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Osaka Ferris wheel offers toasty winter ride with heated kotatsu table, oden hot pot

A cabin with a heated "kotatsu" table installed, is seen in this photo provided by Osaka Wheel.

SUITA, Osaka -- Japan's tallest Ferris wheel, towering 123 meters, is holding an event in which passengers can enjoy an "oden" winter hot pot dish in a gondola with a heated "kotatsu" table and stay warm while viewing the Tower of the Sun and other landmarks below.

    The operator of "Osaka Wheel" in Expo '70 Commemorative Park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, said it hopes to make the limited-time event running until the end of February a "winter tradition."

    Ten of the wheel's 72 cabins, which can each carry up to six people, are equipped with kotatsu tables. The inside of the kotatsu is kept warm with a thermal heater, and visitors can enter with their shoes on, and snuggle under the futon, which comes up to the waist.

    Takeshi Miwa, general manager of Osaka Wheel's operator Expo Kanransha, is seen in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on Jan. 18, 2023. (Mainichi/Kaoru Nagasaki)

    The canned hot oden handed to passengers when boarding the Ferris wheel is produced by Nagoya-based Tengu Canning Co., and contains seven ingredients including beef tendon.

    The event started in December last year, and more than 1,500 passengers have boarded so far. It is reportedly popular among passengers for "the delicious oden and the great view." During the event period, "Suita Elephant" a locally brewed sake made from rice produced in Suita, is also on sale at a nearby stall for 750 yen (about $6) for a single 180 milliliter serving, and can be enjoyed with the oden.

    The idea for the event surfaced in 2019, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Takeshi Miwa, general manager of Osaka Wheel's operator Expo Kanransha, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I made the kotatsu table frame to match the height of the gondola chairs. I'm happy that we are finally able to hold the event."

    Osaka Wheel opened on July 1, 2016. Since the operating company changed in 2019, Miwa, 44, and others have taken the lead in developing cabins with unique concepts, with six decorated differently for passengers to take selfies and four offering a terrifying "zombie" experience using stereophonic sound effects in the dark.

    Miwa stated, "I'd like to continue working on new projects based on the concept of offering never-seen-before rides that will change people's concept of Ferris wheels."

    For the cabins with a kotatsu, one ride, which takes about 18 minutes, costs 1,500 yen (around $11) per person, while a 36-minute ride going around twice costs 2,200 yen (roughly $17). The Ferris wheel is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with the last entry at 7:40 p.m. For inquiries, contact Osaka Wheel at 06-6170-3246 (in Japanese).

    (Japanese original by Kaoru Nagasaki, Osaka Bureau)

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