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Osaka, Japan

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.

If Tokyo is Japan's capital, one might call Osaka it's anti-capital. Whatever you call it, though, there are many opportunities for you to discover its true character.

Osaka dates back to the Asuka and Nara period. Under the name Naniwa (難波), it was the 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. 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... Read more

Osaka, Japan

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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.

If Tokyo is Japan's capital, one might call Osaka it's anti-capital. Whatever you call it, though, there are many opportunities for you to discover its true character.

Osaka dates back to the Asuka and Nara period. Under the name Naniwa (難波), it was the 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. 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 the 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 2 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?".


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Osaka, Japan: Port Information


Cruise ships dock at Tempozan Passenger Terminal. There is a Ferris wheel, Aquarium, Suntory Museum, dining and shopping venues, and many other attractions nearby.
There is a bust stop in 1 minute on foot and a subway station in 5 minutes on foot.

Get around Osaka, Japan


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.
  • Unlimited Kintetsu Rail Pass (Purchase at the Kansai Airport Agency Travel Desk in Kansai International Airport.). The Kansai region covers Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, Mie, and more.
  • Wide Kintetsu Rail Pass (Purchase at the Kansai Airport Agency Travel Desk in Kansai International Airport.). This pass is similar the Unlimited Kintetsu Rail 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • Subway and bus one-day Passes. The "Osaka Visitors' Ticket" 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" includes a ticket for the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.
  • Multiple Ride Card. This card can be used until its fare expires. It is good for subways, buses, and the New Tram.

By subway

The Osaka Subway here 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. Station arrivals are displayed and announced in both Japanese and English. Keep your ticket when you enter the train — it is required when you exit.

By train

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.

By bicycle

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.

By car

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.

