Are you planning to spend the winter holidays in Japan or are you already living in Tokyo and have no clue what to do for Oshogatsu, the Japanese New Year? Well, good news for you! Tokyo is not the only place where you can enjoy the Japanese New Year and hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year.
How about a trip to Osaka? The funky capital of western Japan can offer you exciting experiences for a lifetime to remember. These Osaka events in January are full of shiny lights, traditional rituals, umami taste (it is Osaka, after all), art - both Western and Japanese - and a sweet aftertaste of strawberries!
Osaka Events in January 2020
Here are some of the top Osaka events in January!
- Hatsumode - Japanese New Year’s Eve at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
- Hatsumode - Japanese New Year’s Eve at Taiyu-ji Temple
- Toka Ebisu Ritual at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine
- Doya Doya Festival at the Shiteno-ji Temple
- Winter Illumination Events in Osaka - Festival of Lights
- Winter Illumination Events in Osaka - Osaka Castle Illuminage
- Countdown Party at Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
- Countdown Party at the Ritz Carlton
- Kakomu de Kotatsu at Harukas 300 Observation Deck
- Strawberry Sweets Buffet at Hotel New Otani
- “Paris at the End of the Century” Exhibition at Sakai Alphonse Mucha Museum
1. Hatsumode - Japanese New Year’s Eve at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
It is about time you paid your respects to the kami-sama (roughly, the gods or deities of the Shinto religion) and prayed for good luck, health, and prosperity. The number one choice of the Osakan people and other travelers, Japanese or not, is Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. Visiting the "Sumiyossan," as Osakans like to call the shrine, for hatsumode is one of a kind experience that’s definitely not for the agoraphobics. Up to 2 million people gather on the night of the 31st to celebrate the new year and the many food stalls and paths leading to the shrine, together with the people, will give you this Osaka-style hatsumode feeling.
Dates: December 31 – January 3, 2020 (people may also participate in hatsumode later in the month to avoid the crowds)
Location: Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Sumiyoshi
2. Hatsumode - Japanese New Year’s Eve at Taiyu-ji Temple
While most people in Japan tend to visit shrines on Ganjitsu (New Year’s Day), another popular option for hatsumode is visiting Taiyu-ji Temple on New Year’s Eve to strike the bell. If you line up by midnight, you can strike the bell and receive a certificate, but only the first 108 people will receive it (108 is a sacred number in Buddhism).
Dates: December 31st 2019 - January 1st
Time: From 23:45pm
Location: Taiyu-ji Temple, Kita
3. Toka Ebisu Ritual at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine
Besides hatsumode, there are a couple other Japanese New Year traditions that follow it and are related to Oshogatsu. One is the Toka Ebisu ritual at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine, where worshipers gather for a three-day ritual held for prosperity and pray to Ebisu, the god of commerce, asking, “Kotoshi mo osewa ni narimasu,” which translates to “Take care of us again this year.” At the peak of the festival on the 10th, the Purple Lantern Homa Rite is held. Over the course of three days, around one million people visit the shrine to receive the lucky bamboo leaves (called fukusasa) from the fukumusume “lucky daughters.”
Dates: January 9 – 11, 2020
Time: 9am - 9pm
Location: Imamiya Ebisu Shrine, Naniwa
4. Doya Doya Festival at the Shiteno-ji Temple
Another very important ritual takes place at the Doya Doya Festival at the Shiteno-ji Temple. At the end of Shushoe (a Buddhist Japanese New Year tradition lasting 14 days) at Shiteno-ji Temple, young men from high schools that are affiliated with the temple, dress only in red and white fundoshi (traditional loin-cloth underwear), and compete by grabbing paper charms that are thrown at them while they are splashed with cold water! The name of the festival derives from the “doya-doya” shouts of the young men and it is a very energetic sight to watch. Be sure to get there early!
Dates: 14th January, 2020
Time: 2pm – 6pm
Location: Shiteno-ji Temple, Tennoji
5. Winter Illumination Events in Osaka - Festival of Lights
One of the most stunning parts of the winter holidays in Japan is the festive illuminations, and of course, Osaka does not fall behind when it comes to flashy lights! The Festival of Lights goes on from November through to the end of December. You will be able to witness the Midosuji Illumination, the second illumination event, and the longest street of illuminated trees in the world, until New Year’s Eve! It will extend from Ooebashi-Kitazune Intersection to the Hanshin Mae Intersection, a remarkably long 4 kilometer stretch of lights!
