Opulence in Osaka
St. Regis Osaka
Not enough time, take me back! When Japan was my next big destination, I knew it was important to explore more of the country than just the metropolitan city of Tokyo if I was to really get a true feel for the “Land of the Rising Sun.” Being the gourmand that I am, many of the destinations I choose to travel to are based on what food and drink cravings I have, and I heard that Osaka would satiate my ravenous appetite. Having read over the years about its many famous food districts, I knew Osaka was the perfect destination for a trip outside of Tokyo and I sped off–literally.
Ok, so we know I chose this destination based on the food, but the need for speed is what got me to Osaka. I had heard of Japan’s famous “Bullet Trains” and I was almost more excited for the journey than the destination (well, until I got there and started eating). The shinkansen is a network of high-speed train lines that reach speeds of 200 mph (320 km/h). Knowing this was my mode of transport, my first words at the ticket counter were, “First class window seat, please!” This trip was sure to be a splurge overall, so why not travel two and a half hours in style? The first class car is called Green Class, and that bit of extra comfort in this sleekly-designed train will make it easy to settle in. As Maverick said, “I feel the need for speed” (Top Gun, duh).
I came for the food but stayed for the bed
Having had the pleasure of traveling the world for too many years to mention, I’d put myself in the “expert” category when it comes to understanding what a luxurious hotel really is. I knew exactly where I would be laying my head while staying in the “Big Hill” (the meaning of “Osaka” in Japanese) as I wanted to be as close as possible to the epicenter of food and shopping. The St. Regis Osaka is located right in the heart of Midōsuji Boulevard, also known as the Champs Elysées of Osaka (that was the first sign I would love this city). After I settled in and met my butler–yes, I said butler, a signature experience for each guest at every St. Regis worldwide–it was time to hit the streets and begin the food and drink binge in Osaka.
Time for a REAL drink! After spending a few hours at Osaka Castle, a vast 61,000 square meters and one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, I seriously needed to rest and unwind (in other words, have a drink). Since both my personal and professional lives revolve around alcohol (#enjoyresponsibly), I had whiskey on my mind. While Japanese whiskey’s popularity is soaring, I’ve been a fan for over a decade-plus, as it is truly an art in the Japanese culture and they cultivate some of the best in the world. I loved how no matter if you take a left or a right, you will find yourself near a bar, commonly called a standing bar, which is exactly what it sounds like. The Bond Bar was my first stop and as usual, I made a new friend–the bartender. He saw the twinkle in my eye and we went straight for the best. If you haven’t tried Hibiki Whiskey, a range of products by Suntory, you must. Hibiki 21 was my splurge for the evening. It has the mark of serious craftsmanship and has been named the “world’s best blended whiskey” numerous times. Across the street was a Johnny Walker bar, and on every corner was a place to imbibe well-crafted Japanese whiskeys, a taste and experience not to be missed when in Japan.
Shopping in a straight line
It never stopped: one straight street, miles and miles long, just people and people! It was quite overwhelming and exciting at the same time. I visited two different shopping areas and they both are a must for anyone who visits Osaka. Dōtonbori is an amazing shopping mecca which lights up like a mini Times Square at night and boasts an abundance of restaurants featuring modern and traditional Japanese dishes. You also are able to shop till your heart’s content from both local and chain shops. Grab yourself some takoyaki, a traditional Japanese snack, easy to eat as you stroll this famous quarter. Next is Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street in the Tenma neighborhood, featuring Japan’s longest street at 2.6km. If you want it, it’s here. Expect more of a local flair and average quality goods, but if you are looking for a bit of exercise in between your eating excursions, this is the street for you.
Happy Happy Happy Hour!
Yep, another story about another drink, and this one has a kick! Every St. Regis hotel around the world has its own signature Bloody Mary, since the “Red Snapper” was created in 1934 (now known as the Bloody Mary). The St. Regis Osaka’s signature “Shogun Mary” is fantastic, especially with its trademark zest of wasabi! If that doesn’t click your heels, check out the Beer Garden during the summer months with an all-you-can-drink “Champagne Special,” which you know I partook in. Le Veduta is also a must when Italian food strikes your fancy and you want to be surrounded by a romantic ambiance and stylish chandeliers. I was enticed by the fireplace to end every evening in the bar as the grand piano relaxed me and my tired tourist limbs until another day of food and drink excursions.
St. Regis Bar Osaka
What’s it called?
You’ve probably realized by now that I have not named one restaurant or food place, aside from my hotel, for you to keep as a reference for your future trip. I will be honest, I couldn’t understand, read, or write the names of most of the places I dined. I understand if you are a person that needs to know exactly what you are eating, but I promise, Osaka is the place to step out of your food comfort zone. The best restaurants in locations like Osaka are those corner dives or hidden gems. Note that many restaurants have photos of their food choices, which is common, so it’s quite easy to navigate your dining experience using visuals for. (Or, just look at your neighbors’ dishes and point!)
Oasis in Osaka
Chill time is a must on any vacation where walking is the main form of transportation, and there’s only one cure for a tired, aching body. Hello spa, here I come! The Iridium Spa on the 14th floor of the St. Regis surpassed my expectations and was a sanctuary of relaxation. When I heard they used Sothys products from Paris, I knew it was a sign that my skin needed pampering. Ninety minutes of Sothys signature experience and my body was rejuvenated and ready to tackle Osaka for another 24 hours.
As my journey drew to an end, my belly full and my sightseeing list only half-covered, Osaka sent me back to Tokyo wanting more, but it will see me next summer when I return for the 2020 Olympics. My last memories are of walking through the grandiose lobby of the St. Regis as the traditional “Champagne Sabering” was taking place. That blissful “popping” noise from the cork was a sign–Osaka, I’ll be back!