20 Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Osaka’s Sakai City – Famous for Ancient Tombs and Knives
Sakai City, located south of Osaka City, has thrived as the city of knives and cutlery. It is dotted with clusters of ancient tombs (“kofun” in Japanese) that were built before the 1600s, including the Tomb of Emperor Nintoku on the eastern part of the city. Sakai is also known as the town where Sen no Rikyu spread the tradition of tea ceremony. So with that, here are the sightseeing spots and dishes that you have to see and taste in Sakai, the city at the heart of Japan’s history.
Sep 13 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
10 Classic Sightseeing Spots in Sakai
1. Tomb of Emperor Nintoku
Located within the Mozu Ancient Tomb Cluster (Mozu Kofun-gun), the Tomb of Emperor Nintoku (Nintoku Tenno-ryo Kofun) is a representative site of Sakai and the largest ancient burial tomb in Japan. It is famous as one of the three largest tombs in the world alongside the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in China.
Emperor Nintoku was the 16th Emperor of Japan. He reigned in the first half of the 5th century. His tumulus was built about two years after his death, and a stone coffin, swords, armor and helmet, and plenty of clay figures were excavated in the area.
The burial mound is a keyhole-shaped tumulus that is rectangular in shape in front and round at the rear, measuring about 468m in total length. It is surrounded by three layers of moats.
The observation lobby on the 21st floor of Sakai City Hall has a sweeping view of the entire burial mound. Entry is not allowed inside the ancient tomb, but you should still visit the area to learn about the history of Japan.
2. Mozu Ancient Tomb Cluster
The Mozu Ancient Tomb Cluster is a world-famous zone of tombs that, together with the Furuichi Tomb Cluster, stretches from Habikino City to Fujiidera City and is collectively called Mozu-Furuichi Ancient Tomb Cluster.
This cluster of burial mounds currently houses 44 ancient tombs, centering around the Tomb of Emperor Nintoku, the Tomb of Emperor Richu, and the Tomb of Emperor Hanzei.
Many of the tumuli in this area have a stunning keyhole shape, with all the mounds believed to have been built from the end of the 4th century until the early 6th century.
It is definitely great to explore the area by car, but another way that is recommended is to hop on a rental bicycle. The bicycles have electric assist systems, so it's really convenient for getting around.
3. Daisen Park
Daisen Park is a nature-rich public park that is located between the Tomb of Emperor Nintoku and the Tomb of Emperor Richu.
Inside this sprawling 38.5-hectare park is a Japanese garden that covers a vast area of the lawn, as well as Sakai City Museum, the Central Public Library, and the Cycle Center.
There are also 12 ancient burial mounds inside this area, although they are smaller in scale. This park is also a famous spot for sakura (cherry blossoms), treating visitors to gorgeous blooms of rare cherry trees such as the Chishima-zakura.
You should also check out the Shinan and Obaian tea rooms, which are registered tangible cultural properties, and the Kyujodoji Kyuju-no-to (nine-layered stone pillar), an important cultural property. Make sure to visit these spots when you tour the cluster of ancient burial mounds.
4. Japanese Garden at Daisen Park
The Japanese Garden inside Daisen Park occupies a vast 26,000 sq.m. area. It opened in March 1989 as the 100th anniversary project of Sakai City.
This garden was built using Japan’s original technology for creating gardens. The plateau at the southern part of the garden serves as a “togenkyo” (Shangri-La), the Ishizukei River flows from south to north, and the plains spread out on the north side.
Beautiful flowers bloom in this garden every season, with exhibitions held to showcase peonies, morning glory flowers, chrysanthemums, and many other flowers throughout the year. If you stand on any of the three bridges over Ishizukei, you will get to soak in the peaceful scenery that will make you feel the four seasons of Japan.
There are rest facilities where you relax inside the garden as well. They even offer matcha green tea to visitors. This park is definitely the perfect spot for dates and other occasions.
5. Bicycle Museum Cycle Center
Found inside Daisen Park, the Bicycle Museum Cycle Center is the only bicycle museum in Japan that showcases the history of Sakai City's bicycle industry and displays various kinds of bicycles.
Sakai flourished as a town of smithery where blacksmiths made hoes, guns, and blades. The blacksmiths' techniques were also used in the production of bicycles; the bicycle parts manufactured in the area are used not only in Japan, but all over the world as well.
