"Osaka is a more enjoyable city than Tokyo." Osaka 's popularity has increased recently among tourists from foreign countries. Osaka is the central city of western Japan. Osaka has been developed by commerce, while Tokyo is a city built by Samurai. So, Osaka has a popular atmosphere. The downtown area of Osaka is flashy. Street food is cheap and tasty. On this page, I will introduce about such fun Osaka.
Table of Contents
Outline of Osaka
There are two downtown areas in Osaka, Minami (meaning South in Japanese) and Kita (meaning North).
In the center of Minami, There are famous districts such as Dotonbori and Namba. Here, the flashy neon gathers the attention of tourists, as seen in the picture on the top. In this area, you can enjoy a lot of delicious street food such as Takoyaki. If you go to Osaka, I highly recommend walking around Dotonbori and Namba.
In the heart of Kita there is a district called Umeda. Umeda may be slightly elegant than Dotonbori and Namba. The atmosphere of Umeda is similar to Tokyo. There are many skyscrapers in this area.
In addition to these two downtown areas, recently, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) located in the Bay Area has been very popular. And Osaka Castle, a traditional Osaka landmark, is crowded with many tourists.
I have lived in Osaka for about three years. I grew up in Tokyo, so I was very surprised that the people in Osaka are a bit different from Tokyo. Generally, people in Osaka are very frank. You may be able to meet people who are friendly in Osaka. People in Osaka like flashy things compared to Tokyo. You surely feel that in Dotonbori, in particular.
There are two airports in Osaka, Kansai Airport in the south and Itami Airport in the north. From Kansai Airport to Namba is approximately 40 minutes by Nankai Railway express. Itami Airport to Umeda is about 50 minutes by monorail and train.
From JR Osaka station in Umeda to Kyoto station, it is about 30 minutes by express train. It is approximately 2 hours 30 minutes by Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Tokyo.
Minami : Dotonbori, Namba, Shinsaibashi
Minami is a generic name for a wide area such as Dotonbori, Namba, Shinsaibashi, Sennichimae. Among the area, Dotonbori and Namba are particularly popular among foreign tourists. A lot of casual restaurants and street food shops are lined up in this area.
Dotonbori is downtown around the Dotonbori River.
Dotonbori River, to be precise, is a canal built in the 17th century. Along this river, theaters of kabuki and joruri had been built from the time of the Tokugawa shogunate. Restaurants and bars gathered around that area and became a lively district like today.
Along this river there are lively flash signboards. Among them, the famous one is the electric signboard of the male runner established by Ezaki Glico, a confectionary manufacturer in Osaka. This male runner sign was built in 1935. The current sign is sixth generation.
Tonbori River Cruise & Tonbori Riverwalk
Tonbori River Cruise
On the Dotonbori River, a mini-cruise ship "Tonbori River Cruise" is operating. "Tonbori" is the nickname of Dotonbori River. You can enjoy a cruise of about 20 minutes either day or night. The ships depart from the Tazaemonbashi Bridge Dock.
In Osaka, famous Kabuki actors have sometimes parade "Tobori" by boat. Would you like to look at the scenery from the river as well as the actors?
Along the Dotonbori River there is a promenade "Tonbori Riverwalk". Sometimes young musicians are showing performances on this boardwalk. There are delicious street food shops along the river. Try walking while eating street food such as Takoyaki!
Dotonbori Konamon Museum
As you walk through Dotonbori, you will see a huge octopus sign as seen in the picture above. This is the theme park "Dotonbori Konamon Museum" introducing street food such as Takoyaki. Here, you can eat very delicious Takoyaki. In addition, you can experience making Takoyaki by yourself.
Here are also various exhibits about Takoyaki. I have covered a woman who founded Dotonbori Konamon Museum before. I felt a very strong affection for Takoyaki from her. If you go to this museum, you will surely feel familiar with Takoyaki in Osaka.
Namba is a downtown area spreading around Namba Station (Nankai Railway) and Osaka Namba Station (Kintetsu / Hanshin Railway). You can walk to Namba from Dotonbori.
The sightseeing spots I would like you to strongly recommend for Namba are here!
Kuromon Market is a large shopping street located about 5 minutes from Namba Station. Here are nearly 200 shops such as fresh fish, meat, vegetables, fruits and confections. Foods sold at this street are generally of high quality, so Osaka professional chefs come to buy.
