There have been several Gaijinpot articles about Christmas being the time for romance and KFC. However, Christmas time isn’t just about dates and fried chicken. In Osaka, there are plenty of family friendly activities that you can enjoy for free.
Osaka Festival of Lights (光の饗宴 Hikari no Kyoen)
During the holiday season, you can enjoy illuminations all around Osaka. The main programs are the Osaka Hikari Renaissance 2015 and the Midosuji Illumination 2015. The Osaka Hikari Renaissance program has projection mapping and a number of other special exhibitions and events. It takes place around Osaka City Hall and Nakanoshima Park from 5pm to 10pm every evening, with some events starting around 4pm. The program runs until December 25th.
While enjoying the park is free, there is one special mapping event that can only be accessed with the appropriate ticket or pass book. The ticket scheme for foreign tourists differs greatly from the domestic scheme and requires that you show a copy of your passport.
The Japanese ticket scheme is 1,200 yen for the Hikari-pass (光パス). There is no rule stating that foreigners can’t buy this passbook, though it is not marketed to foreigners. It is an all Japanese language passbook that contains information about area restaurants, their various chefs, premium menu dishes, and other factoids. The pass can be used to enter the Special Wall Tapestry event and get discounts on specific premium dishes at upscale restaurants. There are no free meal tickets at the stands around the park.
The foreign tourist ticket scheme is 1,800 yen. This price is limited to only foreigners and cannot be purchased by Japanese citizens. It includes 3 special food tickets for free dishes at food stands around the park and an entry ticket for the Special Wall Tapestry event. The individual dishes can cost from 300 yen to 800 yen. Simple math shows that the majority of the tourist price is for the food tickets. If you plan on eating the more expensive snacks as you walk around the park, you could potentially add a cheap or free exclusive show if you buy the tickets.
The Midosuji Illumination takes place along the Midosuji Avenue, from the Hanshin-Mae intersection to the Namba Nishiguchi intersection. Last year, the Midosuji Illumination was awarded the Guinness record for the greatest number of illuminations. This year, the Midosuji has been divided into 4 zones, each representing a season. The spring zone is pink to represent the many Osakan cherry blossom trees, the summer zone is blue to represent the sparkling blue canals that make the city an “Aqua Metropolis,” the autumn zone is yellow to represent the many gingko trees along the Midosuji, and the winter zone is white to represent the snowy trees of Mt. Kongo. You can also find monuments of light at various points along the Midosuji.
Umeda Snowman Festival
Umeda has been taken over by snowmen. There are 61 businesses with snowman displays and 36 restaurants with snowman specific dishes. There are about 10 snowman “park” displays as well. There is a special snowman stamp rally for collecting stamps at various stores in each of the 3 stamp areas. There are rewards for completing individual areas and the whole stamp card. The rally points are open until December 25th. There is also a snowman photo contest that also runs until the 25th, with winners decided on the 26th.
For more information: umeda-connect.jp/special/vol16 (Japanese)
German Christmas Market Osaka (ドイツ・クリスマスマーケット大阪)
Also located in Umeda at the Sky Building, the German Christmas Market is back again this year until December 25th. It has nearly the same booths as last year, though this year they added German style sheet pizzas, spätzle, and a train ride for children. While things can get quite pricey, it is free to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere and music.
I was pleasantly surprised that they increased the size of the place name on the cup this year. Last year, they had interlocking heart cups with the name of the market so small, I didn’t notice it at first. This year, they have a clear glass cup with a frosted scene and the name of the market, just like you would get from a Christmas Market in Germany. Again, they have non-alcoholic beverages as well as the typical glüwein, so you don’t need to feel pressured into drinking wine. The mulled juice they served as non-alcoholic glüwein was quite tasty.
For more information: www.skybldg.co.jp/event/xmarkt/2015 (Japanese)