Osaka Lures More Foreign Tourists

, Magazine

OSAKA/TOKYO: Osaka, long Japan’s “second city,” is winning the race against Tokyo to draw foreign tourists, but after a boom, its retailers and property developers are adapting to shifting tourism spending patterns. Inbound tourism to Osaka surged five-fold between 2012 and 2017, faster than visits to Tokyo, as the city lured low-cost carriers and promoted itself as a base to visit the 25 World Heritage sites in nearby Kyoto and Nara. Initially, developers and retailers scrambled to build new hotels, expand floor space, and install cashless payment systems like AliPay and WeChat to keep up with the sudden influx of big-spending tourists, mostly from China.

But tourism is entering a new phase now, where instead of loading up on luxury brands, visitors want to spend more on services like makeup consulting, maternity goods, and other cheaper items. Businesses expect that to become the norm — and to provide a permanent boost to the economy of the Kansai region around Osaka as the city prepares to build a large casino resort. Takeshi Yamaguchi, associate director of research at real estate consulting firm CBRE in Osaka. The success of Osaka, long overshadowed by Tokyo and dismissed as gritty and chaotic, has caught analysts by surprise. The city’s compact layout and food culture have proven a hit with Asian tourists, and that has created new opportunities for start-ups, social media marketing consultants and foreign property developers.

Osaka and its surrounding cities may become the most visible example of how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies have changed Japan. Since Abe took office in late 2012, the government has relaxed visa requirements for China and other Southeast Asian countries. Foreign visitors to Osaka hit 11.1 million in 2017, a five-fold increase from 2012, making it Japan’s fastest-growing inbound tourist destination, government data show. By contrast, visits to Tokyo roughly tripled in the same period. Foreign visitors to Osaka could reach 26 million per year by 2030, CBRE’s Yamaguchi said. Zhang Xin Jie, 30, a software engineer from Shenzhen, China, said at a shopping arcade in Osaka’s bustling Shinsaibashi district.

11.64 billion) in fiscal year 2017 from fiscal 2013, adding an average 0.2 percentage point to the Kansai area’s economy for the past three fiscal years, according to a central bank report. The economic benefits are expected to continue, but Osaka’s retailers say tourism spending is slowing. Average incomes of visitors are falling as more cheap flights become available. China’s government enacted a law in January taxing Chinese sellers who buy Japanese goods in bulk and resell them online. Chinese tourists are growing more interested in beauty treatments, maternity wear, baby bottles and other goods that cost much less than luxury items, retailers say.

Duty-free sales at Takashimaya Co’s Osaka department store rose 13% in 2018, much slower than a 71% increase in the previous year. Tatsuya Inagawa, deputy manager of public and investor relations at Takashimaya’s Osaka store. More Chinese shoppers are asking sales assistants to show them different make-up techniques, according to Inagawa, so stores may offer tourists more beauty counselling. Some start-ups are taking things a step further by marketing Osaka to Chinese tourists as a destination for spa treatments and medical tourism. Property development, which was once red-hot in Osaka, is also starting to slow. New construction of hotels and restaurants surged six-fold from 2012 to 2017 but slumped by 87% in 2018 compared with the previous year, a sign of concerns that too much supply came to market too quickly. Construction of wholesale and retail space also fell 28% in 2018 from the previous year. Some property analysts and retailers say the slowdown in tourist spending and property development is just a temporary dip. Their rationale: Osaka plans to open a one million-square-metre casino and conference centre in fiscal 2024 on par with Singapore’s casino on Sentosa Island. The Osaka facility is expected to draw 2.2 million visitors by 2030 at an estimated economic impact of 760 billion yen per year.

Osaka is the 2nd largest city in Japan. Osaka Castle was demolished completely during the WWII. Osaka was heavily bombed during WWII. Famous comedians in Japan are from Osaka. People in Osaka are friendlier than people in Tokyo (typical image). The tallest tower in Japan is in Osaka (Abeno Harukas). The oldest official Buddhist temple is in Osaka (Shitennoji). Osaka is the birthplace of takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Osaka is the birthplace of “Bunraku.” Bunraku is the Japanese style puppet theater. “WORLD EXPO 1970” was held in Osaka. Osaka is only 25 minutes away from Kobe. Osaka is only 30 minutes away from Kyoto. First “USJ” outside the USA. Osaka was the capital of Japan. These Japanese phrases are only used in Osaka.