Recently, a lot of foreign tourists have come to this street. So, on this street, various original street foods are being sold for tourists to enjoy. You can enjoy the delicious food and the traditional market atmosphere here.
Takashimaya department store
There are many big department stores in Osaka. The most popular department store in Minami is Takashimaya which is located at Namba Station of the Nankai Railway.
Takashimaya also operates stores in Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama and other places, but this Namba shop is positioned as the head office. This shop competes with Hankyu department store in Umeda in northern part of Osaka for popularity. If you want to shop in department store in Minami, I recommend that you go to Takashimaya.
In the southern part of Osaka, there are several unique sightseeing areas besides Minami. Among them, Abeno is particularly attracting attention.
Abeno is situated 3 kilometers southeast of Namba. In this town, "Abeno Harukas", the tallest building in Japan, opened in 2014. It is 300 meters high, 60 stories above ground. On the 58th - 60th floor there is a paying observation deck named "Harukas 300". This deck has an open deck in the middle as seen in the second picture above. The observation path around it is glassed. So, here you can experience the feeling that you are floating in the sky. Since it is open until 22 o'clock throughout the year, you can enjoy the amazing night view.
Abenobashi station (Kintetsu railway) and Tennoji station (JR) are directly connected to Abeno Harukas. In addition, there are Kintetsu Department Store and Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel in this skyscraper.
If you want to experience retro Osaka from the early 20th century to the middle, you may want to go to Shinsekai (meaning New World in Japanese). Here is the old tower named Tsutenkaku and the retro street "jan-jan Yokocho".
jan-jan Yokocho has popular Izakaya (Japanese style bars), shops of Deep-fried skewers, Pachinko (Japanese pinball) parlors, entertainment halls, adult movie theaters and so on. There are simplified accommodation facilities for workers in the surrounding area.
Shinsekai is located near Ebisucho Metro Station. Shinsekai is near Abeno Harukas above, but its atmosphere is quite contrasting.
The landmark of Shinsekai is Tsutenkaku Tower which is 108 meters high. This tower is the second generation built in 1956.
The first Tsutenkaku was built in 1912. The height was about 75 meters. In those days it was the tallest building in the East.
It seems that Tsutenkaku was designed to imitate the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is a strange design like putting the Eiffel Tower on the Arc de Triomphe.
This tower is open until 21 o'clock throughout the year. Neon will also be lit at night. If you are interested please visit.
In the north part of Osaka there is a vast downtown area called "Kita" (meaning "north" in Japanese). Located in the center is Umeda with Osaka Station (JR) and Umeda Station (Hankyu / Hanshin / Subway).
Umeda is the biggest downtown area in western Japan. Umeda is more modern than Nanba and Dotonbori in the center of "Minami", and the big buildings are lined up. If you want to enjoy the atmosphere of the big city, it would be nice to take a walk through Umeda.
Because Umeda is on the approach route of planes landing at Itami airport located in the north, it is forbidden to construct a skyscraper with a height of 200 meters or more. So, there are no skyscrapers like Minami, but as you can see in the picture below, there are many unique buildings over 100 meters in height. Why do not you look at the Osaka plain from such a building.
If you go to Umeda, I recommend 2 spots. One is Umeda Sky Building. And the other is Hankyu department store.
Umeda Sky Building
The Umeda Sky Building is a 40-storey twin building located 10 minutes on foot from JR Osaka Station. It consists of two buildings that are connected with each other by "Floating Garden Observatory" on the summit. To go to this paid observatory, you first go up to the 35th floor with an elevator. From there, please go to the 39th floor with a stylish escalator as seen in the second picture above. Pay the fee on the 39th floor and go up to the deck on the 40th floor.
Furthermore, if you go to the rooftop corridor "Sky Walk" from the 40th floor, you can feel the wind of 173 meters in height. On the floor of the rooftop there are emberive pebbles embedded, so you can feel like you are on the Milky Way at night.
In the basement of the Umeda Sky Building, the retro Osaka street is reproduced as seen in the second picture below. On this street called "Takimi-koji" you can enjoy Osaka's sole food such as Takoyaki.
