A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Osaka with my daughter. Now, many of my “work” trips involve just me, alone for 48-72 hours in a city or prefecture with a solid sightseeing and eating plan, doing my best to familiarize myself with sites and restaurants for future clients. (Yes, this job can be terribly hard. :))
But when traveling with kids, those packed schedules need to be adjusted and forget about tasting the latest entries in the Michelin Guide. My daughter’s a pretty great traveler but I know our limitations, so I planned a number of kid-friendly sightseeing options for our three days. Both of us had a clear favorite – the Kids Plaza Osaka.
The Kids Plaza Osaka is a large educational center conveniently located on both the Osaka subway and JR loop line. The building covers three floors and could easily keep your kids busy for hours. The first level is mostly for admission (a pricey ¥1200 for adults but half of that for kids and age 2 and under are free) and has a rather engrossing wall-sized pinball maze.
Floor 2 is really where the fun begins. The centerpiece of the Kids Plaza Osaka is a 2-storey troglodyte-style play “house” embellished with colorful Spanish tiles. There are slides and hidden corners and rope bridges, an ideal playground for imaginative kids. The only caveat is the fact that this area is mostly cement and terracotta brick; if you have toddlers who are unsteady on their feet, watch them carefully.
Surrounding the center play “house” are various stations. Kids can go shopping in the supermarket, ringing up their own purchases at a real register and printing a receipt; they can pretend to make Japanese specialties like takoyaki and udon noodles at food stalls; they can dress up like a postman and deliver postcards to the various stations; or even adjust the pipes at a welder’s section. Want to see how you (or Mom or Dad) look with a new hairstyle? The barbershop is both ingenious and fun. Around the corner, don’t miss the TV studio where you can report the weather and sit behind the anchor desk while making a broadcast.
Upstairs, a well-equipped music section offers plenty of percussion instruments from around the world. Nearby cubicles highlight various cultures from around the world (though the American section was just a few footballs and jerseys … hmmm). Nearly the entire other half of the floor is devoted to science exploration, with lots of hands on experiment stations and a resource library (Japanese only).
You can eat on-site in the designated food room but you have to bring your own lunch. There are very good baby facilities and staff was great about holding my stroller at the front office until we were done. My 2.5 year old and I spent a solid two hours here and would have stayed longer, were it not for the influx of 200+ elementary school students who overran the place within a half hour of its opening. If your kids need a break from the typical tourist trail in Osaka, I can’t think of a better option.
For more information in English, check out this website.