There are plenty of places where you can enjoy Osaka, Japan's second metropolis, precisely because you go in the winter. Here are some great ways to enjoy Osaka's winter chill.
1. Enjoy the winter illuminations
In Osaka, there are illuminations lit up everywhere during the winter. A particularly recommended one is the Kaiyukan Winter Illumination held at the popular aquarium Kaiyukan from the end of November to the beginning of March. In the 2015-2016 season, they're holding their biggest illuminations to date using more than 1,300,000 lights. They use color and light to make the main tree look different as though it is a whimsical ocean. There are many objet de art made of light that mimics the form of sea life such as dolphins, making everything feel florid and colorful. The illuminations change every year, so please come to see them as a family or a couple.
2. Enjoy ehomaki
In Japan, the point when winter starts turning into spring is called "Setsubun" (it falls around February 3rd every year) and there are different traditions for it around the country. Among them is a tradition that started in Osaka but has now spread around the country, and that is to eat an ehomaki. An ehomaki is a sushi roll that has not been cut into the bite-sized sushi pieces we're all familiar with. What turns it into an ehomaki is that you eat it while facing a specific direction (it changes every year) without speaking until it's finished. It's said if you eat the ehomaki in the right direction without saying a word, then your year will be filled with luck. How about trying this tradition in its birthplace, Osaka? Even if it isn't Setsubun when you visit, you can try Osaka's futomaki rolls that are full of ingredients and are very filling. Definitely try it if you have the chance.
3. Soak yourself in natural hot springs
There are a number of sento (bathhouses) that use natural hot springs in Osaka. One of the most recommended ones is Ikkyu, a sento in the city that uses water from the Kamigata hot springs. It's on the shore, a little far away from the center of the city, but every 45 minutes you can take a bus to and from Nishikujo Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line, Sakurajima Line, and the Hanshin Nanba line, so it's easy to access. One of its charms is its evocative atmosphere different from the usual common baths. It has a number of different baths, including an open-air bath where you can soak in the hot waters while feeling the outside air. You might think that it's too cold in the winter to go out naked, but if you soak for a long time in the open-air bath when it's cold you won't get dizzy from the heat. Soaking in a hot spring while gazing at the limpid winter sky is a special experience.
4. Eat seasonal blowfish dishes
Osaka is known as a foodie town, and among its many famous dishes, fugu (blowfish) is one of them. Fugu is known for being a poisonous fish, but restaurants that offer it have special chefs that hold specific fugu-preparing licenses, so there is no worry. While there is a variety of ways to prepare fugu, including sashimi and fried, in the winter the best way to have it is a fugu hotpot called "tecchiri". It's full of umami, but it isn't fatty at all. It's also full of collagen so it isn't just delicious but is also great for your skin. There are many fugu restaurants in Osaka, but one of the most famous is Zuboraya in Shin-sekai, the shop that has the huge blowfish sign. Osaka has the highest fugu consumption in Japan, so please come taste their skilled work for yourself.
See, play, and eat throughout the Osaka winter. Please use this article as a reference to make your winter Osaka experience as great as possible.