Hankyu Department Store
The most popular shopping facility in Umeda is Hankyu Department Store. Hankyu Department Store in Umeda has a reputation for selling the most sophisticated products in Japan alongside Isetan department store in Tokyo.
Hankyu Department Store in Umeda has a sales floor space of 80,000 square meters. If you want to enjoy shopping in Osaka, it is best to go to this department store. As you can see in the photo above, this department store has a huge colonnade space. There are stairs where you can sit down and rest like the Spanish square in Rome.
Below this department store there is a classical passage as seen in the second picture above. This beautiful passage is a popular spot in Umeda. This passage is actually the 2nd generation. The first passage that was in place before this department store was rebuilt also appeared in the American movie "Black Rain" (1989) set in Osaka. As I pass this passage I feel that I came back to Umeda.
Osaka Castle is a major castle representing Japan. This castle is one of Osaka's landmarks. From the castle tower you can see the city of Osaka.
There are many trees in Osaka Castle. Osaka city has few rich trees, so this castle is a valuable walking spot for Osaka citizens. From the end of March to the beginning of April the cherry trees inside the castle are very beautiful and crowded with many tourists. From November to early December, autumn leaves are also wonderful.
Osaka Castle was built by the warrior Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, who accomplished Japan unity in the second half of the 16th century. At that time, Osaka Castle was the center of politics of Japan.
When Hideyoshi died in 1598, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who had a base in Tokyo held the power of politics and set the Tokugawa shogunate. Ieyasu attacked Osaka Castle at 1614-1615 and destroyed the Toyotomi family. At this time, Osaka Castle was thoroughly destroyed.
However, the Tokugawa shogunate rebuilt Osaka Castle as a base in western Japan. The present Osaka Castle was built in the era of this Tokugawa shogunate. The castle tower was destroyed by lightning, but it was rebuilt in 1931. If you go to the castle tower, you can learn about the history of Osaka Castle.
As for Osaka Castle, I also introduced in the following articles, so please take a look if you are interested.
Univarsal Studuo Japan (USJ)
Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is Japan's leading theme park alongside Tokyo Disney Resort. There are several theme parks of Universal Studios in the world. USJ is one of the most popular parks among them.
Regarding USJ, I wrote in detail in the following article introducing Japanese amusement parks and theme parks. In that article, I also introduced about USJ's most recommended attractions, so if you are interested, please refer.
How to get to USJ
USJ is located in the bay area of western Osaka. The nearest station is Universal City Station on JR Yumesaki Line.
From Umeda (JR Osaka Station)
If you go to USJ from JR Osaka station in Umeda, take the JR Osaka loop line and change to Yumesaki line at Nishikujo station. It is approximately 15 minutes from Osaka station to USJ.
From Namba (Osaka Namba Station)
If you go from Namba, please take the Hanshin Namba Line from Osaka Namba Station and change to Yumesaki Line at Nishikujo Station. It is approximately 15 minutes from Osaka Namba Station to USJ.
Where to stay?
If you make USJ the best destination for your trip, I recommend staying at a hotel around JR Universal City Station. There are many good hotels such as Hotel Universal Port and The Parkfront Hotel at Universal Studios Japan in the vicinity of this station. If you go to the USJ with your child, you may want to base the hotel in this area, in particular.
If you make Dotonbori, Umeda etc. a major destination, it is a good idea to stay at a hotel near Osaka Namba Station or JR Osaka Station. Since you will walk a lot at USJ, you should stay as close to the station as possible.
Tempozan Harbor Village
Tempozan Harbor Village is located in the Bay Area next to the south of USJ. It is an entertainment and shopping complex that is popular among tourists with families. Shuttle Ships is operated between USJ and Tempozan.
Kaiyukan is one of the greatest aquarium in the world. More than 600 kinds of aquatic animals such as otters, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, whale sharks, rays, and jellyfish are raised there. Once visitors go up to the 8th floor, they go down the slope and observe various aquariums.
The most popular in this aquarium are the whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world. As seen in the first picture above, the whale sharks are slowly swimming in a huge tank, 9 m deep, 34 m long tank containing 5, 400 tons of water. Besides this, there are tunnel-shaped tanks where tropical fish swim, aquariums where penguins swim, and so on. In the evening, you can also observe the ecology of the fish at night.
