OSAKA sep2012

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                                                                        Osaka                       The Japanese city
                                                                                                      offers a winning
                                                                                                       combination of
                                                                                                      rich culture and
                                                                                                    top facilities, says
                                                                                                     Chris Pritchard


                                                                                                                                   – a place of skyscrapers (often
                                                                                                                                   adventurously designed), giant
                                                                                                                                   malls (sometimes underground)
                                                                                                                                   and unabashed modernity. Throngs
                                                                                                                                   of determined-looking but orderly
                                                                                                                                   pedestrians brush by.
                                                                                                                                      Getting here for conferences or
                                                                                                                                   incentives is easy. British Airways
                                                                                                                                   flies to KIX via Tokyo, codesharing
                                                                                                                                   with Japan Airlines on the one-hour
                                                                                                                                   leg (a 155-minute bullet train also
                                                                                                                                   operates between the two cities).
                                                                                                                                   Many European, Middle Eastern
                                                                                                                                   and Asian airlines serve Osaka
                               Osaka Castle                                                                                        direct. Visitors land into a sprawling,

                                                                                                                                   ultra-modern airport on its own
                                                             on’t get on that train!”     bilingual announcements advising         artificial island, with plentiful
                                                             a man yells as I lift        passengers to wait until cleaning        English signage. From there, choose
                                                             my luggage on to the         was completed. Everyone else did         between express trains (the best
                                                             50-minute express from       so because this is an exceptionally      option), buses or taxis for the 55km
                                                             Kansai International         polite and thoughtful society – not      journey downtown. In the city, the
                                                airport (KIX) to Osaka. I’m puzzled       least here in Osaka.                     subway system proves easy and
                                                – I know it’s the right one and, after       Osaka’s top three attractions         cheaper than taxis.
                                                a long flight, I’m looking forward to     are location, location, location.           Osaka’s appeal is highlighted by
                                                reaching downtown and getting to          It’s Japan’s third-largest city, after   Jenifer Dwyer-Slee, Accor’s business
                                                my hotel. What’s his problem?             Tokyo and its neighbouring port          events director for Asia-Pacific.“We
                                                   “Must clean first,” he says.“Very      of Yokohama. A glance at a map           receive unusually high numbers
Osaka COnvenTiOn anD TOurism

                                                dirty.” I notice short queues waiting     shows its pivotal position on            of conference requests for Osaka,
Bureau/JnTO/rOBerT harDing

                                                patiently at each carriage. On board,     Honshu island. Close to three            reflecting the city’s ease of access
                                                a team of cleaners work furiously.        rivers’ confluence, it has been a        and attractiveness,” she says.“It
                                                They have only a few minutes – in         trading and cultural hub since           ticks the box for many groups. It has
                                                Japan, the trains run on time.            ancient times.                           an excellent combination of new
                                                   A ticket inspector and food vendor        The Japanese describe Osaka           and old, rich culture and fabulous
                                                bow to each boarding passenger,           as far more laid-back than               food. There’s a surprising amount
                                                then to the carriage as a whole. I feel   Tokyo, though to a visiting gaijin       of heritage, such as Osaka Castle
                                                guilty that I hadn’t listened to the      (foreigner), it seems frenetic           and eye-popping culture such

                           40 | SEPTEMBER2012                                                                                                             Visit


                                              Umeda Sky Building

as Bunraku [traditional puppet             Shigeo Otsuji, general manager       Osaka Bay, which has 480 rooms
theatre]. It is also well located       of the convention centre, says the      and 19 meeting rooms, the biggest
for World Heritage sites in Kyoto       city’s venues can accommodate           of which holds 2,000 delegates
and Nara.” These two ancient cities     between 100 and 3,000 delegates.        theatre-style, and the Hilton, a
are only 43km and 28km away             He adds that, aside from attending      525-room property in the business
respectively and make good options      conferences,“participants and           district with nine meeting rooms,
for a day trip (see panel overleaf).    spouses can enjoy cultural              one for 1,000 people theatre-style.
   Dwyer-Slee adds: “A great            experiences, shopping and day trips       The 200-room Novotel Koshien
advantage is Osaka’s easy-to-use        within and outside Osaka”.              Osaka West has eight meeting
train system, making the whole city        Located downtown and also            rooms, seating 728 theatre-style in
accessible. Good English is spoken      known as the Grand Cube Osaka,          the largest, while the Georgian-style
in the more obvious locations and at    the convention centre has an            Ritz-Carlton has 292 guestrooms
hotels such as the Novotel [Accor’s     opulent theatre holding 500 people      and 21 meeting spaces, including
only hotel in the city].”               and a main hall accommodating           a 1,400-capacity
   A strong pull factor for MICE        2,754. The centre’s 25 conference       grand ballroom.    ‘Osaka has a
business is “first-class facilities”,
says Jim Watanabe, general manager
                                        rooms hold between 50 and 1,000
                                        people. Officials say Osaka doesn’t
                                                                                  There’s also the
                                                                                Swissotel Nanka,
                                                                                                   combination of new
and chief of MICE promotion             chase, and isn’t equipped for, super-   a 548-roomer       and old, rich culture
at the Osaka Convention and             large gatherings but for some very      amid the           and fabulous food’
Tourism Bureau (OCTB).“We have          big events, the Kyocera Dome, a         shopping, dining
more than 40,000 rooms suitable         baseball stadium seating 36,477,        and entertainment of Namba, with
for delegates,” he says. These are      has been used. Its field once hosted    19 meeting rooms holding from ten
of three-and-a-half to five-star        a dinner for 6,000-plus Junior          to 1,400 people. Starwood options
standard, with the lower end akin       Chamber International delegates.        include the Sheraton Miyako, a
to four-star rooms. Space is at a          Much of Osaka’s thriving             495-room hotel with 12 meeting
premium so rooms are generally          convention business is domestic,        rooms, accommodating 800 theatre-
smaller than elsewhere in Asia.         with most four- and five-star           style in the biggest, and the Westin,
   Watanabe adds that the               hotels boasting well-equipped           with 304 guestrooms and seven
city’s convention organisations         meeting facilities. A Japanese          meeting venues, the largest hosting
“endeavour to make events               oddity is the prevalence of school      1,200 delegates theatre-style.
unforgettable – experiences you’ll      groups – students from across the         Homegrown independent and
remember for years”. The Osaka          country hold conferences as part of     chain hotels are often as well-
International Convention Centre         excursions, and it’s not unusual to     appointed as internationals. Among
and the OCTB help organisers to         see them traipsing through lobbies.     Osaka’s best are New Otani
arrange activities for before and          Global hotel brands in the city      (, with 525 rooms
after meetings.                         include the Hyatt Regency on            and 22 meeting rooms, the biggest     