What to see in Osaka, Japan


  • Osaka Castle (大阪城 Osaka-jō) (The park can be accessed on a number of lines, but the castle is closest to Osaka-jō Koen station on the JR Osaka Loop Line.). 9 AM-5 PM daily, closed around New Years. Osaka's best known sight, although it's a concrete reconstruction that pales in comparison with, say, Himeji. Think of it as a museum built in the shape of a castle, rather than as an actual historical castle. Still, it's pretty enough from the outside, especially in the cherry blossom season when Osakans flock to the castle park to picnic and make merry. Naniwa Palace Site Park or Naniwanomiya can also be found south to Osaka Castle Park (although it's one of Japan's oldest habitats and palace sites, today it's little more than an empty grass field where the outlines of Naniwa's palace foundations from around 643 AD have been partly recreated in concrete).
  • Osaka Science Museum (大阪市立科学館) (Walk from subway Higobashi Station or Yodoya-bashi Station, 500m and 900m to the west respectively. You could also walk from Osaka station, it will take at least 20 minutes.). Tu-Su 9:30 AM-5 PM, closed Dec 28-Jan 4, closed on public holidays. Big interactive activity center on several floors. Great for kids. Planetarium and cinema (with science films) downstairs.
  • Osaka Museum of History (大阪歴史博物館), 1-32 Otemae 4-Chome Chuo-ku (5 min walk from subway Tanimachi 4-chome Station; also accessible via Osaka Castle or from JR Osaka-jō Station). M-Th 9:30 AM-5 PM, F 9:30 AM-8 PM, closed Tuesday, or Wednesday of Tuesday is a holiday. An ideal place to learn all-abouts of Osaka's history. Enjoyable view over Osaka Castle and the OBP skyscrapers.
  • Umeda Sky Building (梅田スカイビル), 1-1-20 Oyodonaka, Kita-ku (10 min. walk from JR Osaka or Hankyu Umeda.). Observatory 10 AM-10:30 PM daily, last adm. at 10 PM. Built in an attempt to upgrade Osaka's somewhat downbeat Kita district, the project wasn't quite the hoped-for commercial success but this bizarrely shaped 40-story, 173-meter building is still a city landmark. Take the escalator through midair to the rooftop observatory for an open-air view of Osaka, which is particularly impressive on a clear night. There is a lover's seat, where if you hold your partner's hand, and each hold a metal button on the seat, the ground around you lights up into a heart. You can purchase an engraved heart lock and attached it to the padlock wall around the seat (padlocks only available after 7 pm). The basement features a recreation of a Meiji-era street, with a few small restaurants and bars in appropriate style. There is also a small store downstairs where you can purchase quality mochi on the cheap.
  • Sumiyoshi Shrine (住吉大社) (Access is from the Nankai line station of the same name; local trains run from Namba station in central Osaka.). One of Japan's oldest Shinto shrines, with a history stretching back 1800 years. Its traditional architecture is unusual among Japan's shrines, and its park-like surroundings with the sacred bridge arching over a tranquil pond make it a restful break from the busy environment of Osaka. Free.
  • Shitennōji Temple (四天王寺), 1-1-18 Shitennōji Tennōji-ku (5 min. walk from Shitennōji-mae-Yuhiga-oka subway stop, or 15 min by walk north from Tennōji Station.). Originally built by Emperor Suiko in 593 AD. Although the current buildings are mostly post WWII reconstructions, the temple is a rare sample which conveys the continental style (notably the positioning of the individual buildings inside the complex) of 6th-7th century to present.
  • Japan Mint (造幣局), 1-1-79 Temma Kita-ku (15 minutes walk from Temmabashi subway stop.). It's not widely known even by people from elsewhere in the country that Japan Mint is actually headquartered in Osaka. For Osakans, Sakura-no-tōrinuke (桜の通り抜け, cherry blossom tunnel road) is a synonym for this facility, attracting a large number of visitors (close to 1 million in just 7 days) during a limited, planned week in mid-Apr. A must-see if you are fond of nature and happen to drop into Osaka in-season. Free.
  • Tsūtenkaku (通天閣). While the original tower was built early 20th century, the current "newer" version is designed by the same Prof. Naitō, who also designed Tokyo Tower. This landmark built in the middle of the Shinsekai (新世界) area is a symbol of reconstruction of the City of Osaka post WWII. There's a "Sky Billiken" on the platform, definitely makes your wishes come true, once you rub his feet! And if you are lucky, your guide will have another job as a comedian!
  • Open Air Museum of Old Farmhouses (日本民家集落博物館 (nihon minka shūraku hakubutsukan)), Ryokuchi-koen (Take the Midosuji subway line to Ryokuchi.). Tu-Su. Ryokuchi park itself is lovely, and in it is a museum of a dozen old Edo period farmhouses, moved across country and lovingly reconstructed. Also on display are tools, furniture, and the like. You can go to Himeji-jo or the old palace in Kyoto and see how the rulers lived, but come down here to see how the people lived. Thanks to the efforts of a volunteer from Australia, they have a great new English-language brochure to guide you.
  • Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum (上方浮世絵館), ☎ +81 66 211-0393. Tu-Su 11 AM-6 PM. A rather small museum in Nanba dedicated to ukiyoe, Japanese woodblock prints. The interior of the museum looks a bit like an adobe house. It may be most interesting to someone already familiar with the art, as the information inside mostly Japanese only.
  • Peace Osaka (大阪国際平和センター), ☎ +81 66 947-7208. Tu-Su 9:30 AM-5 PM. A museum dedicated to the promotion of peace through displays of war. Because it is an Osaka museum, it features the effects of the bombings on Osaka in WWII. While this is of some interest, the exhibitions depicting the atrocities committed by Japan against China, Korea, and Southeast Asia are what make this museum truly worthwhile. There is also an exhibit with displays relating to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Exhibits have English explanations.

What to do in Osaka, Japan


  • 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. 
  • Tenpozan Ferris Wheel (Next to Kaiyukan in the Tempozan area.). 10 AM-10 PM. 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 itself doubles as a kind of amusement park, along with the Ferris wheel, and the best deal is to catch the ferry from there to Universal Studios across the water. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.)
  • Umeda Joypolis Sega (ジョイポリス) (next to Umeda (Osaka) station). 11 AM-11 PM. Occupies the 8th and 9th floors of the Hep Five building with arcades and a Ferris wheel at the top. Local laws prohibit kids from 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.
  • 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 24hrs so handy if 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. Can 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 9 am on the dot. 
  • 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.
  • Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum (インスタントラーメン発明記念館 (insutanto ramen hatsumei kinenkan)), Ikeda (30 minutes from Umeda on the Hankyu line. There are signs in Katakana pointing the way from the south exit.). W-M 9:30 AM-4 PM. A homage to the universal Cup Noodle, with more flavors than could fill supermarket aisle. It features among other things, a statue of Momofuku Ando, the creator, standing atop a giant Cup Noodle holding an instant ramen packet aloft.
  • Zepp Namba (À l'est de la station Daikokucho). 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, ☎ +81 6 6612-1234, e-mail: inquiry.hrosaka@hyattintl.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.), ☎ +81 80-4451-5539, e-mail: edd@rorcomedy.com. English-language stand-up comedy playhouse.