Most New Years parties in Tokyo reflect the traditional customs and beliefs surrounding this very important holiday on the Japanese calendar. Tokyo itself is one of the most important cities in the entire world. It is the capital of Japan and the greater Tokyo area is the world’s most densely populated metropolitan area with around 35 to 40 million people. Given the diversity of the population and the city’s spending power, New Years Eve 2019 in Tokyo also hosts many celebrations that include balls dropping, fireworks displays, and toasts of sake and champagne. It is, however, some of the more traditional manners of celebrating the New Year that make Tokyo so special. Many people celebrate at New Years parties in Tokyo in locations all around this bustling city.

Places like Disneyland in Tokyo have spectacular celebrations that draw throngs of people to enjoy the rides, shows, and other entertainment, and of course the fireworks display—it’s the source of some of the best New Years images you’ll ever see. New Years Tokyo style can also mean having a big party, and many are thrown around the city. There are countdown parties like the massive one at Universal Studios in Osaka as well as the Huis Ten Bosch countdown party. You could also choose to watch the fireworks at Ikebukuro Sunshine City. People gather here at this tallest observatory in Tokyo watch fireworks and countdown to the New Years 2019 on New Years Eve. The next day the observatory opens at 5:30 a.m.

Tokyo as your backdrop. The famous Tokyo Tower also hosts a massive party that is open to the general public. Fireworks are shot off at midnight and a limited number (only 80 people) get to watch the sunrise from the observatory deck of the tower, which is actually taller than the Eiffel Tower after which it is modeled. Celebrating New Years Tokyo style means truly leaving the remnants of the old year behind in order to freshly usher in a new year. This may sound like a given, but the Japanese take this philosophy to a heightened level. In preparation for New Years Eve in Tokyo (known as “Shogatsu” or “Oshogatsu”) people deep clean their houses in order to ensure that nothing from the year before carries on into the New Year.

The New Year is perhaps the most important holiday in all of Japan and this philosophy of rebirth and starting fresh is central to the thinking of the people. Years in Japan are viewed as being wholly separate from one another. New Years parties in Tokyo only take place after thoughtful preparations have been made to ensure that the holiday will be ushered in appropriately and according to custom. The most popular activity tied to the celebration of New Years Eve in Tokyo is going to one of the many temples to pray, be blessed, and spend time with other people.

Food and drink are often served and the more popular temples draw immense crowds. Some of the bigger temples like the Meiji Shrine draw over 1 million people over the course of New Years Eve and New Years Day. An amazing feature of New Years Tokyo is the ringing of the night watch bells at midnight. The temple bells are rung exactly 108 times starting at midnight. This longstanding tradition is vital to the overall celebration and the chimes are meant to ward off the 108 earthly desires. Once again, the celebration of New Years in Tokyo has everything to do with preparing for and being ready for the coming of the New Year.

Part of this preparation means shedding earthly desires and putting oneself in a fresh and focused state of mind. Other cities such as Mexico City and Rio also put a decidedly important emphasis on the spiritual, religious, and cultural dynamics of this holiday. Tokyo Japan is an interesting place when it comes to New Years Eve. Japan is largely westernized in many ways but maintains many very important cultural traditions surrounding the holiday. It is interesting to see how East meets West in the celebration of the coming New Year. Old traditions meet new as the Japanese say farewell to one year, and welcome to another.

Over a three-year period ending in 2016, Tatsuko Utsunomiya, 72, whose Miyamoto-chaya stand sits at Osaka Castle Park, allegedly evaded about 132 million yen in income tax by concealing 330 million yen in sales of takoyaki. The complaint was filed with the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday. According to persons with knowledge of the matter, the recent jump in the number of foreign tourists arriving in Japan has been a boon for business at Miyamoto-chaya. Sales of plates of takoyaki — currently priced at 600 yen for 8 dumplings — were an estimated 500 million yen over that three-year period, with about half of that figure coming in 2016 alone.