Dates: November 4 – December 31, 2019
Time: 5pm – 11pm, depending on the show
Location: Osaka City Park and Nakanoshima Park Area, Midosuji Street
6. Winter Illumination Events in Osaka - Osaka Castle Illuminage
Another notable, but not free of admission event, is the Osaka Castle Illuminage. Taisho and Meiji eras are the inspiration for this one, allowing you to step back through time. Installations include Western-style art and there's even a Roman-style dining experience!
Dates: November 22, 2019 – March 1, 2020
Time: 5:30pm - 9:30pm
Price: Adults (at the door): ¥1,500, children (at the door) ¥800
Location: Osaka Castle, Chuo
7. Countdown Party at Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
What would New Year’s Eve be without a countdown party? Get ready for some Hogwarts-style pumpkin juice while you party until the end of the year with Harry, Spidey, and other Universal Studio movie characters! Special performances, fireworks, and parades will make sure you feel like a movie hero as you enter 2020!
Dates: December 31, 2019 – January 1, 2010
Time: 7pm - 2am
Price: Advance tickets: ¥15,480 (adults)
Location: Universal Studios Japan, Konohana
8. Countdown Party at the Ritz Carlton
If a classy party is more like your scene, you love live jazz, and you are into a bit of (harmless) gambling, then the countdown party at the Ritz Carlton is the place to be. With a nomihodai all-you-can-drink bar, a buffet including toshikoshi soba (Japanese New Year noodles), and a Grand Ballroom full of shine and glitter, put on your dancing shoes and waltz your way into the new year!
Dates: December 31, 2019
Time: 9:30pm – 12:15pm
Location: The Ritz Carlton, Kita
9. Kakomu de Kotatsu at Harukas 300 Observation Deck
This is your chance to get an astonishing view from Japan’s tallest building, while warming your feet under the blanket of the low table, called a kotatsu in Japanese! Indulge in delicious seafood like the Harukas 300 signature tabehoudai all-you-can-eat course, which includes oden stew made with sea bream broth. Or, order the pork shabu shabu with yuzu citrus, to please your palate.
Dates: November 9, 2019 - April 12, 2020
Weekdays 3pm - 10pm
Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays 11.30am - 10pm
*Last Order - 21:30
Price: (Both courses include admission to the observatory)
- Harukas 300 specialty “Sea bream broth Harukas Oden stew all-you-can-eat course”: 4,000 yen
- “Sangen special pork shabu shabu hotpot with yuzu citrus”: 5,500 yen
Location: Harukas 300, Abeno
10. Strawberry Sweets Buffet at Hotel New Otani
Now, if you have a sweet tooth, we’ve got good news for you! It is strawberry season in Japan, and there are several places where you can savor these delicate strawberry sweets. French pastry chef, Jimmy Boulay, will prepare original Parisienne sweets with sweet Japanese strawberries. While your taste buds are delighted by those confectionaries, you can enjoy the staggering view from the window of Hotel New Otani Osaka.
Dates: December 26th, 2019 – May 6th, 2020
Time: 3pm - 5pm
Price: ¥4,900 - ¥6,600 (see website for details)
Location: Hotel New Otani Osaka, Chuo
11. “Paris at the End of the Century” Exhibition at Sakai Alphonse Mucha Museum
Last but not least, an exhibition for art lovers. If you have already tried the Parisienne strawberry sweets, why not complete your Paris experience in Osaka by visiting the Sakai Alphonse Mucha Museum. Admire works of Sakai Alphonse and his contemporaries, who ventured beyond the boundaries of Art Nouveau.
Dates: October 19, 2019 - March 1, 2020
Time: 9:30 am - 5:15 pm (last entry at 4:30 pm)
Price: Adults: ¥510, High School and University Students: ¥310, Elementary and Junior High School students: ¥100
Location: Sakai Alphonse Mucha Museum , Sakai
All in all, Osaka in January has a lot to offer for all tastes and ages. From hatsumode to Oshogatsu festivities, countdown parties, winter illuminations, gastronomic events, and art exhibitions, these winter events make a trip to Osaka worthwhile.
For more things to do in "the nation's kitchen," browse food experiences in Osaka!