Osaka is one of Japan's leading tourist destinations. With tons of entertainment and delicious food, no wonder it’s so popular, both in Japan and overseas. However, many foreign tourists have also had some experiences that were just "not quite what they expected!" Here, travelers share what surprised them the most about Osaka people and about their first trip to Osaka.
*The following article reflects the personal opinions and impressions of the interviewees based on their past trip(s) to Osaka.
Osaka People Are So Friendly and Talkative
"I stopped by Osaka when I was going to meet a Japanese friend from Kobe. While traveling through Kyoto, Osaka, and especially the Namba area of Osaka, I realized that Osaka people are really friendly and talkative! I was so surprised by how cheerful everyone in the city seemed to be. Lots of people were chatting and laughing out loud. It seemed very different from Tokyo." (Male, Indonesia)
Many foreign visitors have the impression that Japanese people are shy. And indeed, many Japanese do prefer to keep to themselves, appearing rather quiet, and in some cases cold, to foreigners.
However, that's not the case with all people in Japan. There are so many talkative and expressive people in Japan, especially in Osaka. Osaka people have a reputation for being "surprisingly" friendly! In fact, it is not uncommon for these people from Osaka to get asked in jest, "Are you really Japanese?" or told, "You're so different from most Japanese people I know!"
Many tourists have stories about getting lost or having trouble, only to be saved by a kind, old lady from Osaka. "Osaka people certainly do seem more talkative than in Tokyo!" There is probably no other place in Japan where people talk to each other as casually as they do in Osaka.
Surprisingly, Many Osaka People Speak English
"I think some people in the shopping center may have spoken to me in Japanese, but unfortunately, I couldn't understand what they were saying. I could only understand 'Arigatou' (thank you). The dialect is different there. However, there were also quite a few Osaka people in the shopping area who spoke English, which brought me some peace of mind.
I was also surprised to have found a prayer room at Osaka Station. I always had the impression that people in Osaka were not as aware of foreign culture and languages, so to find such consideration had been taken was a huge surprise." (Male, Indonesia)
One surprising thing for overseas travelers during their first trip to Osaka is the 'Osaka-ben' or even 'Kansai-ben' dialect. The dialect of Osaka has such unique words and intonations; even some Japanese people cannot understand it! So it makes sense that even tourists who know some Japanese may struggle with Osaka-ben.
Many tourists also believe that 'Japanese people can't speak English.' Our interviewee from Indonesia admits, he also thought the same. However, upon visiting Japan, he encountered plenty of Osaka people who could speak English in the city's shopping streets and was able to engage in plenty of conversation. Indeed, many people in the shopping district must communicate in English when doing business with tourists daily.
Also, the prayer room at Osaka Station had become nationally known and was a trending topic at the time. Osaka has been paying attention to the influx of foreign tourists since early on and has been making accommodations for visitors to Japan. In addition to the prayer room, multilingual support on tourism-related websites and free Wi-Fi hotspots have created a foreigner-friendly environment in Osaka where tourists can enjoy sightseeing stress-free.
"I was impressed by the fashion. Many Osaka people were dressed in a way that you don't come across very often in Tokyo. They wore brighter and more flashy clothing." (Male, Indonesia)
The signature fashion style of Osaka people seems to be leopard print and flashy colors. Even older women in Osaka just love to wear flashy outfits.
Truthfully, even other Japanese people might be shocked when visiting Osaka and seeing older women in bright yellow tiger-print T-shirts with purple pants or a red skirt daily. So it's no wonder that foreign travelers also find Osaka's unique fashion a surprise.
It's no exaggeration to say that Osaka is possibly the only place in Japan where people enjoy such flashy fashion. If you can, by all means, make sure to check out the unique style and culture of Osaka, too!
It’s So Easy To Get Around!
"It was nice to be able to visit so many different spots during a day trip in Osaka. It's close to Kyoto and Nara. People who want to see various Kansai attractions can stay at a hotel in Osaka and travel from there. It's quite convenient. I stayed in Osaka first, then moved to another hotel in Kyoto. But I later regretted it, wishing I would have just stayed at the hotel in Osaka the whole time!" (Male, Indonesia)
The city of Osaka is nearby to many historical tourist attractions of Japan, including Kyoto and Nara. There are also many businesses operating at Kansai International Airport that are very convenient for tourists. There are many routes from Kansai International Airport to Osaka, including trains and buses. It takes about 65 minutes to get to Osaka Station by JR Kansai Rapid Service. Osaka also has plenty of hotels and accommodations, so it is an ideal city for travelers to use as their base when sightseeing around Kansai.
In fact, the number of foreign tourists visiting Osaka has risen from about 1.58 million in 2011 to about 11.42 million in 2018.
So Many Things To Eat!
"I was surprised at all the food you could eat around the shopping streets in Osaka - grilled scallops, ground beef patties, and more. There aren't as many street food stands in Tokyo, but the atmosphere in Osaka was much different. There were a lot of foreigners, and many things had English translations." (Male, Indonesia)
There are a number of famous dishes from Osaka, such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushikatsu, which are popular both in Japan and overseas. In Osaka, what is essential is not just the taste of the food, but also being able to stand and enjoy it conveniently. As our visitor from Indonesia observed when interviewed, it's certainly less common to see eating stands in Tokyo. However, this is not the case in Osaka. The atmosphere is much more relaxed, and many people eat while standing at the stands. It is something travelers from all over can enjoy.
And there we have it. Osaka, one of Japan's leading tourist destinations and an excellent place for anybody visiting Japan for the first time.
It is a unique city, different from what most people imagine Japan to be like in a good way. Osaka locals are also friendly and easy to talk to, which is another attractive point to visit this city.
Osaka certainly has a different culture and atmosphere from Tokyo. If you haven't yet, by all means, be sure to check out Osaka next time you visit Japan!
Number of Visitors to Osaka in the First Half of 2019 (Jan-Jun) (Trends in Foreign Travelers in Osaka) | Osaka:
Dali Corporation, Yu Sato
A writer dealing with many genres, including personnel, labor, legal, and career affairs. Specializes in column articles.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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