Ōsaka (大阪) is the third largest city in Japan, with a population of over 17 million people in its greater metropolitan area. It is the central metropolis of the Kansai region and the largest of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto trio.
“Osaka” can mean either the larger Osaka (prefecture) (大阪府 Ōsaka-fu), covered in a separate guide, or central Osaka city (大阪市 Ōsaka-shi), the topic of this guide. The city is administratively divided into 24 wards (区 ku), but in common usage the following divisions are more useful:
Osaka is a massive city in the heart of Kansai on the main island of Japan – Honshu, and is a bustling enigma of start contrasts and cutting edge charm. The 3rd biggest city in Japan, it is widely considered to be the key economic gearbox for the Kansai district and has been for centuries before.
Seeped in history and raw with character, Osaka has a certain intoxicating allure, famous not only for its extremely hard working and unpretentious community, but for its incredible cuisine and vibrant night life.
At first glance, you may be fooled into thinking that Osaka does not indeed have the sophisticated identity of the ever glamorous Tokyo however, you will almost immediately be pleasantly surprised. It has its very own unique energy and enthusiasm that will win you over in a heartbeat. Traditional townscapes jut in and out between dramatic cutting edge architecture that rolls over underground shopping districts and futuristic monuments, with a landscape that is complete with lush vegetation dotted all throughout the city.
The people of Osaka are a significant and distinctive component of the beating heart of this vivacious city – welcoming and bubbly; they certainly know a thing or two about embracing every aspect of the good life. Osakajins consider their warm and unique dialect to be somewhat of a national heritage, and remain immensely proud of their individuality.
Having just undergone some massive changes and improvements, it is clear the modern hand of infrastructure is everywhere, but it has made the city much easier to navigate and to explore the nooks and crannies of resplendent urban Japan.
The newer center of the city, including the Kita ward (北区). Umeda (梅田) is the main terminal. Department stores, theaters and boutiques are clustered around JR Osaka Station and Umeda Station, which serves several city and private railways
The traditional commercial and cultural center, composed of the Chuo (中央区) and Naniwa (浪速区) wards. Namba (なんば, 難波) is the main railway station, and the surrounding area has the department store and showy shopping. Shinsaibashi (心斎橋) and Horie (堀江) is the fashion area. Dōtonbori (道頓堀) is the best place to go for a bite to eat. Semba (船場) straddles the line between Kita and Minami, and contains the business districts of Yodoyabashi (淀屋橋), Doujima (堂島) and Hommachi (本町); and the financial district of Kitahama (北浜).
Generally means the area around JR Tennōji Station, Abeno and Tennoji subway stations and Kintetsu rail lines at the south end of Tennōji ward. The ward was named after the historical Shitennoji temple. Tennōji Park and Zoo are in the area. To the west of Tennōji is Shinsekai (新世界), which was an amusement area in the past and has now become quite seedy.
Osaka Castle (大阪城) is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Japan. Kyōbashi (京橋) is northeast of Osaka Castle, home to Osaka Business Park (OBP).
Covering the area north of Osaka. Includes Shin-Osaka(新大阪) and Juso(十三).
The eastern suburbs of Osaka.
The southern suburbs of Osaka containing various districts, which has the Sumiyoshi-Taisya Grand Shrine.
Huge amusement area with many gigantic facilities.
If Tokyo is Japan’s capital, one might call Osaka its anti-capital. Whatever you call it, though, there are many opportunities for you to discover its true anti-character.
Osaka dates back to the Asuka and Nara period. Under the name Naniwa (難波), it was the former capital of Japan from 683 to 745, long before the upstarts at Kyoto took over. Even after the capital was moved elsewhere, Osaka continued to play an important role as a hub for land, sea and river-canal transportation. (See “808 Bridges” infobox.) During the Tokugawa era, while Edo (now Tokyo) served as the austere seat of military power and Kyoto was the home of the Imperial court and its effete courtiers, Osaka served as “the Nation’s Kitchen” (「天下の台所」 tenka-no-daidokoro), the collection and distribution point for rice, the most important measure of wealth. Hence it was also the city where merchants made and lost fortunes and cheerfully ignored repeated warnings from the shogunate to reduce their conspicuous consumption.
During Meiji era, Osaka’s fearless entrepreneurs took the lead in industrial development, making it the equivalent of Manchester in the U.K. A thorough drubbing in World War II left little evidence of this glorious past — even the castle is a ferroconcrete reconstruction — but to this day, while unappealing and gruff on the surface, Osaka remains Japan’s best place to eat, drink and party, and in legend (if not in practice) Osakans still greet each other with mōkarimakka?, “are you making money?”.
The main international gateway to Osaka is Kansai International Airport. The airport has two railway connections to the city: JR West’s Kansai Airport Line and the private Nankai Electric Railway.
Several ticket offers from Kansai Airport are available, which may appeal to foreign visitors:
- Japan Railway (JR) offers the ICOCA & HARUKA ticket package for foreign tourists only. For ¥3030 one-way or ¥4060 round-trip you get an unreserved trip on the Haruka limited express, and can continue on to any JR station in Osaka within a designated area. You also receive a ¥2000 ICOCA fare card to use on transit in the Kansai region (¥1500 + ¥500 deposit). You may also buy a one-way JR ticket from the ticket machines; ¥1190 to Osaka Station. Some international cards may not work in the ticketing machines and cash will be necessary.
