The mention of Osaka calls to mind Takoyaki, comedies, shopping and neon-lit streets... but now that you're in Osaka, why not make a detour to lush green Hokusetsu in suburban Osaka, only a 20-minute train ride from Umeda Station in central Osaka. It's full of exciting places ideal for family travelers, such as the zoo where kids can get up close with cute animals, the Cupnoodles Museum where visitors can easily make their own original "Cup Noodle" and parks to stroll through admiring the impressive gorge or the waterfalls. Adults and kids alike will fully enjoy themselves in double-featured Osaka with both urban bustle and rich natural beauty.
START: Ikeda Sta.of Takarazuka Line, Hankyu Railway
Roughly 10 minutes by car from Kawanishi Kobana exit of Hanshin Expressway Ikeda route. Alternately 15 minutes from Chugoku Ikeda exit of Meishin Expressway / Chugoku Highway.
1. Satsukiyama Zoo
Satsukiyama Zoo is a relatively small admission-free zoo, which opened in 1957. Round, fluffy teddy-like wombats and kangaroos from Australia, monkeys, sheep, raccoons, etc totaling about 60 (13 species in all), all of which you can get close to, attracting lots of family visitors on weekends and holidays. The popular alpaca arrived in spring, 2010. The friendly way they bend their fuzzy necks over the low fence is so lovable. There is also a petting zoo (11:00-15:00, with lunch break) with rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, etc., so why don't you spend some leisurely and relaxing time with the cute animals in the lush greenery?
9:00～16:45 Closed Tuesday
(072)752-7082 *Japanese only
10 minute drive
2. cupnoodles museum Osaka Ikeda
Located in Ikeda City, the birthplace of instant noodles, the museum has much to offer such as a detail_hoed reproduction of the "research shack" at the time when Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nisshin Food Products, invented instant noodle products, a wall-exhibition showing the history of noodles and real packages of instant noodle products around the world are colorfully exhibited. The most popular spot is the "My Cup Noodle Factory" which you can visit without reservations. Design your cup, choose the soup and ingredients you prefer and you can make your one and only "Cup Noodle" (300 yen per serving). Not only are the kids fascinated by the different kinds of ingredients, but they'll get to take home a souvenir. The history of instant noodles, which created a new food culture of just pouring on hot water and easily getting a cup of tasty noodles, teach us the joy and importance of invention and discovery. Brochures available in English and Chinese. Audio guidance (English/Chinese) for the two movies within the museum is also available with a 2000-yen deposit (refunded upon return of receiver). *The "My Cup Noodle Factory" may close early depending on the number of visitors at the museum.
(072)752-3484 *Japanese only
20 minute drive
3. Osaka Prefectural Mino Park
Walk the gentle hill that continues up to Takimichi from Minoh Station: Once you’ve crossed Ichinohashi Bridge, you’ll have another 2 kilometers or so to go before arriving at Minoh Falls. The road along the mountain stream is paved, which makes for safe and easy walking. Tall, luscious trees reach skyward to create a natural tunnel drenched with sunlight that sparkles down from between the leaves. As you wander up the valley’s meandering slope, many sights will keep your interest piqued: rest areas where you can catch your breath a moment, massive boulders that push out into the pathway, Ryuan-ji Temple tucked away in the mountain’s folds, a tea shop rich in nostalgic atmosphere, and more. Enveloped in the silence of the mountain, in time you’ll come to hear only the roar and flow of the mountain stream alongside the gradual mountain path until at last it appears before you: the massive falls. Rest here at the falls and give yourself over to the scenic beauty before you, and little by little the weariness of the hour’s walk will fall from your legs.
5 min walk
4. cafe and gallery Yuzuriha
A small café sits hidden a short walk from the park's entrance and just past the first bridge. It's a nice stop, whether on your way to or from the falls. It's part of the Ichijiru Nisai Ueno chain that receive one star in the Michelin Guide 2010 for Kyoto and Osaka, renowned for Japanese cuisine. Every dish is a delight with exqusitive ingredients and painstaking care in its preparation, from cake to homemade icecream, seasonal fruit parfaits, and delicious mochi rice-cake, tea, and sweet bean macha anmitsu. The coffee is brewed from select beans with natural spring water, and served with aromatic sesame cookies. The appealing and refined dishes and silverware are also for sale in the adjoining gallery. Why not stop in on your waterfall visit? The restaurant only serves a set number of lunches per day (1600 yen). Reservations not accepted.
11:00 - dusk Closed Mondays
2-5 Minookoen, Mino city, Osaka Pref.
(072)745-202 *Japanese only
5 min walk
5. Osaka Prefectural Mino Park Insect Pavillion
The Insect Pavilion within Mino Park and about 10 minutes from Ichinohashi is rich in nature and also known as a treasure house of insects, is a popular spot among kids. Insects found in the forest of Mino as well as foreign insects are introduced in various fun ways. All of the exhibits are well-presented - e.g. living exhibits of Hercules beetles, tremendously popular among kids, bionomics-study installations using sound and smells or touchable models. Moreover, the sunlit glassed-in butterfly house is literally a butterfly's paradise where you can see colorful butterflies fluttering in front of you all year round. An elegant butterfly pausing at a small flower may make you forget time and as you gaze at it. The more you get to know about the mysterious creatures that are insects, the more you'll get hooked on its mysterious ecology.
10:00 – 17:00 (admissions close around 16:30) Closed Tuesdays (Wednesdays when Tuesday is a holiday)
2-5 Minookoen, Mino city, Osaka Pref.
¥270 for adults, free for children 14 and under
Right near the park entrance
6. Mino Onsen (hot spring)
After enjoying Mino Park, walk back along the Takimichi path to the station. The dynamic bare concrete building sticking out of Mt. Mino is the Hotel Minoh Osaka, established in 1951. A straight lift to the top by an observation elevator will take you to a scenic sky walkway, leading into the hotel, dazzlingly decorated in Japanese style but somehow giving off a nostalgic air. As a large-scale modernism construction designed by Sakakura Associates, the hotel is now noted as an architectural structure. The highlight here is surely the open-air bath, taking advantage of the location. The magnificent view looking down from Mt. Mino becomes even more beautiful and romantic at night. After a full day's activity, wind down your worn-out body in the hot water surrounded by nature. The quality of the spring water makes the skin beautiful and smooth.
10:00 – 18:00 adults (12+) ¥1580, children (6 – 11) ¥980, young children ¥580, 18:00 – 23:00 (last admission) adults ¥980
*Fees differ on weekends *Onsen/consumption tax not included
(072)721-7967 *Japanese only
Sights to see： Getting off at the Takarazuka Interchange of the Chugoku Highway will will take you to the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum, exhibiting all there is to know about Osamu Tezuka, creator of the famous comic characters “Astro Boy” and “Black Jack”.
SOUVENIRS ：Along the streets to Takimichi from Hankyu Railway Mino-o Station, the souvenir shops sell “Momiji-no-tempura” at their storefronts, giving off a good aroma. The refined taste similar to “Karinto” is definitely worth a try!