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The Best Things to Do in Osaka in the Winter

Nakanoshima in winter.
Nakanoshima in winter. | © akaitori / Flickr
Osaka may be one of the busiest and liveliest cities in Japan, but in the winter it can be hard to find the motivation to venture out into the cold. Yet, even in the freezing months, the city has a lot going on. Here are some exciting activities that will keep you warm during your winter visit.

Warm up in a hot bath

Osaka may be an urban labyrinth of amusements, but there are plenty of onsen (hot spring) getaways both in and just outside of the city. Escape to one of them, or check out your local sento (bathhouse) to warm up in the soothing and healing waters. Most onsen and sento have, at the very least, multiple baths and a sauna, if not spa treatments and atmospheric outdoor baths as well.

The entrance to a Japanese bathhouse in Osaka. © m-louis .® / Flickr

Behold a blinding illumination

Perhaps the best part of winter in Japan is the illuminations, which brighten both the landscape and people’s moods as they trudge daily through the wind and snow. Osaka’s illuminations are often large-scale and complex, some including 3D projection mapping and immersive exhibits. Many are only around for a limited time, so be sure to check ahead so you don’t miss them!

Bar hop to put on your beer jacket

Osaka has many many bars, from classic favorites to niche alternatives. The best spot in the city for travelers to bar hop is by far Amemura, where local and visitor favorites like Nayuta, Space Station, and Moonshine can all be found within mere blocks of each other. Wander (or stumble) around this district for an adventure so fun, you’ll forget about the cold.

Alternatively, if looking for a more traditional Japanese experience, try walking down Hozenji Yokocho, a cobblestone back alley brimming with bars that looks straight out of the Showa Era.

Eat seasonal crab and blowfish

Winter may not always be pleasant, but one of the good things about this time of year is the seafood. In Osaka, “the nation’s kitchen,” the best to be found this season is the crab and blowfish. Despite its reputation, the latter is quite safe to eat, as all restaurants serving it need a special certification and prepare it to be edible. Try Zuboraya or Kani Doraku in Dotonbori.

The giant pufferfish outside of Zuboraya. © Reylia Slaby / c/o Reylia Slaby Photography

Immerse yourself in a magic show

Every Sunday night, in a small secluded basement on the outskirts of Amemura, something magical happens: two award-winning and internationally acclaimed magicians hold an intimate and hilarious show. Magic Lab, featuring Mr. Ben and Jonio, is a bilingual show that will make you laugh, amazed, and magically forget how miserable it is outside!

Mr. Ben of Magic Lab © Magic Lab

Sing with a fiery passion at karaoke

Karaoke is inarguably one of the best things to have come out of Japan, and what better place to experience it than in the country’s wildest city? There’s box karaoke, where guests rent a room to enjoy a private singing experience, all over Osaka. Then there’s the karaoke bar, which usually has no cover charge and lets guests sing publicly in front of strangers, a great way to make friends while traveling! Some of the best of these in Osaka are Kama Sutra, Moonshine, and Domus.

Break a sweat at the sports challenge

Try out Japan’s indoor amusement craze, “spocha.” Short for “sports challenge,” spocha is many things, and Round One has them all. In this multi-story building located near Namba, guests can enjoy a variety of sporty activities, like bubble soccer, roller skating, batting cages, basketball, and darts, as well as karaoke and arcade games. Round One is open 24-hours a day, and they serve alcohol in addition to food. It’s a lot safer than it sounds and incredibly fun!