The museum features around 300 bicycles - from the oldest bicycle up to the latest bicycle in the market today. Visitors even get to experience and learn about brakes, transmissions, and other bicycle mechanisms.
There are also events that are held at this museum, including test-ride events for classic bicycles and bicycle riding classes. This museum is highly recommended to those who wish to know more about the charms of bicycles.
6. Hamadera Park
Hamadera Park, which is located at the southernmost coast of Sakai City, opened in 1873 and is the oldest public park in Japan. The row of pine trees on its coastline has been chosen as one of the Top 100 Pine Groves in Japan.
It is home to the Traffic Amusement Park, which offers visitors a variety of fun rides, a rose garden, pool, sports facilities, and children’s playground, among many other facilities.
During summer, the famous Hamadera Swimming School holds lessons at this park. From spring until autumn, the park’s Rose Garden is enveloped with 6,500 blooming rose plants from 300 varieties.
You can rent bicycles for free inside this vast park, and you can also have a BBQ at a designated area, so you are bound to have a fun-filled day with your family.
7. Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko
Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko (Sakai Risho no Mori) is a complex facility that is annexed to two museums: Sen no Rikyu Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony) Museum and Yosano Akiko Museum.
The Sen no Rikyu Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony) Museum was built in memory of the Sakai-born tea master Sen no Rikyu. Here, there is a reproduction of one of his original tea rooms, and you can unlock the ingenuity of Sen no Rikyu through audio and video presentations.
Meanwhile, at the Yosano Akiko Museum, life and works of the Sakai-born singer Akiko Yosano are on display. There is also a corner where you can experience the world of poetry through video and audio.
Adjacent to this museum are the Chanoyu Experience Halls and the Sen no Rikyu Yashikiato (ruins of Sen no Rikyu’s residence), as well as a restaurant and cafe. This spot is recommended to those who want to know more about the world of tea ceremony and poetry.
8. Sakai Hamono Museum
Located on the second floor of the Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum, the Sakai Hamono Museum is a place where they showcase and sell Sakai-made knives and hamono (cutlery), a traditional craft that is the pride of Sakai City. If you go to the first floor, you will see a demonstration of how knives and cutlery are made.
Hoes, plows, and other implements have been made in Sakai since ancient times, and it became famous throughout the country thanks to its thriving industry of knives used in cutting and trimming fish during the Tokugawa period (1693 - 1868).
The museum displays various knives and cutlery that were made in Sakai, such as knives used by roughly 90% of all professional chefs in Japan. There is also an area where you can learn about taking care of knives, scissors, and other cutleries.
On the first floor of the Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum, other traditional crafts outside of the cutlery sphere are also displayed and sold, including incense sticks and bicycles. It's a great place to stop by for souvenirs.
9. Mozu Hachimangu
Mozu Hachimangu is a Hachiman shrine that was built around 1,500 years ago. It is just a 5-minute walk away from Mozu Station.
There is an enormous camphor tree in front of the main shrine that is said to be 700 - 800 years old, and it has been designated as a natural monument by the city of Osaka. It is believed to help worshipers ward off evil.
This shrine is famous for its autumn festival (Tsukimi Matsuri) that is held during the night of the harvest moon (full moon, which occurs on August 15th in the lunar calendar) around September 20th each year. During the festival, the Futon Daiko drums, which weigh about 3 tons, are paraded around the neighborhood.
Mozu Hachimangu is near the Tomb of Emperor Nintoku and Daisen Park, so you should drop by this historic shrine on your stroll through these tombs. Who knows, something good just might happen to you!
10. Sakai Alphonse Mucha Museum
The Sakai Alphonse Mucha Museum is an art museum that focuses on the illustrations and paintings by Alphonse Mucha, a designer representing the Art Nouveau genre.
Born in 1860 in what is in present day the Czech Republic, Mucha became famous in Paris, France, and received worldwide acclaim for his works at the 1900 Paris Expo. He lived his final years in the Czech Republic.
The museum showcases his lifelong work, displaying a large number of his works from the early stages of his career up to the final years of his life. You will see many different sides of him through his works, which range from posters of women during his time in Paris, up to oil paintings and sculptures.
It should be worth your time to visit this museum to marvel at the works of Mucha, which have captivated many people with their graceful curves and pale, unique color schemes. This spot is recommended to those who are interested in graphic art and paintings.
