A rare site: Sun tower at night
Expo ’70 Commemorative Park
Expo ’70 Commemorative Park, usually referred to as Banpaku Koen, is just a twenty minute walk from our apartment. The site was originally used to host the 1970 World Expo, for which the park derives its name, but has since morphed into a more tranquil setting with multiple gorgeous gardens, a world-class ethnology museum, entertainment and sports facilities, and lots and lots of nature.
The park is probably most well known for its iconic Tower of the Sun (taiyou no tou) designed by the late Taro Okamoto, one of the largest artwork pieces in Japan. The Tower looms over the park like some giant preternatural creature and can be seen clearly from the Osaka Monorail as well as the Osaka University Hospital.
If you have some free time, I highly recommend this park. Strolling through it you’ll be fascinated by all the secret trails and lovely settings, including waterfalls, lily-pad covered ponds, flower fields, and an elevated walk through the forest canopy. And when your feet get tired you can enjoy a nice foot bath or a cup of green tea.
Walking in Minoh with baby in tow
Minoh is a mountainside town that boasts a beautiful mountain walk through a quasi-national park that leads up to a stunning waterfall. It’s best to go in the spring to view the cherry blossoms or late fall when the leaves are changing colors. Along the path you’ll be greeted by vendors selling all sorts of sweets. If you’re brave you can try the momiji tempura, basically deep-fried maple leaves! There are also a few temples and a number of quaint cafes settled amongst the leaves where you can relax. The only thing to beware are the monkeys! They’re not always around, but when they are they like to steal sweets and take drinks from the vending machines. My wife and I have gone to the park many times, more recently with our son in his baby carrier. It’s a relaxing walk, but can be tiresome all the way to the waterfall, especially with a heavy baby in tow.
I believe most people in the US and abroad are familiar with Japanese Kabuki theater in which all-male performers play both male and female roles, but fewer will know of the Takarazuka Revue, where the situation is reversed! The Takarazuka Revue is an all-female theater troupe that began in 1914 in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. The city is near Itami Airport. Half of the actresses specialize in portraying men; they cut their hair short and learn to master masculine behavior and speech. The other actresses specialize in portraying females. There are five troupes in total (Flower, Moon, Snow, Star, and Cosmos) putting on a variety of different shows at any given time. Shows are elaborately costumed and choreographed and give off a Vegas-style air that leaves you breathless when the finale is over. Highly recommended!