Like most cities, the outskirts of Osaka are noticeably less intense, and slower paced than the hustle and bustle that comes with the urban build-up of the city center.
Hirano Ward, on the south-eastern tip of Osaka is no different.
Despite being Osaka’s most densely populated ward, as the only ward with a population exceeding 200,000, Hirano isn’t actually all that busy or crowded, and it feels comfortable to walk around in.
Bordering Yao City, Higashi Osaka City, Fujidera City and Matsubara City, Hirano Ward has almost as many roads out of town as it does buildings!
However, despite being on the fringes of the city, the character and charm that is the essence of what makes Osaka great is here in abundance.
Excellent food, lots of bars and entertainment, plenty of things to see and do on the weekend, Hirano has everything you need. So, with this knowledge, let’s move in for a closer look:
Hirano Ward and the adjacent city of Matsubara are separated by a natural border, the Yamato River.
Indeed, on a sunny day, a gentle walk along the riverbank of the Yamato, with its accompanying green space, and during certain season, flying fish leaping out of the water, makes it a perfect tonic to the often hectic pace of daily Osaka life.
At times, one could be forgiven for thinking that they had stepped back in time to the Edo period of Samurai and Shogun.
Actually, speaking of Samurai…
One of the most iconic images most people have of Japan prior to visiting is the image of the Samurai warrior, with his katana. The katana is an ornate, curved blade, with a single sharp edge, whose beauty belies its utterly devastating potential as a deadly weapon. Few swords in all of history are as sharp, as light, or as deadly in the right hand.
I once remarked that my girlfriend was like a katana.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Elegant, beautiful, but absolutely lethal if not handled correctly!”
The fact that I’m still alive and writing this today is testament to the fact that she can take a joke!
Anyway, if you want to learn more about katanas, their use, and the people who used them, then there are few better places in Osaka to visit than the Museum of the Sword, right here in Hirano Ward.
The museum itself is a little on the small side, but like a katana itself, the key lies in its intricacy and attention to detail. Through a series of highly detailed exhibits you will learn not only the history behind this stunning weapons, but also the work that goes into making them. The owner of the museum is also a sword maker and if you’re there at the right time you may even get to see him practicing his craft!
Of course, not everyone wants to be a sword-carrying samurai. Some of us prefer more sedate, laid-back pursuits.
Hirano Park, in the eastern (higashi) area of the ward, is a perfect chill out spot. It is open 24 hours a day, but is probably best enjoyed in the early morning. Local people often take their dogs for walks here, and you may even see some of the more active senior citizens doing some yoga!
About 15 minutes’ walk from Hirano Park, you can also try out another popular pastime among Japan’s more mature citizens, with a visit to the Driving Range.
Yes, you can sharpen your swing, practice your putting or prep your pitching, over at Nagayoshi Golf Company. The range is one of the larger ones in Osaka and is open every day until 11pm. Personally, I actually prefer playing under the evening floodlights.
And after such pursuits, of course there’s no better way to round off your day in Hirano than with dinner, and possibly a few beers, at a local izakaya.
There are a number of izakaya restaurants around Hirano Ward, but the one I would personally recommend is Nigiyaka Dining.
This particular izakaya specializes in sashimi, which are slices of fresh, raw fish.
Each sashimi has its own unique flavor and texture. Many newcomers to Japan may be a little squeamish at the prospect of eating raw fish, but I would implore you to try and look past such things. If you can be brave, then you really are in for a treat.
My personal favorite sashimi is maguro (tuna) with just a little wasabi (pureed Japanese horseradish) and soy sauce to taste.
Besides, even if you try sashimi and you find you don’t like it, then you can always wash it down with one of the exceedingly good value 300 yen beers that seem to flow endlessly in this fine establishment!
Hirano Ward is many things, but expensive isn’t one of them!