5 Recommended Spots Around Sakai Station
1. Ginshariya Gekotei
Located right next to Terajicho Station, Ginshariya Gekotei is an inexpensive local eatery built by the famous rice cooking master, where you can eat their exquisite rice at a truly affordable price.
Here, they primarily offer set meals that will allow you to choose one main dish, which is mainly a kind of seafood dish, with a side of miso soup and rice. The rice here is, of course, absolutely divine, but the other dishes they serve are always extremely highly rated.
The owner of the restaurant, Tsutomu Murashima, regretfully retired in 2013 at the age of 83. The eatery that stands at the location right now is Ginshari Gekotei, the second generation of his restaurant that has inherited his obsession and commitment to food.
Murashima, who turned 87 years old in 2019, apparently still comes to the restaurant to teach the crew how to properly cook rice. This is definitely the top recommended local gourmet stop when you visit Sakai.
2. Keshimochi Honpo Kojimaya
Keshimochi Honpo Kojimaya is a Japanese confectionery shop that was opened during the Enpo era (1673 - 1681) of the Edo period (1603 -1868). Their signature item is the keshimochi (rice cake covered with poppy seeds), and this delight has been its most famous product ever since the Edo period.
The making of confectioneries to be served in tea ceremonies, which was made popular by Sen no Rikyu, flourished in Sakai from the Azuchi-Momoyama period (around 1558 - 1600). Keshimochi is one of those sweets.
Poppies are said to have come from India during the Muromachi period (1333 - 1573) and then widely cultivated around Osaka (especially in Sakai) and Wakayama.
A soft rice cake filled with red bean paste and covered with fragrant poppy seeds, the keshimochi offered by Keshimochi Honpo Kojimaya is a confectionery that best represents Sakai. It is a great souvenir that will give you a taste of history that spans more than 300 years.
Sasuke is a store that has been forging and selling cutting tools, especially garden shears for professional use, for five generations since the Edo period. You can also tour the factory here if you make a reservation.
The tools at Sasuke are made using ancient techniques adopted from around the 5th century that preserve the traditions of Sakai and respect the power of fire.
Here, you will get to watch manufacturing processes such as steel hammer welding that combines two kinds of unprocessed metals (steel and unprocessed metal) and tempering, as well as polishing and sharpening.
Their scissors and clippers have also become popular with foreigners of late due to a bonsai boom. They also sell small knives, letter openers, and other cutting tools, so you should definitely visit if you have the time.
4. Sakai City Fishing Federation Tore-Tore Market
The Sakai City Fishing Federation Tore-Tore Market is an eating establishment where you can enjoy seafood BBQ inside the Sakai Dejima Fishing Port. Sponsored by the Sakai City Fishing Federation, it is held every Saturday and Sunday.
At the center of a massive tent, there are rows of tables where you can grill your food. Around the tables there are eight stores offering a selection of various ingredients.
When you go there, the first thing you need to do is rent a BBQ net and then buy seafood, vegetables, yakisoba (fried noodles), rice and whatever food or ingredients you want from the other stores. When you rent out the BBQ net, you can also purchase meat along with it.
The Sakai City Fishing Federation Tore-Tore Market also holds events for children, such as the Super Bowl Sukui, so that you are guaranteed to have fun with your friends. You can certainly come alone and have a great time, but this place is especially recommended for families.
5. Hochigai Shrine
Hochigai Shrine is said to have been built in 90 B.C., making it more than 2,000 years old. It is visited by plenty of worshipers who wish for luck when building a new house or moving. There are also many people who come to this shrine for their custom of “katatagai”, which calls for someone to head toward a different direction when the direction they are currently taking is unlucky.
This shrine is built along Nagao Highway, which connects Osaka, Nara, and Kumano. Behind it is the Tomb of Emperor Hanzei. This is a great spot to take a stroll as there are also many other spots near this shrine, such as the old townscape of Kuramae-cho and Aizen-in, where the main hall built in the early Edo period still remains.
5 Recommended Little-Known Spots in Sakai
1. 21st Floor Observation Lobby at Sakai City Hall
The 21st Floor Observation Lobby at Sakai City Hall is located on the top floor of Sakai City Hall near Sakaihigashi Station. From here, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the town below.