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Tempozan Ferris Wheel has a height of 112.5 m and a diameter of 100 m. If you take this Ferris wheel, you can enjoy the scenery around Osaka such as Rokko Mountain and Kansai Airport for about 15 minutes.
There are 60 gondolas in total. Four of these are "see-through cabins" where the floor and the seat part are transparent. In addition, the three gondolas are structured so that guests can get on board as they are with wheelchairs.
If you use Kansai International Airport, you may stop by Rinku Town Station (JR / Nankai Railway) next to that airport. There are shopping facilities such as outlet mall, shopping mall and electric shop. Especially, huge outlet mall "Rinku Premium Outlets" is recommended.
Rinku Premium Outlets
Rinku Premium Outlets is one of the Kansai 2 major outlet malls, which is in line with the Kobe Mita Premium Outlet (Hyogo Prefecture). On the site of Rinku Premium Outlets, approximately 40,000 square meters, there are more than 200 brand shops lined up. I think that it is a good idea to enjoy the last shopping at this outlet mall just before you return to your home country.
Finally, I will introduce some sightseeing spots in northern Osaka. If you use JR Shin-Osaka Station on the Shinkansen in northern Osaka or Itami Airport, you may stop by these sightseeing spots on the way.
Cupnoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda
Have you eaten instant noodles or cup noodles?
These were invented by Momofuku ANDO (1910-2007) who founded Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd. Nissin Foods opened a special museum in Osaka and Yokohama in order to have Momofuku's achievements widely known. The Osaka Museum "Cupnoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda" (former name: Instant Ramen Museum) is located in Ikeda City, Osaka Prefecture, where Momofuku was founded. It is a 5-minute walk from Ikeda Station on the Hankyu Takarazuka Line. The time from Umeda to this museum is about 30 minutes each way.
In this museum, you can make original instant noodles according to your preference (reservation required). There is also a corner to make original cup noodle (reservation unnecessary).
Here, the research hut opened by Momofuku in the garden of his home to invent instant noodles is reproduced. Besides this, there are exhibits of so many cup ramen.
I have been to both museums in Osaka and Yokohama. These museums are very interesting. Recently many visitors come to visit.
For more information on Cupnoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda, please refer to the Cupnoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda official website below. You can also make an original noodle reservation on this site.
Expo’70 Commemorative Park
Expo '70 Commemorative Park is a large park of 260 hectares located in the site of the venue of the World Exposition held in 1970. It takes about 30 minutes by train and monorail from Umeda to this park. Please get on the subway Midosuji line from Umeda station (please take a ride from Shin - Osaka station in case of using Shinkansen). If you take this subway, you can go to Senri Chuo station of the North Osaka Express Railway as it is. From Senri Chuo station to Expo Park is 5 minutes by monorail.
The most popular attraction in this park is the Tower of the Sun built by Taro OKAMOTO (1911-1996), a famous Japanese artist. This work, 70 meters high, expresses the power of the sun and life. Inside, a huge work called "Tree of Life" is displayed as seen in the above movie. From that tree, various creatures miniatures and objects is suspended.
The Expo Park also has about 26 hectares of Japanese gardens that were released at the 1970 World Exposition and about 5,600 rose gardens. Expo Park is also a cherry blossom landmark representing Osaka.
Expo Park has a vast complex "EXPOCITY" of about 170,000 square meters. In the Expo City built in 2015, there are shopping malls "LaLaport EXPOCITY" where about 300 shops are located and eight large entertainment facilities.
Among the entertainment facilities, there are the following attractions, for example.
NIFREL is an aquarium produced by "Kaiyukan".
Redhorse OSAKA WHEEL
This is a huge Ferris wheel with a height of 123 meters.
This is an entertainment facility which Sega Holdings produces.
This is an amusement facility that you can experience the world of British anime "Sheep Sean".
I think EXPOCITY will become a popular spot of Expo Park in the near future. In addition, a new world exposition is planned in Osaka in 2025. Therefore, Expo Park will become more noteworthy from all over the world.
I appreciate you reading to the end.
Bon KUROSAWA I have long worked as a senior editor for Nihon Keizai Shimbun (NIKKEI) and currently work as an independent web writer. At NIKKEI, I was the editor-in-chief of the media on Japanese culture. Let me introduce a lot of fun and interesting things about Japan. Please refer to this article for more details.