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Groovy Osaka: Tis the Season

A night of German Christmas cheer in Osaka, Japan.

By 4 min read 1

With all the holidays coming up, this time of year can be very difficult for expats. A great way to cope with the various stressors is to go out and do something fun. This time of year, Osaka is full of fun things to do and see.

I had heard rumors of an iceless iceskating rink and a German Christmas market, or Weihnachtsmarkt, in Umeda. I have fond memories of such activities from various points of my life, so my husband and I decided to go out and have some much needed fun.

We drove into the city and parked in Shinsaibashi, where parking is a bit cheaper. We made our way to the subway and took that to Umeda station. In the small square between Osaka/Umeda station and the Grand Front building, there are man made stairway waterfalls and fountains. In the center of the square, there is now a modest sized resin iceskating rink. To the side of the rink furthest away from the Grand Front building is a very small German Christmas market.

While I enjoyed watching the families skating around the rink, I decided to just enjoy the view. As it gets dark, the rink is illuminated, so the atmosphere is quite enjoyable. At 1,500 yen for adults and 1,000 yen for children, nobody seemed to regret their time spent on the resin. All the people there looked as if they were enjoying themselves, and the turnover seemed very low.

I have to admit that my favorite activity is eating. While the small winter market by the rink didn’t have an over-abundance of German food, the soup stand had goulash. I think have to clarify that it was the Hungarian style goulash, not the American style. American goulash is typically a noodle casserole-like dish, but Hungarian goulash is like a beef soup or stew. If you have a craving for beef soup, I would highly recommend it. For 800 yen, it’s a bit pricy, but our bowl was full of tender beef. We both felt that the quantity and quality was worth the price.

After sitting and recharging for a bit, we made our way to the official Osaka Weihnachtsmarkt a short walk away at the Sky building. As we walked under the illuminated arbors that read, “Willkommen zum Weihnachtsmarkt,” I felt like I was back in Germany, albeit much warmer. The stalls and all the decorations were authentic.

Of course, if you were expecting the epic list of sausage varieties at the sausage stand, you would be very disappointed. The sausage varieties were limited to red and white bratwurst. However, once you get beyond the lack of variety, the entire experience is quite satisfying.

Our first stop was the bratwurst stand, trying both types of sausages. It has been a while since I was in Germany, but the quality and size of the brats seemed fine. We were quite hungry, so we weren’t focused on being too critical. Across from the bratwurst stand was the gingerbread and roasted nut stand. I nearly cried for joy.

If you are unfamiliar with the roasted nuts found at German Christmas markets, then please take a moment to cleanse your mind of images of canned nuts. As with most canned food, it is a mockery of the real deal. Try to imagine the fresh roasted nut stands of New York City. Imagine something akin to a popcorn cart but with a big hot kettle of sugary nutty goodness. Peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews – all your favorites are freshly made and are served in a paper cone.

The stand showcased a gentleman making gingerbread cookies while another made the nuts. Even if you don’t buy the goods, which are quite pricy at about 800yen per 100g, watching is fascinating. I splurged and bought Turkish Delight, several bags of various nuts, and a gingerbread rocking horse.

We walked around and viewed all the craft stands that encircled the large Christmas tree. It really did feel like a German market. I even got the iconic mulled wine, or Glüwein, with the market specific collectible mug. German Christmas markets typically have an official collectible mug with the market name on it, and Osaka is no different. However, the name on the Osaka mug is very small and I nearly missed it.

The cups are unique in that they are heart shaped and the red mugs can interlock with the white ones. The mug is also sold with non-alcoholic drinks, so you don’t need to feel pressured to drink alcohol. My husband got the cocoa and wasn’t disappointed.

After further gorging ourselves on German potatoes, soup, and freshly sliced hot ham and bologna sandwiches, we decided to call it a night. The line at the bakery stand for fresh donuts, stollen, and baumkuchen was a bit long, so we skipped it and made our way home. The evening was quite wonderful and did so much to lighten my spirits. If we have free time between now and Christmas, I will certainly be making another visit.

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  • Bjarne says:

    Great article!
    Was in Osaka the last years but sadly they never had that Ice Skating part before….
    Nevertheless I wanted to add that there is also a German type of goulash which is just slightly different of the hungarian but exspeacialy meet heavy too.
    So you might just have expired tge German type 😉



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