- Nankai Railways offers a Kanku Chikatoku Ticket for ¥1000 each way, cash only at the Nankai railway ticket desk (look for the red signs) (Mar 2019). With this you can travel on the Nankai Railway’s commuter service to Namba, and then travel to any station in the entire Osaka Subway system. The train ride from Kansai Airport to Namba Station takes approximately 45 minutes.
- xOsaka International Airport (also known as Itami Airport,). Most domestic flights arrive at Itami. It is connected to the Osaka Monorail, but the monorail is expensive and traces an arc around the northern suburbs, so to get to the centre of the city you will need to transfer to a suburban Hankyu railway line. A more convenient option for most are the Airport Limousine Buses, which run frequently from Itami to various locations within Osaka and elsewhere in the region (including Kansai Airport), with fares starting around ¥500-600. Taxi from Itami airport to Osaka historic castle area costs ¥4000 plus ¥700 for toll road.
Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (新幹線） trains arrive at Shin-Osaka station, to the north of the city center. From Shin-Osaka, you can connect to the city center by using the Midosuji subway line, or connect to the local JR network for other destinations.
- From Tokyo, Nozomi (のぞみ) trains cover the one way ride in about 2 hr 15 min (¥14,050); Hikari (ひかり) trains take 3 hours and all-stopping Kodama (こだま) trains take 4 hours (both ¥13750). With the Japan Railway Pass, there is no charge to take the Shinkansen if you use the Hikari or Kodama service.
- From points west of Osaka, Nozomi trains run from Okayama (¥6060, 45 min), Hiroshima (¥10,150, 80 min) and Hakata station in Fukuoka (¥14,890, 2 2 hr 15 min). Japan Railway Pass holders can use the Sakura (さくら) or Hikari service instead, which runs at a comparable speed to the Nozomi and makes a few more stops, but its trains are shorter (8-car trains, compared to 16 cars on the Nozomi). Slower Kodama trains connect the rest of the stations on the route.
- Sakura trains start in Kyushu, with service to Osaka available from Kumamoto (¥18,000, 3 hr 15 min) and Kagoshima (¥21,300, 4 hours). Mizuho (みずほ) trains are slightly faster and slightly more expensive. If you have a Japan Railway Pass the Mizuho cannot be used.
Discounted tickets can be purchased in advance through Japan Railways’ official SmartEX App, available in English and other languages – look for Hayatoku fares.
If travelling from the east without a rail pass, you can take advantage of the Puratto (Platt) Kodama Ticket, which offers a discount for Kodama services if you purchase at least one day in advance. You get a reserved seat and a coupon for a free drink (including beer) which can be redeemed at a “Kiosk” convenience counter inside the station. With this ticket a trip from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka costs ¥10,300 – a savings of almost ¥4000. There is only one Kodama service per hour from Tokyo, and a few early-morning Kodama trains cannot be used with this ticket. Travel from Nagoya with this ticket costs ¥4300.
During travel periods when the Seishun 18 Ticket is valid, you can go from Tokyo to Osaka during the day in about nine hours using all-local trains. Travelling in a group, however, discounts the cost significantly from the standard ¥8500 fare: A party of three costs ¥3800 per person, and a group of five traveling together brings the cost down to ¥2300 per person. See the Seishun 18 Ticket article for more information.
Those travelling from the Chubu region can use Thunderbird (サンダーバード) limited express trains from Kanazawa (2 hr 45 min, ¥7650). Kanazawa is the present terminal of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, connecting to Toyama, Nagano and Tokyo.
There are many regional railway lines connecting Osaka to nearby cities:
- From Kyoto, JR offers fast, but slightly more expensive, shin-kaisoku (special rapid) trains to Osaka Station. The cheaper but slower alternative is the Hankyu Railway’s limited express service. Both lines terminate in the Umeda area of Osaka. Keihan Railway offers Kyoto-Osaka trains. The Yodoyabashi terminal in Osaka does not connect directly with JR, but it is possible to transfer to the JR Osaka Loop Line at Kyobashi. In Kyoto, Keihan and Hankyu trains do not connect with JR Kyoto Station but both travel to stations which are more convenient for reaching the centre of the city. 30–45 minutes.
- From Kobe, JR again offers slightly faster and slightly more expensive service than Hankyu. The third choice is Hanshin Railway, which is identical to Hankyu in terms of cost and similar in time, useful for getting to Koshien Stadium to see Hanshin Tigers games. All three lines go to Osaka/Umeda. about 20 minutes.
- From Nara, JR offers trains to Tennōji and Osaka Stations, and Kintetsu offers trains to Namba. Kintetsu station in Nara is closer to Tōdaiji and Nara Park. 35–45 minutes.
- From Nagoya, an alternative to the Shinkansen is Kintetsu’s premium limited express service, the Urban Liner (アーバンライナー) which goes directly to Namba. Trip times are as little as two hours each way, with departures at 0 and 30 minutes past the hour at a cost of ¥4150. In comparison, the shinkansen takes just under an hour for ¥5670.
Stations with the same name but belonging to different railway companies are sometimes in different locations. For example, the Nakatsu stations on the Hankyu and subway networks are about a 10-minute walk from each other. Allow up to half an hour for walking between the various Umeda stations and about the same for the various Namba stations, especially if you are a first time visitor.
In Kobe the Sannomiya stations belonging to JR and Hankyu are connected but Hanshin Sannomiya is across a street.
