In the weeks before Christmas, trying to source gifts for everybody you know in both Japan and your home country can be, what’s the word…? Stressful. I remember when I was a child my dad came home one night, a few days before Christmas, veins popping out of his head, short of breath and looking very flustered.
‘Dad, what’s wrong?’ 9 year old me asked.
“Oh, just a hard day at work son, don’t worry,” he said.
About 72 hours later, when I opened up my shiny new Sega Mega Drive, the must-have Christmas gift that year, I understood. It had taken him trips to 12 different stores across central Scotland before he had finally found the Mega Drive and Sonic The Hedgehog bundle.
These days, online retail, large-scale department stores and numerous intermediaries make Christmas shopping a lot simpler. And shopping is one area where Japan really does excel, especially around high volume sales periods such as Christmas and the New Year. Here’s a quick guide to reliable places in Osaka that will mean you hopefully won’t end up on a wild goose chase like my father. Thanks, Pa.
Where to shop for Christmas gifts in Osaka
If you shop at high-end department stores such as Hankyu, Takashimaya and the like, not only are the goods of excellent quality, they’ll also come fully gift-wrapped, saving a great deal of time and effort especially if your attempts to wrap even the smallest of items usually end in a confused ball of paper, sellotape and tears of frustration.
Umeda Christmas Market
One of my favorite experiences around Christmas time is to visit the Umeda Christmas Market, in the courtyard underneath the Umeda Sky Building. As well as the hot wine that takes the edge off the frosty weather, there are also numerous stalls selling festive food, drinks and gifts from Germany and other parts of Europe. For festive trinkets and imported chocolates and alcohol, the Christmas market is the place to be.
If you want to go after something a bit more upmarket, a good place to shop would be Namba Parks. This multi-level shopping and entertainment complex has a huge range of fashion and jewelry stores, as well as electronics, fine foods, cosmetics and just about everything else for those looking for some gift-buying inspiration. The Christmas light show on the rooftop makes for a very romantic dating spot too!
If you’re looking to buy a gift for an especially tech-savvy relative, or someone like me who is an unashamed geek, look no further than Den-Den Town in the Nipponbashi district, about 10 minutes’ walk from Namba. This cosplayers’ paradise is also home to some of the best bargain electronics, video games and anime memorabilia in Japan. It’s the perfect place to go for that hard-to-find PS4 game or anime action figure that simply isn’t available in mainstream stores.
Osaka Grand Front
At the very high end of things, Osaka Grand Front, next to JR Osaka Station offers not only some of the finest fashions and accessories in the world but also – on the seventh floor of the towers – some of the best restaurants, many of which offer special festive menus where you can treat your loved one to a Christmas Dinner they will never forget.
A bit of advice
When buying gifts for your co-workers, don’t buy anything too expensive. Also, in the interest of fairness and to avoid causing offense, be sure to buy the same or similar gifts for everyone in your department too.
In my current school, we only have a faculty of ten teachers so for me, it’s easy. However, if you’re working in a school of 30 or 40 teachers then perhaps just a small cookie or other snack is appropriate. The main reasoning behind this is that your colleagues will feel obligated to reciprocate on any item that you buy for them. A gift given in Japan to a colleague or friend usually results in something similar being given back to you a few days later. If you’re not careful you can end up being drawn into a kind of competitive gift-giving spiral that will only do damage to everybody’s savings!
Overall, Osaka isn’t a bad city at all for shopping, and since the locals love bartering for the best deal, you could also save a fair bit of cash too if you shop around this Christmas.