Culture & Entertainment
When It Comes to Culture and Entertainment, Osaka Has Something for Everyone
Osaka buzzes with energy at any time of day or night. Many forms of entertainment, such as live performances, begin once the workday is over. Trains and subways also run until late at night so there's plenty of time to enjoy the evening. For visitors interested in learning about Japan's traditional arts, there's Bunraku, Noh, Kyogen and Kabuki. For those who like humor, Osaka is famous for its comedy, which is presented in various forms. Hollywood movies are shown at movie theaters around the city, while virtually every variety of major dance, opera, symphony and concert can be enjoyed here.
Osakans love on-stage entertainment. The city's economic affluence during the 18th and 19th centuries led to the development of many distinctive styles of performance such as Bunraku, Noh, Kyogen and Kabuki.
Bunraku: Osaka is the birthplace of Bunraku, the most surprising and exciting puppet theater in the world. Bunraku is a combination of three artistic components: the narration, the three-stringed shamisen, and the puppets. The large puppets are usually manipulated by three puppeteers, and such close control gives them the power to display an extraordinary gracefulness and human-like expressiveness. It was registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003. Bunraku is performed regularly at the National Bunraku Theater, built in 1984.
Noh Drama: Noh, the oldest remaining theater art in the world, is known for its simple and strictly defined movements, for its use of beautiful, artistically crafted masks, and for its unique form of dialogue reminiscent of a bygone age. A program of Noh always includes Kyogen, comedy plays that taught morality to the common people in medieval times and provided comic relief from the serious tone of the Noh plays themselves. Noh and Kyogen are performed at the Osaka Nohgaku-kaikan Theater and the Ohtsuki Noh Theatre; every July, Noh plays are also shown after dark by torchlight in the Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden.
Kabuki: Originally, Kabuki emerged as dances done by women at the beginning of the 17th century in Kyoto. They created such a sensation that the Tokugawa Shogunate banned them; these dances were then succeeded by dances performed by men, developing into Kabuki as it now exists. Kabuki plays, most of which date from the 17th and 18th centuries, became wildly popular with the general public because they combined colorful costumes, lavish sets, brilliant stage devices and superior acting skills of highly trained actors. In many ways Kabuki can be considered a Japanese form of the musical, due to its strong emphasis on dance, stylized libretto which resembles singing, and interesting stories of love, honor, loyalty and betrayal. Performances are held regularly by leading actors at the Osaka Shochikuza theater.
Osaka city is also home to and birthplace of a number of modern styles of comedy and entertainment.
Rakugo & Manzai: Osakans love a hearty laugh. That's why in more recent times the Osaka-Kyoto area's unique style of entertainment, called kamigata, diverged into rakugo and manzai, two types of comedy, both born in Osaka. Rakugo is a type of stylized comic monologue delivered by a single storyteller seated on the floor in front of a tiny desk. Manzai, on the other hand, is a vaudeville-like stand-up comedy routine put on by a pair of comedians. Rakugo, manzai and other comedic skits are performed on a daily basis at the Namba Grand Kagetsu Theater either at Waha Kamigata (Museum of Kamigata Comedy and Performing Arts)
Concerts, Live Music & other Entertainment
Osaka is a frequent tour stop for concerts by world-renowned rock musicians. Osaka also offers a highly-diverse mix of classical and contemporary live music, including everything from classical symphony to popular ballads.
Concerts & Live Music: There are many concert halls in Osaka that showcase the best talent in rock, jazz and classical music. There is, of course, Festival Hall, the Kansai Region's preeminent music hall, which is located in Nakanoshima and seats more than 2,700 people. A wide range of musical performances are held here. Adjacent to Festival Hall is the smaller, multi-purpose Recital Hall, a fine 563-seat venue. There is also Osaka-jo Hall, an enormous oval, 16,000-seat multi-purpose facility situated within Osaka Castle Park. The ORIX Theater is another multi-purpose venue, one that often hosts concerts by famous performers from overseas. Namba Hatch, located inside the main ward of the octagonal Minatomachi River Place, is one of the biggest music halls of its kind in Japan, with standing room for 1,500 people, and features both up-and-coming artists and famous big names. For classical music there is Symphony Hall, where many of the world's top musicians and soloists have performed. The 250-seat Ishihara Hall has its own string orchestra and shows premier performances. Izumi Hall, with its warm wooden interior, was designed after a famous music hall in Vienna. The remarkable Phoenix Hall is designated for chamber music, and has a large window at the back of the stage so viewers can see nighttime views of the Kita Area. For jazz lovers, there are a number of live jazz venues around the city, including Billboard Live OSAKA, which showcases the finest jazz talent from both overseas and Japan.