Hokuriku Arch Pass
The Hokuriku Arch Pass allows unlimited travel between Tokyo and the Kansai area via the Hokuriku region, using the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa and the Thunderbird from Kanazawa to Kyoto and Osaka. At a cost of ¥24000 for seven consecutive days of travel (¥25000 if purchased inside Japan), the Arch Pass is ¥5000 cheaper than the national Japan Railway Pass. On the other hand, a trip from Tokyo to Osaka is twice as long via Kanazawa compared to the more popular Tokaido Shinkansen.
Overnight trains used to be one of the prides of the national railway network, but aging rail equipment combined with competition between buses and the shinkansen has resulted in the elimination of almost all services to/from Osaka.
Only one daily train remains: The Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto, which passes through Osaka en route to the Chugoku and Shikoku regions. Unfortunately, it may only be useful as a means to travel to and from Tokyo. The daily eastbound service picks up passengers in Osaka at 12:34 AM, arriving in Yokohama at 6:44AM and Tokyo at 7:08AM. The daily westbound service from Tokyo (10:00PM) and Yokohama (10:23PM), on the other hand, don’t stop in Osaka at all – the first morning stop is in Himeji at 5:25AM. From Himeji, you will have to backtrack to Osaka on a commuter service or the shinkansen on a separate ticket.
If you have a Japan Railway Pass, you can book a carpeted floor space on the above service at no charge. Otherwise you can travel in a compartment or room by paying the applicable room fee and surcharges. From Himeji you’ll be able to backtrack to Osaka in a commuter train, or in a non-reserved seat on the first Kodama shinkansen service of the day, simply by showing your pass.
During the peak travel seasons, JR runs an overnight service called the Moonlight Nagara between Tokyo and Ōgaki in Gifu (prefecture), from which you must continue on to Osaka by regular trains. The Nagara can be used by holders of the Seishun 18 Ticket, and as a result, is in very high demand when it runs; seat reservations are compulsory.
During University holidays there are some additional overnight services to Matsuyama, Kochi and Fukuoka. As these are considered rapid services they can be very economical if you use a Seishun 18 Ticket.
Failing all these, overnight travel can be done with a stopover in another city along the way, which is easy to do with a Japan Railway Pass or a basic long-distance ticket that is valid over a period of several days.
JR Highway Buses are among many companies that make daily bus runs between Tokyo and Osaka.
As Osaka is a major city, there are many day and overnight buses which run between Osaka and other locations throughout Japan, which can be a cheaper alternative than shinkansen fares.
Buses in Osaka drop off and pick up at one or more different locations spread throughout the city, so be sure to check the details before booking a trip. Some of the main stops where buses congregate include the JR Highway Bus Terminal in Osaka Station for JR buses, the Willer Bus Terminal at the Umeda Sky Building, and the Osaka City Air Terminal (OCAT) at Namba Station. Some also serve Shin-Osaka Station for the bullet trains, and Universal Studios Japan.
The run between Tokyo and the Kansai region is the busiest in Japan. Buses use the Tomei or Chuo Expressway from Tokyo to Nagoya, then the Meishin Expressway to Osaka. Trips take between 8 and 9 hours depending on the route and stops.
Fierce competition between operators has led to buses offering better amenities and lower prices. Part of this strategy is the adoption of dynamic pricing on many bus routes. This generally means that daytime trips, weekday trips, tickets bought in advance and buses carrying more passengers are cheaper, while night trips, weekend/holiday trips, walk-up fares and buses with fewer (and more comfortable) seats will be more expensive.
As a rule of thumb, fares for a weekday trip between Tokyo and Osaka go for around ¥4000-6000 per person during the daytime, and around ¥5000-8000 per person for overnight trips. Children usually pay half the adult fare.
Two of the major bus operators between Tokyo and Osaka are Willer Express and JR Bus. Tickets for all carriers can generally be purchased at major departure points, and can also be purchased (with some Japanese language help) at kiosks inside convenience stores.
Willer Express runs daytime and overnight trips with a variety of seating options ranging from standard seats to luxurious shell seats. Bus journeys can be booked online in English, and Willer’s Japan Bus Pass is valid on all of their routes with some exceptions. Willer’s buses in Tokyo leave from the Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal (Busta Shinjuku), above the JR tracks at Shinjuku Station, which is served by many of Japan’s highway bus operators. Willer also sells tickets for other bus operators on their website, but these trips are not valid with Willer’s Japan Bus Pass.
JR Bus reservations can be made in English through their Kousoku Bus Net web site. You can also make reservations in train stations at the same “Midori-no-Madoguchi” ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains. Buses depart from Tokyo Station – Yaesu Exit (八重洲口) and from Busta Shinjuku.
At a much higher price point, Kanto Bus and Ryobi Bus operate the Dream Sleeper. The bus carries only 11 passengers, each assigned to a reclining seat in individual cabins with sliding privacy doors. Operating between Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo and OCAT in Namba, fares start at ¥18000 each way and tickets can be booked online in English. Advance purchase fares of ¥15000 are offered, but those can only be purchased online in Japanese.
From Yamaguchi Prefecture
Bocho bus offers a nighttime bus from the cities of Hagi, Yamaguchi, Hofu, Tokuyama, and Iwakuni to Kobe and Osaka. It costs between ¥6300 and ¥9480 for a one-way ticket, depending on where you get on and where you get off. The bus departs Hagi Bus Center at 7:55PM nightly, and arrives at Osaka station at 7:15AM daily. The bus makes a return trip from Osaka station at 10:05PM nightly, and arrives at Hagi bus center at 9:25AM daily. Full details including round trip fares are on their website. It is a good deal if you have time to spare.
