A decade ago in Osaka, my first home abroad, via Instagram

I will always have a special place in my heart for Osaka because it was my first home abroad, and because I truly loved living there and was so sad to leave. It is difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t lived there quite why I loved Osaka so much. Even visiting as a tourist, I suspect, might not be quite the same. I still have the same worries I wrote about last year in my post on “privileged places”:

I fear that it’s the kind of city that grows on you, that you love because you live there and know where the funny little man is with the delicious takoyaki snacks or you know exactly how to use the ticket machines at the station; that if you visit just for a week or two that it might seem just like a grey, smoggy city, punctuated with occasional patches of temple or park beauty.

Looking through my (rather large) collection of photos from my time in Osaka, it strikes me that for a large city that could be seen as drab and grey, my pictures suggest a lot of colour and fun.

The colourful Glico man in Namba

Neon lights near Dotonbori Bridge in Osaka

You can’t get much more colourful than the neon of central Osaka and especially the famous Glico man next to the Dotonbori Bridge in Namba. Osaka has a couple of centres but Namba was my “local”, because that’s where my train line ended. It’s really an Osakan cliché to have photos like this, but I can actually feel the bustle and buzz of Namba just by seeing it. It reminds me of the giant crab opposite, and an Indian meal I had next to the crab, and of 100 yen shops I frequented, and of the English-language bookshop just down the mall from here, and so much more.

Who makes 8-metre okonomiyaki?

Osakans decided to break the world record for the largest okonomiyaki

 Surely this is an only-in-Osaka moment. One of my students gave me the tip that there would be a record-breaking attempt to cook an eight-metre wide okonomiyaki (a traditional food – kind of like a cabbage pancake) in the grounds of Osaka Castle Park. It took quite a few hours longer than planned but I stayed until the end and tried a piece – sadly, it was far from the most delicious okonomiyaki I’d ever eaten, but it was exciting to be there. I’ve just done a little surfing to discover that the Guinness Book of World Records still lists this one as the biggest ever.

Sumo wrestling tournaments in Osaka

Ceremonial beginnings to a sumo tournament in Osaka

I think I fitted in three different sumo tournaments during my two years in Osaka. What a spectacle! My three-year-old recently saw some sumo wrestling on TV and was captivated, keeps talking about it. I can understand that. To modern Western eyes it’s a crazy sport, barely a sport, even, but I became addicted, and knew all about the leading wrestlers back then.

Sunflower festival excursions near Osaka

Sunflowers at a festival near Osaka

I made what I thought was a casual remark to one of my students-turned-friends in Japan, the dear Yuko, about how sunflowers were my favourite flowers. Not entirely to my surprise a couple of weeks later, she had discovered a local sunflower festival and arranged an outing for a group of us. It was gorgeous – sunflowers galore and every sunflower by-product you’ve heard of and a bunch you hadn’t. The sunflower ice cream was the most popular because it was a terribly hot and humid day, yet all the Japanese friends in our group traipsed on regardless without a complaint. Another fond memory from my Japanese collection.

Seasons changing in Osaka


The Osakans know how to make the most of a change of season. Unlike us down here in Perth, where winter suddenly turns to summer and summer pretty much melds itself into winter with just a touch of a season in between, in Osaka there is a definite autumn or fall and a truly gorgeous spring, and numerous events and excursions are organised to make sure you enjoy them. I think the cherry blossom viewing of spring time is my absolute favourite time of year in Osaka, but the amazing colours of leaves during autumn is a very close second.

Cherry blossom at Osaka Castle

I’ll return to Osaka within the next couple of years for a visit with my family and I really hope they enjoy it as much as I want them to. It’s a really special place.


I’m linking up for Instagram Travel Thursday – take a look at some other gorgeous travel bloggers and their Instagram explorations.

Comments

  1. Beautiful cherry blossoms – I have seen amazing images from Japan during the bloom and would love to experience it. I would love to visit Japan in general anyway. We would have gone there when we lived in China, but the radiation readings were still up after the nuclear issues so we didn’t feel safe doing so. And now it’ s a long way from England to Japan, but maybe one day!

  2. Beautiful photos! Visiting Japan during cherry blossom season has always been on my travel wish list – hopefully I will get there to see them one day!!

  3. Amanda, those last two photos are gorgeous. So pretty.

    • Thanks Leigh – it’s a proper spring and autumn that I miss here in Western Australia – we really just have a long, long summer and a mild winter. Not so pretty!

  4. We have a Cherry blossom WEEK here in Toronto but it’s nothing compared to Osaka’s I bet!

  5. I’ve never been to Osaka but would like to go. I especially love the cherry blossom image!

  6. Ohhh, the cherry blossoms! Much prettier than the sumo wrestlers ;-) Seriously tho’, must be so lovely there in the Spring.

  7. I really want to go to Japan someday, the problem is I can’t decide whether to go in winter for snowboarding or in spring to see the cherry blossoms. Tough choices! :)

    • I have two possibilities for you Kea – go twice (my choice!) or go to see the cherry blossom down in Okinawa and fly up to Hokkaido to snowboard, it’s such a long skinny country that those seasons will overlap!

  8. Wow, I’m so glad to have found your blog through IG Travel Thursday! You’ve traveled so much and I’m looking forward to looking through your archives. I’ve always, always wanted to see Japan in the spring with the cherry blossoms…but I also hear it’s amazing in the fall! Thank you for sharing your experience and your lovely photos. :)

    • Thanks so much Amy – yes, I’ve been very lucky to travel a lot (yet I feel there is still SOOOO much left to see!). Yes, fall/autumn is also spectacular in Japan. Ideally you need to see both!!

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