Opera & Ballet: Major opera and ballet companies from Europe and the U.S. visit Osaka on a regular basis. Most of their lavish productions are staged at Festival Hall. On occasion, traveling troupes put on Broadway musicals at Festival Hall or ORIX Theater. The spectacular Canadian show, Le Cirque du Soleil, makes regular visits and performs in a special tent in the Nanko area. Disney on Ice also visits Osaka every summer with dazzling shows at Osaka-jo Hall. The Takarazuka Grand Theater is home of the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female troupe that has performed to sold-out audiences overseas.
Movie Theaters: Hollywood, European, Asian and nationally produced films are shown at many cinemas in Osaka. If you happened to miss a film while it was showing back home, you should have no problems seeing it in Osaka. There are three multiplexes in Umeda: the Navio Toho-plex; Brug 7; and Piccadilly Theater. Cinemas in Namba include the Shikishima Cine Pop. Arthouse films are shown at three cinemas in Umeda: the Garden Cinema; Cine Libre; and the Teatoru. You can also see the same at the Shinsaibashi Cinema Deux and Cine Nouveau in the Kujo area.
Cuisine & Gastronomy
Enjoy the Gourmet Capital of Japan
It's said that the people of Osaka are happy and openhearted because they eat good food. Since ancient times, the best of the land and sea has found its way to the great city, spawning Osaka's "kuidaore" (eat until you drop) culture, and creating countless excellent places to eat.
Eating in the City of "Kuidaore"
"Kuidaore," which literally means "eat until you drop" or "stuff yourself until you can't eat anymore," describes Osaka's food loving culture. Osaka chefs take great pride in their craft, and Osaka eaters take great pleasure in their eating. As a result, Osaka has great food. Whether it be traditional Japanese meals, local dishes or foods from other countries, you'll find a little bit of everything--at a wide range of prices.
You'll also find all sorts of restaurants, ranging from high-class establishments to local neighborhood shops that resemble British pubs. Family style restaurants offer menus with various dishes for adults and children alike. Noodle and beef bowl shops are the place to catch a quick bite when you're pressed for time. We also suggest you try a cup of coffee at a traditional Japanese kissaten.
The widest selection of restaurants is in Osaka's main entertainment districts, with the highest concentration of all in the Umeda (Kita) and Dotombori (Minami) areas. Many restaurants display a menu with photographs and prices. Others have realistic-looking wax and plastic models of menu items with prices in their showcase windows.
Delicious and Inexpensive
Since its beginnings, Osaka has had an entrepreneurial character, which in turn led to higher and higher demand for culinary skills. Daring chefs and restaurant owners always willing to take a chance and incorporate new and novel methods have created many unique dishes and exquisite delicacies. As a focal point of trade during the Edo Period, fresh food from all over Japan and the globe found its way to Osaka--and fueled the Osakan passion for great tasting food at reasonable prices.
Every season of the year in Osaka has its festivals and events. From the beautiful cherry blossom viewing in Spring to the dynamic Tenjin Matsuri Festival in the summer and the festivities on Mido-Suji Avenue in Autumn, Osaka's annual events are like a clock, marking the passage of the year in the great metropolis.
- Sumo March Tournament (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium): One of the six major tournaments held throughout Japan. (Mid-march)
- Spring Equinox Festival (Shitennoji): One of the Buddhist rituals held each spring and Autumn that attracts crowds of people. (18-24th)
- Osaka Asian Film Festival
- April Bunraku Performance (National Bunraku Theatre) (early April)
- Cherry Blossom Viewing (Late March - early April)
- apan Mint Cherry Blossom Viewing: This event has been running for more than 120 years. (early-mid April)
- Spring Shipping Festival (Temmabashi): Good season to enjoy cherry blossoms at the waterside along the Okawa river (Mid-Late April)
- Memorial Ceremony for Prince Shotoku (Shitennoji): Bugaku is performed on the anniversary of the death of Prince Shotoku, one of Japan's famous sages. This ceremony features historical music and dance and has been carried out for more that 1,400 years. (22nd)
- International Jazz Day: Osaka International music festival & Asian music Award ceremony, special event in 2014 (25-30th)
- Rose Garden Viewing (Nagain Botanical Gardens, Nakanoshima Park, Utsubo Park, Tsurumi-Ryokuchi, etc.)
- Midosuji Festa / Kappo (Shinsaibashi-Namba intersections): Renowned for its beautiful ginkgo trees, the main street of Osaka is closed off to vehicles for use exclusively by pedestrians.
- Shirokita Iris Viewing (Shirokita Garden)
- RED BULL X-FIGHTERS OSAKA 2013: The world championship, motocross free style action at Osaka Castle. (Special event, June 1st 2013)
- June Bunraku Appreciation Seminar (National Bunraku Theatre)
- O-Taue Shinji (rice planing ceremony) (Sumiyoshi-taisha Grand Shrine): An important event in Japan where the staple food is rice, this ceremony has been designated an important intangible folk heritage.