Osaka International Ferry Terminal is in Nankō (南港) in the Osaka Bay Area. There are no banks, post office, shops, or restaurants in the terminal. The nearest subway station is Cosmosquare Station (C11), which is about a 15-minute walk from the terminal. A free shuttle bus is available at the station. Taxis are also available at the station.
Getting to the Ferry Terminal
- From Suminoe-koen Station (Take the New Tram to Nankōguchi (南港口)).
- From JR Shin-Osaka Station (Shinkansen Line) (JR Shin-Osaka Station →transfer to Subway Midosuji Line (Red Line) at Shin-Osaka Station(M13) → Hommachi Station (M18) → transfer to Subway Chuo Line (Green Line) → Cosmosquare station (C10)). Travel time: at least 40 minutes to Cosmosquare Station. ¥310.
- From Namba (Subway Midosuji Line (Red Line) at Namba Station (M20) → Hommachi Station (M18) → transfer to Subway Chuo Line (Green Line) → Cosmosquare Station (C10)). Travel time: at least 30 minutes to Cosmosquare Station. ¥270.
- From Tennoji (Subway Midosuji Line (Red Line) at Tennoji Station (M23) → Hommachi Station (M18) → transfer to Subway Chuo Line (Green Line) → Cosmosquare Station (C10)). Travel time: at least 40 minutes to Cosmosquare Station. ¥310.
- By taxi (Instruct the taxi driver to take you to the Osaka Port International Ferry Terminal (Nanko) — otherwise, you may be taken to the domestic ferry terminal.).
- By car (from Hanshin Expressway Tenpozan exit to Port of Osaka and after passing through Osakako-Sakishima Tunnel, turn left at the first crossing, and follow the road.). ¥200 per car for the toll road.
The PanStar Line operates a ferry between Osaka and Busan. The ferry leaves Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, at 3:10PM from both Osaka and Busan and arrives the following day at 10AM. In Busan, the luggage check-in time is prior to the passenger check-in time: for the Busan-Osaka run, luggage check in is 12:40PM-2PM and the passenger check in time is 2:15PM–2:45PM; for the Osaka-Busan run, luggage check in is 1PM-2PM and the passenger check in time is 1PM-2:30PM. Many different room options are available, including family rooms. Rates start at ¥17,000 and range through seven different room/suite classes culminating in a Presidential Suite, which is ¥250,000 per night. Tickets can be purchased online, but much of the website content is only available in Japanese and Korean, and may be difficult to navigate for English speakers. Tickets are easily obtainable through agents specializing in Korean or Japanese travel.
The ferry holds live musical performances, magic shows, and other entertainment on the run. Schedule varies.
You can take your car on the ferry, but there are documentation requirements, and you should check the website for information. The cost for a single basic room and a car is ₩690,000. Room upgrades are available. Temporary insurance must be purchased at the seaport upon arrival in Osaka.
Kansai Travel Pass: Exploring Osaka & Kansai Region:
If you are planning to travel beyond city limits you might consider using the tickets from Surutto Kansai. For use in Osaka and other cities in the west of Japan, there are some other useful tickets.
- ICOCA smart card. These rechargeable cards can be used on rail, subway and bus networks in Kansai area, Okayama, Hiroshima, Nagoya (Kintetsu) and Kyoto (JR West). These cards are available at vending machines at these rail stations. ¥2000, including a refundable ¥500 deposit and ¥1500 travel credit.
- Unlimited Kintetsu Railway Pass (Purchase at the Kansai Airport Agency Travel Desk in Kansai International Airport.). This pass is good for unlimited travel within the Kansai region for 5 consecutive days. The Kansai region covers Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, Mie, and more. ¥3700.
- Wide Kintetsu Railway Pass (Purchase at the Kansai Airport Agency Travel Desk in Kansai International Airport.). This pass is similar the Unlimited Kintetsu Railway Pass, but it includes a few extra areas like the inclusive round trip access from Kansai Airport to Osaka’s Uehommachi station and back to airport plus unlimited rides on Mie Kotsu buses in the Ise-Shima area and some discount vouchers. ¥5700.
- Osaka Unlimited Pass. This pass comes in two versions. The one-day pass offers unlimited use of trains (excluding JR trains) and buses in Osaka City and neighboring areas, as well as free admission to 24 popular sightseeing facilities as well as discounts at some more locations. The two-day pass is restricted to subway and city bus lines. Both versions come with a handy little booklet with route suggestions, coupons and lots of information about all the sites. If you are planning to visit some of the more expensive sites included for free in the pass, such as the Floating Observatory in Umeda which alone carries a price tag of ¥700, this ticket can be economical. Transit can take a long time, so it is wise to make a plan before purchasing this pass. For a couple of hundred yen more you can get an extended version of this pass which includes the train trip to Osaka and back from all the cities around. One-day pass for ¥2000, two-day pass for ¥2700.
- Subway and bus one-day Passes. The “Osaka Visitors’ Ticket” (adults ¥850, children ¥430) offers unlimited one-day travel on all subways, buses, the New Tram and includes a few discounts around town. The “Osaka Amazing Pass” offers in addition free entrance to several attractions, whereas the “Osaka Kaiyu” (adults only ¥2300) includes a ticket for the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (¥2550/¥1300).
- Multiple Ride Card. This card can be used until its fare (¥3300) expires. It is good for subways, buses, and the New Tram. ¥3000.
