Osaka Southern Suburb
Sakai and its Kofun Period Heritage
Osaka Southern Suburb encompasses the towns located to the south of Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine and the Yamato River, between the shore of the Osaka Bay and Wakayama prefecture’s mountains. Sakai and its historic heritage is the main sightseeing destination in this area, also home to Kansai International Airport.
Osaka Prefecture is spreading around its urban and very lively economic capital, allowing more adventurous travelers to discover lesser-known historic and cultural sites or landscapes, off the beaten tracks, with less crowds than the must-see areas and therefore more pleasant to visit.
Located in the south of the great Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine, across the Yamato river, Sakai City alone is worth the trip to Osaka’s southern suburb. Specialized in crafts and tea ceremony (as tea master Sen no Rikyu’s hometown), this ancient Japanese port city is world famous for homing the largest Kofun cluster in Japan (Mozu Kofungun Tombs). These large funeral mounds were built for the first Japanese rulers as early as prehistoric times (from the 2nd half of the 3rd century to the 2nd half of the 6th century) and are enlisted in the UNESCO world heritage since July 2019.
These key-hole shaped green areas were scarcely or never dug up and are not open to the visit, however, we recommend watching them from an elevated viewpoint. Sakai City Hall’s Observatory is free and at 80 meters above sea level it allows to measure the impressive size of Sakai’s largest Kofun, that are now surrounded by the city. You will see:
- Daisen-ryo, the tomb of emperor Nintoku;
- Kamiishizu Misanzai, the tomb of emperor Richu; and,
- The mausoleum to emperor Hanzei.
Near the City Hall tower, we also highly recommend to go to:
- Sakai Alphonse Mucha Museum displaying the world’s largest private collection of the Czech illustrator (1860 - 1939) involved the Art Nouveau style;
- Daisen Park is a pleasant green space for the locals, and also a hanami spot during the sakura 🌸 blooming season in early spring. A large Japanese garden and the city’s museum on Sakai’s history and folklore complete the visit of the park.
Sakai traditional architecture and crafts
Then, a little bit north along the Kishu Kaido road, where the local Chin Chin Densha tramway is running, you’ll find the old Yamaguchi Residence dating back to the early Edo period (1603 – 1868). The preserved architecture of this machiya townhouse can be explored walking through the rooms to have a good glimpse of a comfortable family of intermediaries and civilian conciliators’ lifestyle at the times. If you like Japanese blades, you can also visit Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum, whose exhibition was completely renewed during the Covid 🦠 period. The museum’s shop is selling Japanese knives made by local artisans.
Most of these visits are within walking distance or tramway ride from Sakai Station on the Nankai Line or Sakai-shi station on the Hanwa JR Line, that connect the city to Osaka’s southern side (Namba and Tennoji) in about 15 minutes. Renting a bicycle is also a good idea to move around the area.
A university and residential city, with a quiet atmosphere, Sakai is enlivened several times a year thanks to its festivals, such as the traditional Sakai Matsuri and its float procession on the 3rd weekend of October.
Gateway to the Kansai area
Osaka southern suburb also includes several other suburban cities, but overall they are less interesting than Sakai regarding sightseeing, except maybe Kishiwada, an ancient feudal city and its castle 🏯 staging an unusual float festival, Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, that attracts hundreds of thousands onlookers each year around mid-September.
On the coast, towns such as Izumisano and Sennan have seaside areas with beaches 🏖 and hotel 🏨 complexes facing Kansai International Airport (KIX) built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay. Thanks to this access by plane ✈️, travelers can quickly reach Kansai’s main touristic destinations such as Osaka, Kyoto, and also Nara and Wakayama prefectures.