Osaka City Guide Series – Introduction
YOKOSO! Welcome to Osaka!
Would you like to know where the popular places for hanging out, grabbing a drink in Shinsaibashi are? Or the safest places for your children to play? Or are you more interested in seeking out the old Osaka and its antique treasures? Osaka has plenty to offer for everyone, from first-time visitors to long-term residents, there is so much about this city to love and so much you won’t want to miss.
This is the first part of a series of guides to fully enjoy living in this great city Osaka. This guide is a general introduction of the most popular areas. In future journal entries we will focus on specific areas and experiences. Stay in touch…
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan. For centuries, it has been the commercial center of the country. It’s a hub in the center of Kansai region, with quick commutes to Kyoto, Kobe and Nara. The city is divided into 24 wards. Choosing the area which best fits your personality, tastes in food or interior design, one which allows you to walk to work, close to your best friend’s house, places to hang out without worrying about missing the last train, etc. Wherever you want to live, we will help and support you every step of the way. Together, we will find a place that fits you, makes you happy, a place you call “home”.
At Grand Front Osaka and Osaka Station City, you will find everything that you need and more. Osaka Station City has everything from cinemas, fashion stores, sports clubs, schools, restaurants, cafes, electronics shops, to medical clinics. Osaka station complex now houses Osaka’s first Top Shop, the first Soup Stock Tokyo and many other shops inside the new shopping centers and department stores of Grand Front Osaka, Lucua and Daimaru. Osaka/Umeda is western Japan’s busiest transportation hub. With 16 trains lines running though Osaka/Umeda and its adjacent stations, it serves approx. 820,000,000 people per year. It’s the 4th busiest station in the World:
1. Shinjuku (Tokyo, Japan) – Approx. 1,260,000,000 people per year
2. Shibuya (Tokyo, Japan) – Approx. 1,090,000,000 people per year
3. Ikebukuro (Tokyo, Japan) – Approx. 910,000,000 people per year
4. Umeda (Osaka, Japan) – Approx. 820,000,000 people per year
5. Yokohama (Kanagawa, Japan) – Approx. 760,000,000 people per year
Major landmark of the Umeda area is the Sky Building (twin towers linked by an observatory, design inspired by space station typical of legendary Sci-Fi stories). Different areas in the tower are named the “Floating garden”, “The Mother Ship”, “Space Bridge”, and “Space Station”. Reflection of the sky and the twin partner in its mirrored walls during the day and illumination at night, this tower stands as a symbol of the renovation of the city during the 1990s.
Yodoyabashi, Dojima and Nakanoshima
As you walk south from Umeda, the Ogawa River splits and rejoins creating Nakanoshima Island. Dojima River and Tosabori River meet at Yodoyabashi, where the business area continues (all the way through the Midosuji down to Honmachi). Nakanoshima, one of Osaka’s business centers, is home to the Osaka City Central Public Hall. Open to the public, the Osaka City Central Public Hall is available for business meeting and private functions including weddings!
During the Edo Period, Nakanoshima was the economic heart of the area. Presently, as well as the above mentioned the Osaka City Central Public Hall, the National Museum of Art, the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, the Osaka Performing Arts Centre and the Science Museum are all located on Nakanoshima Island, forming center of culture in the heart of the city. Nakanoshima Island and the adjacent areas are also home to many large corporations, hotels and university campuses. Nakanoshima Festival Tower plays host to local and visiting performers.
Across the river to the south, there is Higobashi Station. For those families with kids, YMCA has opened an international school in the area, as well as Oyodo Junior High School. The neighborhood to the northwest is also home to the Asahi Broadcasting headquarters, Osaka’s landmark Umeda Sky Building, and the parks of Oyodominami and Oyodonaka.
A special mention goes out to this neighborhood to the east of Umeda, just one stop from Umeda on the Subway Tanimachi Line. It’s a retro paradise in the heart of Osaka. An oasis of unique little shops, boutiques and handmade art and also cozy restaurants just 10 min to Umeda. There is really a lot of pearls waiting to be discovered and explored in this tiny area.