- Hydrangea Viewing (Zama Shrine, etc.)
- Lotus Viewing (Nagai Botanical Gardens)
- Aizen Festival (Shoman-in Temple): This is the first of the summer festivals in Osaka and features women clad in traditional summer dress (yukata) being carried on long palanquins.
- Heisei OSAKA Legend of the Milky Way (Temmabashi Sta.): The Okawa River becomes the Milky Way on the night of the Star Festival: thousands of lights float on the water.
- Ikutama Shrine Summer Festival: This is the summer festival of one of the most prestigious shrines in the city.
- Kumata Shirine Summer Festival: A dynamic festival where nine floats are pulled around the city.
- Tenjin Matsuri Festival (Osaka Temmangu Shrine): One of the three largest festivals in Japan. On the evening of the 25th more than one hundred boats crowd the Okawa river in the climax of the event.
- Special Summer Hoiday Bunraku Performance (National Bunraku Theater)
- Sumiyoshi Matsuri Festival (Sumiyoshi-taisha Grand Shrine): The finale of the summer festivals, this event features a large thatched ring through which people pass in a cleansing ritual.
- Naniwa Yodo River Fireworks Display (near Jusu Ohashi bridge)
- Osaka Takigi Noh by Torchlight (Ikutama Jinja Shrine)
- Urabon-e (Buddhist All Souls Day) (Shitennoji): A candlelight memorial service for those who have passed.
- Asian Youth Orchestra: International Concert Tour.
- The International Red-White Singing Contest: A karaoke-style contest where Japanese sing in foreign languages, visitors sing in Japanese.
- Dance Delight 2013: The 20th year of the worlds largest and most well-known street dance competition, started in Osaka.
- Osaka Classic (Midosuji Area): A musical event that sees various locations along Midosuji Avenue turned into concert venues to delight fans of classical music.
- Moon Festival (Osaka Temmangu and Sumiyoshi-taisha Grand Shrine)
- Autumn Equinox Festival (Shitennoji): Please refer to the Spring Equinox Festival
- Dango Chakai (Tamatsukuri Inari Jinja Shrine): Tea is served with sweet dumplings at this shrine which has long been associated with Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the most significant figures in Japanese history.
- World Super Junior Tennis Championships (Utsubo Tennis Center): The gateway to success for the world's top junior players.
- Aqua Metropolis OSAKA Festival (Nakanoshima, etc.): The festival's theme is urbanscape and waterfront. Walking and boat tours and many other experiences are available.
- Osaka Marathon (INTEX Osaka etc.)
- November Bunraku Performance (National Bunraku Theater)
- Shinno-sai Festival (Sukunahikona Jinja Shrine): People come to celebrate Japan's gods of medicine, the symbol of the festival is branches of bamboo grass with a hanging paper tiger.
- Autumn Colours (Osaka Castle Park, Midosuji Avenue etc.): Enjoy the autumn foliage at various sites within the city.
- Danjiri Matsuri: A special Danjiri festival in the Osaka Castle Area.
- Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, Asia
- Osaka Hikari-Renaissance (Nakanoshima and Midosuji areas): The area around Nakanoshima and Midosuji including the water is floodlit at night.
- New Years Eve Celebrations (Shitennoji, Bay area, etc.): Events are held in various locations throughout the city (Noh Theater and various halls, etc.) to see in the New Year. Bells are rung and whistles are sounded at midnight.
- Illumination in Osaka Castle
- OSAKA Great Santa Run
- New Year Visits to Temples and Shrines (Various locations throughout the city): Traditional Japanese New Year Celebrations include seeing in the New Year at Shitennoji and visiting Sumiyoshi-taisha Grand Shrine the following day.
- Early Spring Bunraku Performance (National Bunraku Theater)
- Toka Ebisu (Imamiya-Ebisu Jinja Shrine, Horikawa-Ebisu Jinja Shrine): One of the many festivals in the city where people go to wish for prosperity in business for the coming year.
- Doya-Doya (Shitennoji): A unique festival where young men fight for good luck.
- Osaka Women's Marathon (Nagai Stadium): A grew opportunity to see top runners from throughout the world competing in marathons.
- End of Winter (Abiko Kannon, Various locations throughout the city): In Japan, February 4th historically marks the beginning of Spring. on the day before, people scatted beans to bring good luck.
- Plum Blossom Viewing (Osaka Castle Park): People come from throughout the Kansai area to enjoy the beautiful and fragrance of the plum blossoms in Osaka Castle Park.