Osaka is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan after Tokyo. The history of Osaka goes back to the 5th Century when people from Korea and China explored the land. With them they brought artifacts, culture and new technologies in ceramics, construction, engineering. They also brought the new religion of Buddhism. Shitennoji temple, founded by Prince Shotoku in 539, is said to be the oldest state temple in Japan. A host of national treasures and important cultural properties are housed in it. Construction of Osaka Castle was started in 1583 and then was destroyed several times due to wars. The latest installation was built in 1931. With its five-layered castle tower, the castle was designed to fit the splendor of the metropolis that Hideyoshi aspired to create. Today it still stands tall as Osaka’s symbol.

As I stepped out of the Osakako station exit, I was greeted by a charming neighbourhood that seemed straight out of a story book. The streets were lined with a variety of charming flowers in every color imaginable. Even the trees were different! Behind the foliage was an assortment of little shops and restaurants that appear to have been plucked out of a Sylvanian Families play set. Walk towards giant Ferris Wheel/Tempozan Market Place, the aquarium is tight beside it. Refer to my Transportation Budget Guide for rates. WHERE TO GET A SUBWAY MAP: Look for an English SPeaking Information Booth for a free area map and directions.

OR- For a full subway map, request for one when you purchase an ICOCA card or a Kansai One Pass. The pull of the shops was just too strong. A little mom and pop coffee shop operated by a charming old couple who do both the prepping and serving. I’m not sure of the name cause it only says “COFFEE” on the green awning at its shop front but do pop in if you’re in the area. Just like all other tourist-y areas in Japan, prices here a bit steeper but quality is exceptional. This place had one of the best coffee and pancakes I have ever had. Fruits were fresh and sweet, coffee was robust yet well balanced. Cost for both: roughly around 1500 YEN, give or take (coffee was around 500 YEN but pancakes are big enough to share).

On the opposite side of this road, you’ll spot a giant Ferris Wheel. Just walk towards it. The Ferris Wheel is located at Tempozan Market which is just across the aquarium. The Tempozan Market is a mini mall with shops and chain restaurants. If you’re looking for a cheaper meal in the area, have it here. The larger than life Lego-like building is the aquarium. OR YOU CAN ALSO OPT FOR AN OSAKA KAIYU TICKET which offers bundle discounts on the Ferris Wheel, train rides and other tourist attractions in the area. Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquariums in the world and boasts a total of 19 permanent exhibits, 8 floors and 15 tanks each representing a specific region of the Pacific Rim.

You begin your journey at the top and slowly make your way down to the bottom exit and souvenir shops. There are arrows, markers and pathways that will lead you in the right direction. The system maintains order and prevents counterflow, confusion and congestion amongst visitors. Coast of Chile, Cook Strait, Japan Deep, Floating Jellyfish, Arctic, Falkland Islands, and the Maldives. The best word to describe the Osaka Aquarium experience is WOW. I would go so far as to compare it to our visit to Universal Studios. But of course that’s just a matter of personal preference. It is however a definite must-see when in Osaka.

Sorry if some of my shots are a bit out of focus, it’s quite dark inside the aquarium. Each exhibit is equally entertaining but the Pacific Ocean with its sharks and whale sharks will take your breathe away. Also, make sure to save enough time for Kaiyukan’s interactive exhibits where you get to enjoy the company of penguins, sea lions, mantarays and sharks without a thick glass divider! There’s even a part where you get to touch them! Awesome. They’re slimy and yet rough. Just make sure to stay away from their tails. Empty shark eggs by the pool that you can also touch and observe.

As you exit the Mantaray/Shark area there’s still a couple of exhibits reserved for the more “out of this world” species. We used our JR Kansai Pass so we didn’t have to pay for 2/3rds of the way but if you don’t have one, one way fare should cost you around 720 YEN/Php335/7USD. Souvenirs: you can get one for as low as 100 YEN but we ended up getting a shirt 1500 YEN, some stationary, washi tapes, pens and keychains. They have really cute souvenirs, I regret not buying a ref magnet! But you can go as low as around 8000YEN/Php3725/76USD for a family of 3 if you have a JR Pass and if you decide to forego shopping. Parents, can you relate to 1:23? Hope you found this post helpful and if you enjoyed watching the video, please subscribe, share and give it a thumbs up!