With Umeda as the center of the north end of town, Namba is the heart of “Minami”, Osaka’s lively downtown district. Nakanoshima divides the city into these two main areas. The south has plenty of character, the neon lights of Dotonbori, the World famous Glico sign, the music from American Village “Amemura”, the alternative fashion, handicraft shops and markets.
Throughout the day the shopping street arcades of Shinsaibashi, Sennichimae and Nipponbashi swell with crowds of shoppers, sightseers and colorful locals (younger in the middle with older generations hunting out deals in the south and north ends), music and images from TV screens and shops make every day feel like a summer sale. At night, Europa-Dori, Soemoncho and Dotonbori canal (the most well-known spot in Osaka, a must-see in all tourists guides) really light up and offer countless options for eating, drinking and night-time entertainment, all night and every day.
Namba station itself is a hub of several stations uniting 7 different train and subway lines to take you anywhere and everywhere in Osaka and Kansai. The fastest way to reach the Kansai Airport KIX by train. Namba Walk, Namba Parks, Namba City, Takashimaya and Marui are just some of the shopping centers you can find in Namba.
Home of Osaka’s famous Yoshimoto Comedy Theatre, starting point and home to Japan’s funniest and most-loved comedians. Doguyasuji, Osaka’s kitchen drawer, a street where you can find any and all the kitchen utensils you could ever imagine for your restaurant or home (fluorescent signs, chopsticks, industrial grade takoyaki machines, etc.). At the end of this street, Den-Den Town begins. Nipponbashi Station’s Den-Den Town and Bunraku Theater are perfect examples of the most often repeated sentence used when describing Japan “a mix of tradition and modernity”. Bunraku is Japanese puppet drama, deemed world cultural heritage by UNESCO. Just across the road, you have Osaka’s electronic district, like Tokyo’s famous Akihabara area, parallel streets from Nipponbashi to Ebisucho Stations are filled with all kinds of electronics, DVDs, games, figurines, computer and cosplay shops and restaurants to keep every level of otaku on satisfied. Visit a maid café, a Gundam-themed bar or an exhibition of a manga artist’s illustrations.
South of Ebisucho Station, you will see the Tsutenkaku, one of the city’s oldest modern-era landmarks. Rebuilt in 1956 on the after-war ruins of the original Tsutenkaku of 1912, it stands high above the center of the restaurant area of Shinsekai. Changing colored lights at the top of the tower forecast the weather. The ironically named area around Shinsekai (new world) is not the most modern in Osaka, but there are many cheap accommodation options for visitors and the massive indoor bath complex, Spa World, is located just blocks away.
Although it is home to the Shitennoji Temple, the Osaka Zoo, the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art and the busy Tennoji hub station connecting Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, the subway and the airport, this area has never really been considered as chic or popular as Umeda or Namba. Thanks to Q’s Mall and Harukas, Tennoji looks much more fashionable than before. You can easily spend a whole day there. Harukas towering 300 meters above ground, is Japan’s tallest building.
Horie is Osaka’s version of London’s Soho and Paris’ South Bank. Arty, innovative, edgy, and home to some of Osaka’s most exiting modern architecture. We have listed many designer’s mansions in Kitahorie and Minamihorie. You are sure to find something you love as much as we do. In the south of Nishi-ku, there is Yotsubashi, OCAT, Namba Hatch and some wonderful riverside cafes and restaurants. There are a number of stylish restaurants and cafés along both banks of Osaka’s famous Dotonbori in the Minatomachi River Place complex. You can utilize these establishments for any occasion, whether for a romantic date, dinner with friends, or a casual cup of coffee. Well worth a visit.
Nearby is the trendy Orange Street, home to funky designer’s furniture, hair stylists, and fashionable shops. Three parks nearby in walking distance, 4 subway stations, Yotsubashi, Nishiohashi, Sakuragawa and Namba, all within 10 minutes’ walk. Bakeries, fashionable restaurants, tapas, Italian bars, and a German bakery, you will have no reason to leave the area.
