WHERE Tokyo is a bustling metropolis and Kyoto is a stickler for tradition, Osaka is more eccentric in its appeal. The exciting street food, restored Osaka castle and iconic Glico running man – they all make for an experience that’s unique to Osaka.
On top of that, Osaka serves as a crosspoint for travelers from Southeast Asia; many travelers cross over to Tokyo and Kyoto after landing in Osaka. And you know what they say about first impressions…
When in the city, consider these hotels that are both central and modern, but somewhat still Japanese in their style and draw.
In the heart of Namba is Swissôtel Nankai Osaka, a five-star hotel that sits right above Nankai’s Railway Namba Station which connects you to the city’s most-visited tourist attractions, including out-of-town destinations like Nara and Kobe. As a bonus, it’s only the only hotel in Osaka that directly links to Kansai International Airport.
The hotel is also close to the Shinbaishi, a covered shopping arcade where you can buy just about anything. Trawl through displays of kitchenware, secondhand kimonos, rare records, and video games, or if you prefer, simply watch the crowds roll by while eating okonomiyaki, a type of grilled savory pancake topped with squiggles of sauce.
After a long day of exploring, the hotel will prove as restful solace especially if you’re booked into the Swiss Advantage Room, a modern blend of work and play. Rooms come with free wireless internet, free access to the gym and pool, a Nespresso coffee machine, and an ergonomic desk chair.
While Osaka is something of a culinary haven, the hotel’s in-house restaurants too are impressive if you don’t feel like stepping out. Hana-Goyomi is an elegant space that takes pride in Kyoto-style kaiseki meals, Minami is a fast-paced teppanyaki restaurant and especially great for the kids, and Tavola36 is on the hotel’s top floor is a glitzy entry for a special occasion. Read more…
An hour from Kansai International Airport and smack in the heart of the city is Hilton Osaka, an especially handy option if easy access is important to you when on holiday. The hotel is directly connected to a large shopping mall, Grand Front Osaka Mall, and is just across the city’s main train station from where you can shuttle to the other attractions and sites.
If traveling with family, the unique Japanese Suite is a city alternative to a ryokan experience. Light wood accents, a minimalist set-up, a spacious Japanese-style bathroom, and Yukatas in place of bathrobes are just some of the details to get both adults and kids excited. A bonus: Large windows look out to glitzy city views, always a boon when in Osaka.
Parents with kids need not worry about restlessness as the hotel offers babysitting services on request, high chairs, playpens, a children’s menu, and cribs. Plus, the family-friendly pool, fitness room, and on-request walking tours are bound to get those little minds occupied, even during the last leg of the holiday.
For a dinner of grilled Kobe with a side of sake, Genji Restaurant is an Osaka specialty and suitably decked out in dark wooden slats and subtle mood lighting. Meanwhile, Dynasty Restaurant is a showcase of Guangdong specialties served in a lavish setting. For special occasions, the seafood special shared on a round table is the way to go.
Overlooking the beautiful Okawa riverbank is Imperial Hotel Osaka, a celebration of traditional Japanese hospitality. During cherry blossom season, the riverbank takes on a pastel pink hue, akin to a fairy tale. In fact, it remains one of the top sakura-viewing spots in all of Japan with approximately 4,000 trees in bloom.
Every summer, the famous Tenjin Festival is held in the area and usually includes a land and river procession accompanied by fireworks. The lively festivities are an excellent opportunity to witness traditional costumes and colorful parades, and the spectacle can be observed from the compound of the hotel.
If traveling with family, rooms on the Imperial Floor have all the makings of a luxurious Japanese experience and embody the spirit of omotenashi – the culture of selfless Japanese hospitality. The Junior Suite comes with plush bathroom amenities, a mist sauna, private bar, Japanese tea sets, cotton kimonos, and an array of men’s toiletries, including aftershave and hair tonic.
You’ll also be spoilt for choice at meal times whether you opt for fine French cuisine at Les Saisons, open-grilled meats at Kamon, course Chinese meals at Jasmine Garden, or impeccable sushi at Kyubey. For an experience that strays from tradition, Osaka Nadaman experiments with modern techniques for interesting results.
*Some of the properties featured in this article are commercial partners of Travel Wire Asia