The Osaka Subway is Japan’s second-most extensive subway network after Tokyo, which makes the underground the natural way to get around. The Midosuji Line is Osaka’s main artery, linking up the massive train stations and shopping complexes of Shin-Osaka, Umeda, Shinsaibashi, Namba and Tennoji.
The signage, ticketing and operation of the Osaka subway is identical to its larger counterpart in Tokyo. Fares ¥200-350, depending on distance. Station arrivals are displayed and announced in Japanese and English. Keep your ticket when you enter the train — it is required when you exit.
True to its name, the JR Osaka Loop Line (環状線 Kanjō-sen) runs in a loop around Osaka. It’s not quite as convenient or heavily-used as Tokyo’s Yamanote Line, but it stops in Umeda and Tennoji, and by Osaka Castle. Namba and Universal Studios Japan are connected to the Loop Line by short spurs. Fares ¥120-250, depending on distance.
Many residents get around by bicycle, as the city is mostly flat and easily navigable by bike. Riding on the sidewalks is permitted and some sidewalks even have bike lanes marked. If nothing is marked, try to stay to the left where possible (but often you simply need to find the best path through the pedestrians).
Rental bikes are available, but if you are staying longer than a few weeks, purchasing a used bike can be a good deal. Finding a used bike can be a bit tricky, however, particularly if you don’t speak Japanese. Craigslist and websites such as Gaijinpot.com have classified listings, and there are a few used bike shops around. Renge, near Osaka Castle, sells a range of used bikes starting at around ¥5500.
You are required to register your bicycle with the police. Bikes registered under a name other than the rider may be considered stolen, and bicycle theft is not uncommon. Bike shops can help with the simple registration process.
It is generally a bad idea to use an automobile to visit Osaka. Many streets do not have names, signs are usually only in Japanese, and parking fees are astronomical. In addition, an international driver’s license is required.
Osaka has a distinctive dialect of Japanese, which is favoured by many comedians in Japanese popular culture. The Osaka dialect is traditionally associated with the merchant class, and as such is regarded by many Japanese as rather rough-sounding compared to standard Japanese. While generally not a problem for advanced Japanese speakers, it may be difficult to understand if you have just started learning Japanese. All non-elderly locals are able to speak and understand standard Japanese though, so if you don’t understand, politely ask them to repeat themselves in standard Japanese (hyōjungo 標準語) and they will usually oblige.
As with most other major Japanese cities, English is spoken in major tourist attractions and large international hotels, but is otherwise not widely spoken.
What to see and do
- Osaka’s best known sight is the Osaka castle. While it is a reconstruction, it is pretty and has a nice castle park. To learn more about the history of Osaka, you can head to the nearby Osaka Museum of History.
- The Osaka Science Museum on Nakanoshima is an interactive activity center with planetarium and cinema.
- Umeda Sky Building is a weirdly shaped building with an observation deck and a escalator suspended between two buildings mid-air. It is near the Osaka station.
- The Sumiyoshi Shrine is south of the city center. It is one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines and has a very unusual architecture. It is also famous for a bridge arching over a pond.
- The Japan mint is in Osaka and is especially famous for the nearby cherry blossom tunnel road, a prime spot to see the annual cherry blossom.
- The Tsūtenkaku landmark tower in the Shinsekai area with an observation platform at 91 meters.
- The Shitennōji temple is near the Tennōji station. It is regarded as maybe the first Buddhist temple in Japan dating back to the 6th century. The building of today’s temple however, are a reconstruction.
- In Ryokuchi Park is the Open Air Museum of Old Farmhouses, a collection of Edo period farmhouses. This gives a good insight in the lives of the common people during this period. It is north of the city center.
- The Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum in Namba is dedicated to ukiyoe, Japanese woodblock prints.
What to do
- Kaiyukan (海遊館) (Osakako, Chuo Line). This is one of the world’s largest aquariums, with 11,000 tons of water and plenty of sharks (including a whale shark), dolphins, otters, seals, and other sea creatures. The largest tank, representing the Pacific Ocean with 5,400 tons is nothing but overwhelming. On the weekend, musicians and street performers offer additional entertainment to people outside the aquarium. Adults ¥2,300, children ¥1,200.
- Tenpozan Ferris Wheel (Next to Kaiyukan in the Tempozan area.). 10AM-10PM. There is also the Suntory Museum, a mall and a port for sightseeing boats. The mall has a wide variety of shops that cater to fashionistas, otaku, tourists, or dog lovers, variably. The mall doubles as a kind of amusement park, with a Ferris wheel, and the best deal is to catch the ferry from there to Universal Studios across the water. ¥700, children up to 3 years old free.
- Sumo Spring Grand Tournament (大相撲春場所) (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, a 10-minute walk from the Namba subway stop.). The Osaka Tournament of Japan’s national sport, sumo wrestling, is usually held mid-March annually at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. Check for schedules and ticket availabilities at the official Nihon Sumo Kyokai homepage. ¥3000-14,300.
- Universal Studios Japan (at Universal-City Station on the JR Yumesaki Line, 10 minutes from Osaka). Japan’s second-largest theme park. Expect much Japanese dubbing over your favorite characters and movies. (If you are coming here on a side trip from Tokyo Disney Resort, see that article’s Get out section for information on how to get here and return to Tokyo that same day.) One-day ticket for adults ¥6,980, children ¥4,880.