The streets of Sakai will spread before your eyes, and when you come on a clear day, you can even see everything from Mt. Rokko up to Mt. Ikoma and Mt. Kongo. The night view is also spectacular, catapulting the place as one of the new famous landmarks of Sakai City.
This observation lobby on the 21st floor of Sakai City Hall is popular as the only place where the entire Tomb of Emperor Nintoku can be seen from above. Admission is free and it is open even on national holidays.
There is also a cafe corner where you can relax. It may be inside the city hall, but there are no troublesome procedures you need to go through when you enter, so make sure to check out this observation lobby.
2. Children’s Museum Big Bang
Children’s Museum Big Bang is a museum for children that was designed based on the theme “an epic journey of Bearu and Merou who are visitors from outer space”, with the famous cartoonist Leiji Matsumoto serving as the director of the museum.
The spaceship on which Bearu and Merou flew in on has been set as the facade of the museum, and the 1st to 4th floor consists of areas where the world created by Matsumoto is brought to life. There are even real rocket engines and space suits on display.
Inside the museum, there are various facilities such as the Children’s Theater, Workshop, Confectionery Making Room, as well as large playground equipment, a rest area, an infirmary, and a cafe. The 1st to 4th floors have a barrier-free design.
Beside the spaceship, there is a 53m-high jungle gym that looks just like a rocket launch pad. This facility will surely be enjoyed not just by children, but also by adults.
3. Maguro Park Sakai Main Branch
Maguro Park Sakai Main Branch is a major “food-based theme park” that is located inside the Sakai Central Wholesalers Market in the Kita area of Sakai. There are 220 seats available inside where you can sit while enjoying an array of dishes that mainly incorporate tuna (maguro).
People who come here love the sushi, donburi (rice bowl with topping), and set meals that use fresh tuna. There is also a tuna cutting show that is held here every day.
In addition to seafood, Maguro Park Sakai Main Branch also sells meats, vegetables, and other ingredients at prices that are much lower than market prices. This place draws in throngs of customers as the so-called kitchen of the residents in the area.
It is located in the middle of the Mozu Ancient Tomb Cluster and the Furuichi Tomb Cluster, so it is easy to drop by this market while you are exploring the ancient tombs. It may be a bit far from the center of the city, but it is definitely a must-visit little-known spot for seafood.
4. Old Sakai Lighthouse
The Old Sakai Lighthouse is a Western-style wooden lighthouse that was built in 1877 at the old Nanko pier in Sakai Port. It has been designated as a national historic site.
Located at the tip of the former Sakai Port, this old lighthouse is one of the oldest Western-style wooden lighthouses that still exist today. However, the reclamation of the port led to the closure of this lighthouse in 1968.
Standing at 11.3m high, this lighthouse initially illuminated the area using a kerosene lamp. That lamp was gradually worn out, but its restoration and repair was completed in 2006, bringing it back to its former glory.
Old Sakai Lighthouse may be a small lighthouse, but it is a priceless asset in terms of historical value. The nature-rich Ohama Park is nearby, too, so you should check it out when you go for a walk.
5. Shinan and Obaian Tea Rooms
The Shinan tea room in Daisen Park was built in 1929 by Rodo Ogi, but it was originally located at the Tokyo Shiba Park and later moved to its current location.
Rodo Ogi is a tea master and architect who was active from the Meiji period (1868 - 1912) until the early Showa period (1912 - 1926). Shinan is considered a massive structure even in terms of tea rooms, as it is a two-story Japanese sukiya-style (tea ceremony building) building with 10 Japanese-style rooms.
The adjacent Obaian tea room was built during the Edo period in a house that belonged to the Toyoda family in Kashihara City. Both tea rooms are designated as national tangible cultural properties.
At Shinan, you can enjoy matcha green tea with dried confectionery. Obaian is also connected to a beautiful Japanese garden, so you'll be able to relax and marvel at the beauty of Japan here.
Enjoy Walks Through Historic Streets and Delicious Food in Sakai
Sakai is a place that is overflowing with attractions that include ancient burial mounds housing notable people from the past, knives, tea ceremonies, and Japanese confectioneries. The gap between the clusters of buildings and the tumuli where the past generations are resting is the very thing that draws people to Sakai. Make sure to have your fill of seafood dishes and delicious rice as well for Sakai is a port town after all!
Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
By the way, you can book a hotel through Relux (run by SPIRA) by clicking here!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.