Visit                                                                                               SEPTEMBER2012 | 41
Asia-Pacific: Osaka
                             Sheraton    Hilton


                     ritz-Carlton   nikko Osaka                                                                                           Gion, kyoto

for 3,000 people theatre-style, and
two Nikko properties (
                                         parts, Amerikamura is cheaper,
                                         less genteel and often filled with
                                                                                     Incentive ideas
– Nikko Osaka, a 643-roomer on           teenagers in outlandish gear.               CrUiSeS On OSaka Bay and free time for shopping
leafy Mido-Suji Avenue with 13              Close to Minami and meriting             are staples of an itinerary in Osaka, but planners are
meeting rooms, and Nikko Kansai          exploration is Shinsekai, which, until      increasingly including options such as tea ceremonies,
Airport, a three-minute walk             a clean-up more than a decade ago,          kimono painting-and-dyeing courses, calligraphy lessons,
from the arrivals hall with 576          was regarded by many Japanese as            Japanese cooking classes, cycling tours, market visits and
guestrooms. These two properties         sleazy and dangerous. The main              stops at museums and galleries. Companies sometimes
have a maximum theatre-style             danger is pickpockets and there are         have museums of their own, one of the best-known being
capacity of 970 and 400 respectively.    homeless people here, but I didn’t feel     momofuku ando instant ramen museum, with noodle-
Unusual, historical or quirky venues     threatened. Bargain-basement shops          making lessons and tastings. also often offered is a visit to
aren’t part of the picture in Osaka,     abound and the area is renowned             the enormous universal studios Japan.
where organisers go for dedicated        for Osaka’s best kushi-katsu eateries,         Partly because of the country’s efficient network of
convention                                                  serving deep-            shinkansen (bullet trains), travellers can be in a nearby
centres or hotels.   Dotonbori’s gigantic                   fried beef, pork         city in under two hours – sometimes considerably less.
   So what to
do after the
                      neon signs attract                    or seafood on
                                                            skewers. Also
                                                                                     For instance, the pretty city of kobe is close by, home to
                                                                                     onsen (hot spring baths), a brewery and some of Japan’s
meeting? Japan        crowds for after-                     worth visiting is        best shopping.
is accurately
judged an
                        dark strolling                      Osaka Bay, where
                                                            artificial islands are
                                                                                        another common day trip is to hiroshima. its Peace
                                                                                     memorial Park is a sombre attraction encompassing
expensive destination, particularly      home to theme parks, restaurants,           a museum and the a-Bomb Dome, a former industrial
compared with its Asian neighbours,      museums and shops.                          display hall that was one of the few buildings to have
but that doesn’t stop foreign visitors      The city’s best-known landmark is        survived the 1945 atomic bomb. it’s a 15-minute ferry
from hitting the glitzy malls and tiny   Osaka Castle, a complex of historic         trip from here to the nearby island of miyajima, where
shops along narrow lanes. The two        parkland structures. Construction           tame deer roam free among tourists. Temples include
main shopping districts are Minami       began in 1583, with stones for              itsukushima, a revered shinto shrine built partly over
and Kita. In Minami, Dotonbori           30-metre walls brought from 100km           water, one of Japan’s most photographed sites.
is a busy precinct with gigantic         away. It’s a prime spot for admiring           The former ancient capitals of nara and kyoto are
neon signs that attract crowds for       the cherry blossom that blooms in           also easily reachable. The first is famed for ruins, shrines,
after-dark strolling. Close to some      April. Umeda Sky Building offers a          temples and a national museum filled with priceless
major hotels, it’s much lauded for       dramatic contrast, providing views          Buddhist art, while the latter is home to the golden
dining, particularly for crab and        of Osaka from a 170-metre-high              Pavilion, a temple covered in gold leaf and set on a lake
other seafood. Nearby Shinsaibashi       platform called the Floating Garden         that is one of asia’s great sights, and the gion area, the
is a 580-metre covered walkway           Observatory. There’s one way to             narrow streets and old houses of which provide a glimpse
stuffed with upscale shops and           finish your event on a high.                into a bygone Japan, with geishas often spotted scurrying
good restaurants. Also in these          n Visit                   to meet clients.

42 | SEPTEMBER2012                                                                                                              Visit

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