Shinmachi, sometimes being called the quiet, mature Horie, is becoming the latest high-demand area for families, DINKS and newlyweds. A lot of new apartment building developments in the area will mean a lot more growth in the future. Until recently, Shinmachi has long been an office neighborhood. The area is filled with little bars and restaurants of all styles and flavors. The popular “Shinmachi 1-chome Bar Festa” is held several times a year and every shop in this area cooperates and offers a sample of their most popular dishes to newcomers.
Chuo means “Centre” in Japanese, a very strategic area to live wherever you work. While Honmachi is the central business area where hundreds of companies and government organizations’ headquarters are located, the central part of Osaka remains fairly residential. You can find large family-type houses in the most urban area of Tanimachi.
If you prefer to live in a largely business district, it is important to note, despite what most people think, these are generally quiet areas. After business hours, the noise stops as the companies close and everyone goes home. This means you can sleep peacefully and avoid crowds and noise on weekends too. Another reason is, you are never far away from restaurants, which provide lunch for hundreds of hungry, well-paid “salarymen” every day.
The Osaka Castle, built and rebuilt many times since its initial construction in the 16th century, still stands proudly as a symbol of the rich heritage of the city. The areas adjacent to Osaka Castle Park are not as built up as other central areas. Next to Morinomiya Station, there is urban development, the current and former homes to JR employees. Apart from that, most of the buildings around belong to telecommunication companies. The Osaka Museum of History is there along with NHK Hall and its broadcasting center. Living near the castle offers great views, good atmosphere and the largest park in Osaka City. Whether exercising or stumbling home after the famous cherry blossom festival in Osaka Castle. “Ohanami” in the park attracts most Osaka residents in spring. The Q’s Mall, which was opened on April, 2015, made this area even more attractive. There are 2 futsal courts and a running track on top of the mall. There is also a sports gym and a climbing gym in the mall. This is probably the only mall that wants to keep you in shape. A central location like this will let you meet your friends anytime, coming from different parts of the city.
Chuo-ku also plays host to this unique waterway attraction, the Aqua-Liner River Bus. In 1983, as part of the Osaka Castle’s 400th anniversary celebrations, the Aqua-Liner River Bus service was created. As a transportation service at peak morning and evening times and a cruise boat throughout the day and on weekends, the Aqua-Liner is a big tourist attraction as well as a hit with local commuters. Departing from Osaka Castle port, a round trip through central Osaka takes about 60 minutes. As well as returning to the departure port, passengers have the option of getting off at any of the ports along the way. It’s also a great way of viewing many of Osaka’s popular cherry blossom spots during late March and early April.
Shin-Osaka Station is the land link to Tokyo. The Shinkansen bullet trains stop here. There is a bypass which takes you north from Midosuji to Shin-Osaka by car in 15 minutes. It is a bit weird and also thrilling to drive past the 5th and 6th floors of buildings, then across one of the bridges over the Yodogawa to Shin-Osaka. Shin-Osaka is another great, affordable place to live because as soon as you cross the river, land prices per square meter become significantly cheaper than in the south. Also, the convenience of all the stations – Awaji, Juso, Kita-Senri and rather convenient areas surrounding those and Shin-Osaka Station itself. You can also enjoy the green areas on the banks of the Yodogawa.
Further North on the Midosuji line, you will find Senri Chuo, a residential area, home to several universities, Osaka International school and the one and only Osaka Monorail. This takes you to the Banpaku Memorial Park, site of the 1970 World Expo. 15km from the center of Osaka, the sprawling 264 hectare park is home to sports grounds, gardens and places of cultural interest. Regarded as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots, the park is also home to the iconic Tower of the Sun statue, an Osaka icon, symbolic of the Showa Period. The festival grounds are also home to regular flea markets.
Various sporting events are held within the park, tennis, soccer, baseball and American football can be enjoyed at various times of the year. Osaka’s own soccer team, Gamba Osaka, has their home stadium here. Traditional Japanese gardens, including a massive pond, cover 26 hectares of the park. The areas of the garden represent 4 different stages in Japanese history, ancient times, the middle ages, early modern and contemporary.
That’s all for now folks. More curious and interesting guides coming soon.