- Umeda Joypolis Sega (ジョイポリス) (next to Umeda (Osaka) station). 11AM-11PM. Occupies the 8th and 9th floors of the Hep Five building with arcades and a Ferris wheel at the top. Local laws prohibit kids being here after dark even in the company of their parents, so if you want to take the kids along, plan on going early. The HEP5 Ferris is okay though. ¥500-600 attractions.
- Spa World (Just near Tsutenkaku Tower in Shinsakai, accessible from JR Shin-Imamiya station). 24 hours. Gender-separated European and Asian-themed spas and saunas as well as a pool for the family with slides and fun (don’t forget your swimming trunks). Open 24 hr so it is handy if you’re stuck for accommodation or locked out of your hotel after a night on the town, just pay up, change into their cotton overalls and pass out on one of their comfy leather recliners with as many blankets as you like. Try the outdoor onsen (try not to get burnt in the sun) or watch their huge TV in their bar with a cold beer. Gym also available to you as part of the entry fee. “Rollover” for day passes is at 9AM on the dot. Watch out for the special ¥1000 deals offered from time to time, often in March. Well worth spending an afternoon chilling out here. People with tattoos, permanent or temporary, are barred from using the facilities. ¥2400 for 3 hours, ¥2700 for all day; extra charge ¥1300 for stays midnight-5AM.
- National Bunraku Theater (国立文楽劇場 (Kokuritsu Bunraku Gekijō)) (Nippombashi.). One of the last places in the world where bunraku, a form of intricate puppet theater from the Edo period, can be seen live. The large puppets, which require three operators each, are accompanied by traditional music and narration, and act out great Japanese plays of the 1600s and 1700s. Transcripts in Japanese and synopses in English are provided.
- Osaka Shiki Musical Theater (劇団四季 (gekidan shiki)) (in the Herbis ENT, Umeda). Home of the Shiki Theatre Company, proposing plays and musicals.
- Zepp Namba (east to Daikokucho station). A pop club.
- Billboard Live Osaka (ビルボードライブ大阪). A jazz club, formerly “Blue Note Osaka”.
- The City Country Club, Hyatt Regency Osaka Hotel, 1-13-11 Nanko-Kita, Suminoe-Ku , ✉ email@example.com. A spa.
- The festival hall in Nakanoshima, near Umeda, and the symphony hall in Umeda host modern and classical recitals, while Umeda Koma in Umeda, and Shin-Kabukiza in Uehommachi host Enka performances. For more independent or underground music, try Banana Hall in Umeda or Big Cat in Amerika-mura.
- ROR Comedy (near Namba station Yotsubashi line and Mido-suji line,also Horie and Doutonbori) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. English-language stand-up comedy playhouse.
The occupation of most resident Americans, Europeans and Australians is teaching English (as is the case in most of Japan). There are also many international students and staff at various universities in Osaka. The economy in the Osaka region has been relatively stagnant compared to Tokyo’s: although there are jobs in law, finance, accounting, engineering and other professional fields in Osaka, demand for foreign professionals tends to be higher in Tokyo (as is pay). Osaka does have several educational publishers that employ foreign workers, but these jobs require fluent Japanese language ability. Temporary work in a variety of industries is available.
- Osaka’s most famous shopping district is Shinsaibashi (心斎橋), which offers a mix of huge department stores, high-end Western designer stores, and independent boutiques ranging from very cheap to very expensive. Within Shinsaibashi, the Amerika-mura (アメリカ村, often shortened to “Amemura”) or “American Village” area is particularly popular among young people, and is often said to be the source of most youth fashion trends in Japan. Just west of Amerika-mura, Horie (堀江) is a shopping area with fashionable Japanese boutiques, centered around Tachibana-dori (which is often translated as Orange Street).
- The many shops in Umeda are also popular among trendy locals, particularly in the Hep Five and Hep Navio buildings adjacent to Hankyu Umeda Station, although these shops tend to be too expensive to captivate most tourists’ interest. For example, the “E-ma” buildings next to Hanshin department store, and “Nu-Chayamachi” (Nu 茶屋町) near Hankyu Umeda station.
- For electronics, the Nipponbashi (日本橋) area southeast of Namba, and particularly the “Den-Den Town” shopping street, was once regarded as the Akihabara of western Japan; nowadays, more people would rather shop at the new, enormous Yodobashi Camera (ヨドバシカメラ) in Umeda or BicCamera (ビックカメラ) and LABI1 in Namba, although Nippombashi still offers good deals on many gadgets, PC components and used/new industrial electronics.
- For Japanese and foreign books, try Kinokuniya in Hankyu Umeda Station, or Junkudo south of Osaka Station.
- The Official Hanshin Tigers (baseball team) Shop is on the 8th floor of Hanshin Department Store at Umeda.
- Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street (天神橋筋商店街 Tenjinbashi-suji Shōtengai) is said to be the longest straight and covered shopping arcade in Japan at approx. 2.6 km length. The arcade is running north-south along Tenjinbashi-suji street, and is accessible from multiple subway and/or JR stations, e.g. Tenma, Minami-Morimachi, and Tenjinbashi-suji 6-chome. Nothing meant for sightseeing, the arcade is a live exhibition of Osaka’s daily life, open since Edo period.
Best time to go
The temperate climate of Osaka brings a hot and humid summer, complete with a number of typhoons and a tropical squall or two to keep it interesting. Most of this happens during the months of June and July, and then after a few weeks of break, continues on during September. The best time of the year to visit Osaka is during the season of spring – from about March to the middle of April. It is most certainly the prettiest time of the year to visit, as all the parks are covered in a blanket of cherry blossoms.
