Namba & Shinsaibashi are “must go, must see” for couples visiting Osaka for the first time. Enjoy diverse facets of Osaka in a well-organized convenient area: green oasis with aerial views, surprising small streets, relaxing riverside, ninja staff (?), international influence, magic, drinks, and music! See below a suggestion of date plan, from morning to evening/night.
Discover a green oasis
Namba Parks shopping mall is an oasis in Osaka city. It is an excellent spot to see great architectural designs, an integration of modernity and nature, and to have a date with night view of Osaka. I love it but it only opens at 11:00… If you start your day late then you can start it here. Otherwise, you may come after visiting other parts of Namba-Shinsaibashi or at the end of the day as there are exciting restaurants, including Chelsea with its covered terrace and comfortable chairs. The park is worth seeing in any season, during the day or during the evening, and there are illuminations in winter. Consider watching a romantic sunset from the gardens of Namba Parks 🙂
Walk in the main streets
You must explore the shopping arcades of Dotonbori & Shinsaibashi; they have real character! You will find a wide range of restaurants and shops, some tax free with delivery to Kansai International Airport. Look on your left, look on your right, and look above as many cool owners have decorated the second floor. What might have felt like “just another shop” suddenly becomes very exciting! Looking everywhere, you will see giant mechanical crabs moving their pincers, giant round fugu pufferfishes, maybe a giant hand holding Japanese food… and I even saw a long dragon at a crowded corner; what there smoke and light coming out of the dragon or was I just dreaming? Go check it out and do not miss the Glico Running Man on the way!
Midosuji Boulevard is lined up with rows of gingko trees. If you visit Osaka in autumn, go for a romantic walk there as the leaves are yellow, and go taste the award-winning pudding of Mattari-Purin Dotombori shop (east side, just south of the river). In winter, you may enjoy illuminations there at night. If it rains, simply enjoying the shopping arcades may be a better idea.
Explore small streets
Do not just go straight along Midosuji Boulevard or a shopping arcade, go left and right to from time to time to see completely different buildings and to get surprised by Osaka. In any case, go see the human-size Buddhist statue covered by moss at Hozen Temple. When you pray, you have to throw water at the statue thus the healthy moss! This is a rare occurrence in Japan.
And just on the right of the statue, you will find Meoto Zenzai. Enter and order the special food for couples! Each set is prepared for a couple so you will get two bowls in the same tray, filled with warm sweet beans and rice balls. You will also get cups of green tea. Share this meal with your lover then check the lucky charms: you can buy two “happy couple” lucky charms looking like the food you just ate and designed as straps for mobile phones. In a more practical way, you can buy a set of two pairs of chopsticks: one pair for you and one pair for your companion 🙂 This is the spot number one for couples who want a Buddhist blessing!
Enjoy the river
When you cross a bridge, look at the interesting cityscape along the river. You may notice people queueing at a corner to buy takoyaki round snacks containing octopus. Will you buy a pack and try together? Or will you instead try takosen (takoyaki between two rice crackers)? It is a local speciality so you should not hesitate… and it is perfect to keep you busy if you plan to enjoy the local cruise but are waiting for the boat… If you join the cruise, remember to wave at people on the bridges and smile while you discover Osaka city from a different perspective 🙂
Lunch with a ninja descendant?
Take a small table for two at Organic & Vegetarian Cafe Atl, order a standard lunch set and add a dessert. Last time, I tasted a cake made with bananas and matcha green tea; excellent! I was a bit afraid that the green tea would taste too strong but it was fine. If the restaurant is not too busy and the lady owner can spare some of her time, talk with her! She can speak English, and is from Koga city (one of the 2 most famous ninja sites) so she can tell you a bit about the ninja! If possible, sit by the window so you can see what is going on in the street below. Note that there are stairs to enter/exit and that there is little space for suitcases in the restaurant. The tables are insufficient for groups of tourists but perfect for a couple.
Visit the American Village
You will find the American Village west of Midosuji Boulevard, closer to Shinsaibashi station than Namba station. You will know you are there as soon as you see a replica of the Statue of Liberty on the roof of a tall building! Triangle Park is the most famous spot in this area with many fashion stores, with stores selling music instruments, with ice cream speciality stores, and with tattoo shops. I enjoyed the street art here: look at the colourful street lights that seem to be bent and to have hands! And if you want a sweet, head for an ice cream speciality shop. Time to share an ice dog?
Enjoy a magic show!
To share a wonderful moment with your boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife, why not go see a magic show at Dining & Magic Bar Illusion? The owner is a magician and you may even see magic at the counter or at your table! See the photos on the official website and you will be convinced it is a great idea! Have fun!
Drink with good music at night
Before going back to your hotel, go for a few drinks at one of the many local bars or clubs to fully enjoy the Namba/Shinsaibashi entertainment district of Osaka! You can find Japanese drinks as well as international drinks, and you can target a bar where all the drinks cost 200 yen if the budget for your couple is a bit tight. Personally, I recommend Domus in the American Village because I like it, the cocktails are fine (with or without alcohol), the prices are reasonable, the music is good (a DJ may be taking care of everything in front of you), and I met friendly staff speaking English there (one of the barmen lived 1 year in New-Zealand).