What to eat and drink in Osaka, Japan


Eat

The widest selection of restaurants is in Osaka's main entertainment districts, with the highest concentration of all in the Umeda and Dotombori areas.

Even in a nation of obsessive gourmands Osaka is known as an excellent place to eat, exemplified by the Osakan maxim kuidaore, "eat yourself into ruin". The best place for trying out kuidaore is probably Dōtonbori (道頓堀) and neighboring Hōzenji-yokochō (法善寺横町) or Soemon-cho (宗右衛門町), the whole area containing nearly nothing but one restaurant after another.

Some typically Osakan foods worth trying include:

  • Battera (バッテラ), is a block type sushi, with mackerel put on rice and squeezed very hard in a wooden box, cut into pieces when served. Battera sushi is a variant and direct descendant of primitive sushi, this one from Osaka is unique for its squarelike shape. Available not only in sushi restaurants but also as take-away in department stores and train stations.
  • Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), fried cabbage cakes that resemble a cross between a pancake, pizza, and omelette.
  • Takoyaki (たこ焼き), bits of octopus inside fried dumplings.
  • Kushikatsu (串かつ), skewers with various sorts of food (meat, vegetables, cheese, etc.) deep-fried in dough and served with a black sauce.

Okonomiyaki is best eaten in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, while takoyaki is best eaten from street vendors' carts, which can be found all over the major districts around nightfall. The best place to find kushkatsu(串カツ) is in Shinsekai, between Dobutsuen-mae and Ebisucho stations on the Sakaisuji subway line.

Drink

There are many nightlife districts in Osaka. Nightlife in Osaka is very popular.

  • Kitashinchi - This area, located just south of JR Osaka station, is the most famous nightclub and entertainment district of contemporary Osaka. It’s just like Tokyo’s Ginza, filled with many hundreds of high-class bars, clubs and small restaurants where Japanese businessmen entertain their clients.
  • Dotonbor - This area is the centre of nightlife.
  • Hozenji-Yokocho.

Shopping in Osaka, Japan


  • 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. In this area, new shopping buildings have been constructed recently. For example, the“E-ma” buildings next to Hanshin department store, and “Nu-Chayamachi” (Nu 茶屋町) opened in October 2005 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 located on 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 in 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, Tenjinbashi-suji 6-chome, etc. Nothing meant for sightseeing, the arcade is a live exhibition of Osaka's daily life, open since the Edo period.

Safety in Osaka, Japan


Osaka has a dangerous reputation (by Japanese standards), but is still remarkably safe for a city of its size, and the overall level of crime is as low as in Tokyo or other Japanese cities. However, some areas, particularly Shinsekai and Tobita, may be a little dodgy at night and the Airin/Kamagasaki area — Japan's largest slum, home to a lot of jobless and/or homeless people — south of Shin-Imamiya is best avoided at most times, especially after dark.
Incidentally, despite the movie stereotype of gangsters speaking in Osakan dialect, the actual base of Japan's biggest yakuza families is neighboring Kobe — and the most gang violence occurs in Tokyo. Unless you're dealing drugs, you're unlikely to get involved with the local mafia.

Language spoken in Osaka, Japan


Osaka has a distinctive dialect of Japanese, which is favored 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, just 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 but is otherwise not widely spoken.

LOCAL TIME

6:21 am
May 25, 2019
Asia/Tokyo

CURRENT WEATHER

25.78 °C / 78.404 °F
sky is clear
Sun

25.25 °C/77 °F
overcast clouds
Mon

23.35 °C/74 °F
few clouds
Tue

15.26 °C/59 °F
moderate rain
Wed

24.45 °C/76 °F
sky is clear

LOCAL CURRENCY

JPY

1 USD = 0 JPY
1 EUR = 0 JPY
1 GBP = 0 JPY
1 AUD = 0 JPY
1 CAD = 0 JPY

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