If you are planning to visit anytime from the end of April to the beginning of May, you will be lucky enough to experience the Cherry Blossom Festival as well as the Golden Week. But because it is so popular, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can book at the last minute. Make sure you plan your trip well in advance and book your hotel early. There are many festivals throughout the year, but this one is one of the most popular.
Another good time to go is the months of October through to December. The daytime temperatures are cool to mild – about 20 C during the day, dropping off a little at night. Although it doesn’t really snow in Osaka, it does get quite cold during the months of January and February.
Muslim Friendly Hotels in Osaka
- ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Osaka
- APA Hotel Kanku-Kishiwada Osaka
- APA Hotel Sakai-Ekimae Osaka
- APA Villa Yodoyabashi Hotel Osaka
- Best Western Hotel Fino Osaka Shinsaibashi
- Best Western Hotel Kansai Airport
- Best Western Joytel Hotel Osaka
- Blue Wave Inn Yotsubashi Osaka
- Business Hotel Ishibashi Osaka
- Chisun Hotel Shin Osaka
- Chisun Hotel Shinsaibashi Osaka
- Chisun Inn Esaka Osaka
- Chisun Inn Osaka Hommachi
- Chisun Inn Umeda Osaka
- Dai-ichi Hotel Osaka
- Fraser Residence Nankai Osaka
- Granvia Hotel Osaka
- Hearton Hotel Kita Umeda Osaka
- Hearton Hotel Minamisenba Osaka
- Hearton Hotel Nishi Umeda Osaka
- Hearton Hotel Shinsaibashi Osaka
- Hilton Osaka Hotel
- Hotel Chuo New Annex Osaka
- Hotel Chuo Osaka
- Hotel Claiton Shin-Osaka
- Hotel Hankyu Expo Park Osaka
- Hotel Ichiei Osaka
- Hotel Kintetsu Universal City Osaka
- Hotel Mikado Osaka
- Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka
- Hotel Monterey Osaka
- Hotel Osaka Bay Tower
- Hotel Villa Fontaine Shinsaibashi Osaka
- Hyatt Regency Osaka Hotel
- Kameya Ryokan Osaka
- Laforet Hotel Shin-Osaka
- Mielparque Hotel Osaka
- Monterey La Soeur Hotel Osaka
- Mystays Inn Sakaisuji Honmachi Osaka
- New Osaka Hotel
- New Otani Hotel Osaka
- Nikko Kansai Airport Hotel Osaka
- Novotel Koshien Osaka West
- Osaka Garden Palace Hotel
- Ramada Hotel Osaka
- Ritz Carlton Hotel Osaka
- Sheraton Miyako Hotel Osaka
- Shin-Osaka Washington Hotel Plaza
- Sunroute Kanku Hotel Osaka
- Swissotel Nankai Osaka
- Tennoji Miyako Hotel Osaka
- The St Regis Hotel Osaka
- The Westin Osaka Hotel
- Toko City Hotel Shin Osaka
- Universal Port Hotel Osaka
Depending how long you intend on staying, there are number of options to help to find your way around the city comfortably and easily. You can purchase an ICOCA Smart card, which is a rechargeable smart card with interchangeable use on any of the rail, bus or subway networks anywhere in Kansai, as well as Hiroshima, Okayama, Tokyo and Nagoya. You can pick them up at any of the vending machines at the rail stations.
If you are just popping through for a week, you might want to purchase an unlimited rail pass for Kintetsu. Offering unlimited travel for 5 days in a row, this covers quite an extensive network of areas.
The best pass for any visitor would probably be the Osaka Unlimited Pass, which comes in one and two day options. It offers selective but unlimited use of public transport, as well as free admission to popular tourist sites, discount vouchers as well as a comprehensive book about route suggestions, information and ideas on places to visit.
The subway in Osaka is one of the biggest in all of Japan, next to Tokyo and with signs in English as well as Japanese it is quite easy to get around underground. Just remember to keep your ticket handy as you will be asked for it when you leave the train.
If you are planning to stay longer that a few weeks, you may want to invest in a bicycle. The terrain is flat and easy to negotiate for the most part, and bike shops will help you locate and register your bike.
Major Attractions and Sights
There is an incredible selection of attractions and sights in Osaka for every age group and every interest. Hop from sky scrapers, museums, shrines, temples, a 400 year old castle and one of the world’s biggest aquariums. And if that is not enough, there is even the Osaka Universal Studios which is most certainly a worldwide attraction all in its own right. Here are some of the top attractions.
The Osaka Museum of History is an incredible showcase of Osaka’s rich 1400 year old history. Every single floor shows off a different era for the city, except for the top floor where there is a recreation of the interior of the Naniwanomiya Palace. This museum is a must see if you are visiting the city, and it is situated very near to another exciting attraction – The Osaka Castle Park.
The Floating Garden Observatory is one of those absolutely breath taking and incredible sites that are most definitely not for the faint hearted by any means. Located in the incredible Umeda Sky Building, the 12th tallest building in all of Japan, the observatory is a platform that connects the two 40 story towers at the rooftop. The views are absolutely unparalleled and the building has become something of a national landmark. Getting there is not bad unless you consider the last 5 floors that the escalator travels up – it crosses over from one tower to another and gives you a creepy sensation of floating in the air. There is also an underground market beneath the building which has been designed to recreate the Osaka of the 20th Century. Browse the beautiful gardens and see all the water features underneath the observatory at the base of the building.
