The New Year is upon us and attention turns for many on resolutions for the year ahead. For those of you who have pledged to get out and try new things in 2019, here is a selection of fun things on offer in Kansai that will create a few memories – not to mention great photo opportunities.
There are many places where you can immerse yourself in the pleasures of traditional Japanese art, music, theater and dance. One of the best places to head to is the Gion district of Kyoto, home to the Gion Corner Museum of Contemporary Art. This venue hosts a range of performing arts, most notably maiko and geisha dancers performing the kyo-mai dance in traditional costumes. Also on offer is Kyogen theater, indigenous Gagaku court music and dance, and the wonderful Bunraku puppet theater. Sometimes, lucky visitors get to experience maiko and geisha dancers giving street performances close to the venue, while those really wanting to indulge can opt for a maiko makeover.
Have you ever watched a sword-wielding samurai warrior gracefully executing their moves in a Japanese film and thought “I’d love to have a go at that”? Well, the Kyoto Samurai Experience offers visitors a glimpse into the world of the samurai, including the philosophies of the Bushido (the way of the warrior) and a zen meditation session. Of course, no samurai session would be complete without a chance to handle a sword. You will be taught how to hold and wield an authentic katana sword and test your skills by cutting through a goza mat.
Price: 12,000 yen (8,300 yen for children aged 6-12)
If you really want to hit the heights, you can go all the way up to the top floor of the 40-story 170-meter spectacle that is the Umeda Sky Building in Kita Ward, Osaka. Voted among the top 20 buildings in the world by The Times, the building has an observatory with a 360-degree panoramic view of the city. Worth visiting at night for the magnificent views. If this isn’t quite high enough, there is the Abeno Harukas, also in Osaka, which is Japan’s tallest building at 300 meters.
Stand-up comedy isn’t quite as big in Japan as it is in the US or UK, but Osaka has a thriving comedy scene with several venues where performers can be seen. The ROR Comedy Club in the heart of the city hosts regular shows on Fridays and Saturdays with comedians performing in English. If you’re feeling brave (or drunk) enough to give it a go, there are open mic nights on the first Saturday of each month.
At the Sakai City Museum, learn all about the ancient traditions of the Japanese tea ceremony and get the chance to actually participate in one. See a master carry out the ceremonial preparation of matcha green tea, a custom that involves Zen Buddhism and culminates in enjoying a freshly brewed cup. Once your thirst has been satiated, you can tour an exhibition explaining the history of the ceremony.
Price: 200 yen
If you fancy a bit of dressing up, head to Menkasoh in Jo Terrace Osaka. This food store offers a Japanese dress-up experience and will suit you up in an authentic kimono, complete with sandals, which you can wear while dining on udon noodles, roaming the city or even posing for a portrait. Both men’s and women’s kimonos are available in a variety of colors and styles.
Suisui [Public domain]