June in Japan is the start of summer with warmer weather and the beautiful colours of the hydrangea flowers (ajisai), the symbol of the rainy season in Japan. June is a low season for travel in Japan which means lower prices and reduced crowds. There are quite a few traditional cultural festivals and events happening around this time of the year, so it is still a great time to be in Japan and travel. Here are a few of the most popular June festivals and events in Japan. Cormorant Fishing or ukai in Japanese is a major summer attraction on the Nagara River in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Ukai is a traditional fishing method that uses trained cormorants to catch river fish. The art has been practiced along the Nagara River in Gifu for more than 1,300 years. It has a very long history in Japan and is mentioned in many ancient chronicles. Taking place at the famous Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto, this annual open-air torchlight event features traditional Noh performances, which are an ancient form of musical theater in Japan. The beautiful performances are held in the evening on a special stage at Heian Jingu Shrine, which is illuminated with blazing torches creating a magical atmosphere.

The Noh actors are dressed in beautiful costumes wearing lacquer-coated wooden masks. This festival held at the famous Atsuta Jinju Shrine is one of the major festivals of Nagoya. It features various performances such as kyudo (Japanese style archery), Atsuta Kagura (Shinto dance with music), taiko (Japanese drumming), kendo, sumo and various forms of martial arts. The highlight of the festival is the five Kento Makiwara, which are huge floats decorated by 365 lanterns, and the fireworks display at Jingu Koen Park. The Sanno Matsuri is one of the three most famous festivals of Tokyo. It takes place in mid-June in even-numbered years.

The main attraction of the festival is the parade which winds through central Tokyo. It starts and ends at Hie Shrine, which hosts the festival as well as being home to the guardian deity of Tokyo. The Otaue Rice Planting Festival in Osaka is one of the most famous festivals in the Kansai region of Japan. It is held at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Osaka and is an ancient Shinto festival to pray for a rich rice harvest. The main attraction of the rituals is the spectacular dance and folk song performances, as well as a procession of samurai warriors dressed in full armor. The dancing is believed to enhance the vitality of the rice grains leading to a successful harvest. Held at the picturesque Itadori Village in Seki City, Gifu Prefecture.

The ajisai or hydrangea are a symbol of June and the rainy season in Japan. The Ajisai Matsuri starts at the Ajisai Mura (village) with the whole area filled with around 10,000 beautiful hydrangea flowers. Lining the Itadori River is the “Hydrangea Road”, which is a 24 kilometer-long stretch of road containing around 7,000 hydrangea of various colours. The Himeji Yukata Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Western Japan. The festival, which dates back more than 260 years features three days of colourful yukata, as well as around 800 open air night stalls that line the street in the city center. Highlights of the festival include a yukata parade, a yukata fashion show and various dance and music performances. John Asano is a blogger, traveler and freelance writer living in Gifu, Japan. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, he has lived in Japan now for over 12 years. John loves nothing better than picking up his camera and exploring all the amazing sights and attractions that Japan has to offer. He writes about the must see sights and attractions in Japan at Japan Travel Advice, as well as about Japanese culture and modern life on his blog Japan Australia.

With all the places to visit in Tokyo, you’d think you need an eternity to discover the city. That and its size—with an area of 845 square miles and metro area population of nearly 38 million, Tokyo is by most measures the largest city on the planet. The truth of the matter might come as a relief to you, whether you have 10 days in Japan or an entire month: You can see the best Tokyo has to offer in just a few days. The place you choose to sleep in Tokyo has a big impact on how you enjoy your trip, though quality accommodation is available at every income level.

In my opinion, the minimum amount of time you want to spend in Tokyo is two days, which will allow you to see the most important attractions of the city (though one day in Tokyo is technically possible). After breakfast in your hotel on day one, ride the Tokyo Metro to Asakusa station, where you can experience Tokyo history in the district of the same name, visiting ancient Senso-ji Temple and the ultra-modern Tokyo SkyTree. Ride the Ginza line to Omote-sando, and stroll down the famous boulevard to Harajuku, home both to wild Takeshita Street and the serene Meiji Shrine.