the general name of Osaka’s ‘Festival of Lights’ – the Midosuji illumination 2018 and the OSAKA Hikari-Renaissance 2018. The Midosuji Illumination is one of the world’s largest illumination events and the 4km stretch of dazzling lights from the Ooebashi-Kitazune intersection to the Hanshin Mae intersection is officially recognised as the street with the most illuminated trees in the world. The Hikari-Renaissance consists of various illumination programmes incorporating the gorgeous waterfront scenery around Nakanoshima as well as the Wall Tapestry Lighting Show celebrating the centennial of the establishment of the Osaka City Central Public Hall. Soak up the city’s artistic flair by visiting one of these light shows in Osaka in December. The Midosuji Illumination takes place from November 4th until December 31st while Osaka Hikari Renaissance will run from December 14th until December 25th.

Celebrate the Japanese New Year 


If you’re visiting Osaka in January, you’re in luck! At this time of year, the city hosts a range of great winter festivals to welcome the start of a new year. The Japanese New Year celebration (Shōgatsu) is the most important holiday of the year here and can last up to a few weeks. Throughout January, you’ll see many locals visiting shrines or temples as part of their New Year holidays. People come to the temples to give thanks for the previous year and to pray for good health, good fortune and protection from the gods for the rest of the coming year. Most of the city’s well-known temples and shrines are extremely crowded throughout the season, with some seeing over one million visitors during the holidays each year. With so many dotted around the city throughout the Osaka winter period, you’re guaranteed to stumble upon a few hidden gems that you won’t find in any guide book. Exploring the city’s winter festivals is the best way to immerse yourself in the local culture and to get to know the friendly locals, who are proud of their reputation as the friendliest in Japan!

From 31st December to 3rd January, around 30,000 people take part in the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine New Year’s Festival where locals come together to eat, drink, celebrate and pray for good luck in the new year. The festival at the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine takes place from 9th to 11th of January where people pray to the god of Ebisu San for good luck for their businesses. The Tondo Festival takes place at Senri Shrine in Toyonaka City in Osaka on the 14th of January where the locals give thanks around a 15 metre high bonfire which lights up the shrine behind it. At all of these festivals you can expect to find traditional performances and ceremonies, street food vendors, and parades to entertain all visitors. Get to know the real Osaka,join locals and make your own wish for the new year!

Ice skating 


Ice skating is hugely popular in Japan, and when winter comes, temporary ice rinks pop up all over the country and are enjoyed by locals of all ages. With a number of ice rinks open to the public throughout the winter season, Osaka in no exception. One of the most popular rinks in the city is Umeda Ice Rink (Tsurun-Tsurun) set up at “Umekita-Hiroba” in front of the Grand Front Osaka. Open every day from 18th November until 4th March, this is the perfect spot for some family-friendly winter fun in Osaka. 

Plum blossom at Osaka Castle


One of the most iconic images of Japan is the timeles wash of pastel pink cherry blossoms which adorn the riverbanks, quaint old streets and imposing landmarks of cities in Japan. Although cherry blossom doesn’t arrive until springtime, you’re not missing out by visiting in winter. You can still get those Instagram worthy shots of Osaka’s best sights carpeted in pastel hues, but instead of cherry, it’s plum blossom. Plum is just as beautiful and plays an equally important role in Japanese culture. Osaka in February is inundated by a sea of pretty pastel pink blooms which are enough to tempt anyone to brave the cold and explore the outdoor scenery! Combine this experience with one of Osaka’s top attractions, Osaka Castle. There are approximately 1,200 plum trees of more than 100 varieties planted all over Osaka Castle Park. Visit from February to March for your chance to enjoy them in full bloom against the spectacular backdrop of the Osaka Castle in winter. Then warm up afterwards with a tour of the castle and head to the observation deck on the 8th floor for panoramic views over the park and the rest of Osaka. And don’t miss the city’s famous Osaka Castle Winter Illumination at 5:30pm every day from the 1st December to the 3rd of March. 

Warm up with a bowl of Nabe


Osaka’s winter temperatures often remain low throughout the season, meaning you may need to make several pit stops during the day to warm up and refuel. So escape the Osaka winter weather in the best possible way, with a steaming bowl of delicious Japanese food! One of the most popular winter dishes in Osaka and Japan in general is Nabe. Nabe, translated as “hot pot”, is a Japanese staple during the winter months and one that you can’t end your Osaka winter trip without trying. There are several different types of this traditional dish with all sorts of meat, fish and vegetable variations and combinations, shabushabu and sukiyaki are perhaps among the most popular and well-known. Try yours at Le Monde, Fukushima Branch(る主水). Nabe is this izakaya’s signature dish and with so many different options on the menu you’ll be spoilt for choice!