Osaka: Park on Osaka Bay has U.S. West Coast vibe

The Yomiuri Shimbun
With palm tress lining the beach, Sennan Long Park offers an open-air atmosphere in Sennan, Osaka Prefecture.

SENNAN, Osaka — With a view of Kansai Airport, the Sennan Long Park stretches about 2 kilometers along the seashore and comprises areas for skating, basketball, camping and other activities, evoking comparisons to the U.S. West Coast.

With its picturesque sunset view, a beach adjacent to the park is known as a “holy place for lovers,” but its popularity has also grown among young people and families.

On a Sunday in mid-July, the sky became clear after a long spell of rain, and the park bustled with visitors. Young people were playing basketball and children were cheerfully running around on the sandy beach.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Young people play basketball at one of the park’s courts.

The 107,800-square-meter park includes an area for eating and drinking establishments where you can have coffee or a meal while gazing over the waters of Osaka Bay, and an area where you can enjoy glamping, outdoor camping with home comforts.

Vacant for many years

The park opened in July 2020, after the beginning of the novel coronavirus crisis, but the attraction of its open-air atmosphere, reminiscent of the U.S. West Coast, spread far and wide online. In addition to palm trees and vivid and stylish information signs, the park’s design and concept create a resort-like atmosphere.

A 20-year-old woman from nearby Kishiwada in the prefecture visited the park with her boyfriend for their first date and had their photo taken with palm trees in the background.

“I came here for the first time. The park made me feel like I was at an overseas resort,” the woman said. “It became part of my good memories.”

The bridge to Kansai Airport is located near the northern end of the park, which offers splendid viewing of airplanes landing or taking off into the summer skies.

The park is part of Rinku Town, an area developed by the Osaka prefectural government as a gateway to the airport. Initially, the land was slated to be used as an industrial site, lined with skyscrapers, but the recession in the 1990s, the so called bursting of the economic bubble, forced companies to shelve their construction plans. As a result, the land was fenced off and left vacant for many years.

Decades later, there was a sea change.

“It’s a perfect location with a great view of the sea and sky. It would be a waste not to take advantage of it,” said former Sennan Mayor Isato Takenaka, 69, referring to the potential of the area.

Takenaka envisioned an overseas seaside resort. “There was no such place in Osaka, so I thought it would come off well,” he recalled.

According to Takenaka, the city used the seaside site for an event, which eventually led the city to lease it for free from the Osaka prefectural government, when he was mayor.

Takenaka decided to adopt a private finance initiative method in which private companies are commissioned to develop, operate and maintain public facilities. He sought companies to work together to create an “exciting place” for Sennan, like Tokyo Disneyland or Universal Studios Japan.

Once Daiwa Lease Co., based in Osaka City, was selected to build the park, Takenaka told the company: “Anything can be done, as long as there are no violations of the law. I want you to create the kind of park that government entities can’t.”

Catalyst for revitalization

With the park having attracted public attention. Takenaka said, “It turned out to be something beyond our imagination.”

Last November, the city government held an event in which it collaborated with people in the farming and fisheries sectors selling local specialties.

This spring, the city government made further efforts to introduce the charms of Sennan to tourists, such as offering temporary bus services connecting the park with other tourist attractions in the city.

People living in the surrounding area also visit the park to enjoy walks and use the various facilities.

“I can’t find any other place in this area where we can practice in such a good environment,” said a 17-year-old high school student, who lives nearby and visits the park every day to practice skateboarding.

“As a local resident, I’m proud of this place,” he added.

Even in the evening, visitors, particularly young people, were still at the park, with some staring at the sun setting over the horizon. What was once called “a negative legacy of the economic bubble” has now become a catalyst for regional revitalization.

Extend your trip!

Hanasaki flower farm

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Hanasaki flower farm

Established in 2005, the Hanasaki flower farm run by the city government entertains the eyes of visitors with tulips and cosmos. An English-style rose garden within the farm attracts many tourists during the spring and autumn holiday seasons, when a wide variety of roses are in full bloom. The farm also sells rose seedlings and provides gardening lessons.

How to get there

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Sennan Long Park is a 15-minute walk from Tarui Station on the Nankai Electric Railway Nankai Line. By car, the park is about five kilometers from the Izumisano-Minami Interchange on the Hanshin Expressway. The Hanasaki flower farm is a short drive from the Sennan Interchange on the Hanwa Expressway.