The Osaka Castle is without a doubt one of the oldest populated places in all of Osaka. Having played a major role in the history of Japan in the 16th Century, it remains one of the most famous castles in the country today. Imposing, dramatic and entirely massive, it is a perfect showcase of the most magnificent and sensational architectural feats that were way ahead of its time There is a lovely park around the castle which is great place to relax and enjoy an afternoon with the family.
If you are visiting during the Cherry Blossom Festival the park is filled with vendors, musicians, food stalls and festivities in an open air market. And the best part, is admission to the castle grounds itself are free.
The Osaka Science Museum is an incredible museum that shows visitors into a world of science and energy. With one of the biggest planetarium screens in the world, this is one journey for all ages that must not be missed.
The Osaka Aquarium or Kaiyukan is without a doubt one of the biggest marine aquariums in the world. More than 15 tanks, 580 species of marine animals, almost 5 and half tons of water, and over 30,000 exciting animals from all over the Pacific Rim makes this one of the must see attractions of Osaka. They even have a giant whale shark in their tanks – which is the largest fish on earth.
The Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine is the most famous out of all of the 2000 Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan. This one being the oldest, dates back to the 3rd Century.
Osaka does not really have a good reputation for the best place to buy all of your specifically Japanese goods. However, if you are in the market for lots of modern electronics, toys, clothes and other fancy items you are in luck, but the actual handicraft selection is pretty dismal.
The shopping district is generally divided into two areas – one around Osaka and Umdea stations, and the other around Namba station. Here in both areas, you will find lots of shopping districts, arcades, retailers, big department stores and some small boutiques.
The most famous shopping area is Shinsaibashi. Here you will find everything and more of everything – lots of high end designer stores from the west, lots of clothing shops, very trendy, hip and expensive. But you can also find a lot of local very inexpensive shop that offer some great deals on electronics, computers and lots of gadgets.
If you are looking for a great book shop with international as well as Japanese books, there are two great options – Kinokuniya at Umeda Station and Junkudo at Osaka Station. Osaka City Hall
Known for their culinary feats, there are an abundance of great places to eat and enjoy the local food all over Osaka, so many that it would be impossible to list them all. The mantra of Osaka gives a clue to the food culture here. “Kuidaore” or eat yourself into a stupor, will indicate that you are about to enjoy the feast of your life. Using seasonal and only the freshest ingredients around, you can enjoy some of the finest seafood as well as octopus, eel and even the lethally poisonous and huge delicacy of blowfish or fugu. Then there is the local sushi made in square wooden moulds – zushi and dumplings with ginger, octopus and spring onions – takoyaki.
If you are on a budget, you are in luck; there are loads of street vendors who can whip up the most mouth-watering deal for next to nothing. There is so much to choose from you might just have to try everything.
Then there is the Okonomiyaki, or DIY meal styled menu that you can find at some of the smaller restaurants, and you may enjoy the unique and interesting way to try some of Japan’s most delicious food. All the tables have built in hot plates in the middle and when you order, you receive your ingredients in a bowl – completely raw. And yes, you will be expected to cook it yourself. If you really can’t manage, the staff usually will oblige and give you a hand, all you have to do is ask.
Although the nightlife here in Osaka is perhaps not as exotic as what you may find in Tokyo, you will be delighted to know that you are still completely spoilt for choice. And depending on what you are looking for, there is plenty of entertainment to enjoy every single evening, provided you have not over eaten somewhere and need to go back to your hotel to lie down.
In the districts of Minami and Kita there are a number of energetic and festive bars, pubs and nightclubs, if you are looking for a serious night out on the town, with a bit of dancing, loud music and bright lights.If you are after something completely different, and you happen to be visiting in the month of March, you can get tickets to one of the 6 national sumo wrestling tournaments which are held here. And grab the chance to be able to see what goes on with this fascinating and unusual wrestling sport.
If you are not after either one of those and would like to spend an evening with something a little more traditional, a bit quieter and something more cultural, then Osaka won’t disappoint. Known far and wide as the best place to see the traditional art of Japanese puppet theatre, or bunraku, you can get tickets to see performances at the Osakad National Bunraku Theatre. You can also book to see kabuki here, or at the Sho-chiku-za Kabuki Theatre, and there is an exciting schedule of plays and other cultural events throughout the year.
Anything of local interest
Cherry Tree Blossom Festival – Spring
Every year marking the beginning of springtime in Osaka, and as the city explodes into a carpet of Cherry Blossoms, there is a festival that is held from March right up until the middle of April. The Osaka Castle Park is well known for being one of the premier places in all of Osaka for viewing the blossoms, and the park that is open 24 hours is filled with stalls, vendors, drummers and loads of people who gather here to experience the festivities. Entrance to the park is free of charge and you can even pop in and view the blossoms at night.
Shinno Matsuri Festival – Fall
At the end of November for two days, the Shinno Matsuri Festival is held. One of the small Sukunahikona shrines will be overwhelmed with people who will be arriving to give thanks in a celebration, honouring the momentous occasion in 1822. There was a massive outbreak of cholera and the government distributed all of the medicine for cholera to the public. Now considered a Shrine of the Health and Medicine gods, this is one of the most important festivals in Osaka. When you go, don’t forget to buy a little paper tiger charm that is intended to protect you from diseases.