Ōsaka (大阪) is the second 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.
Many districts in Osaka derive their names from the Tokugawa-era bridges that were built during the city's reign as transportation hub for the country. Today, Yodoyabashi (淀屋橋) and Kyobashi (京橋) still retain their crossings, while the bridges in Yotsubashi (四ツ橋), Nagahoribashi (長堀橋）and Shinsaibashi (心斎橋) are long gone.
橋 (hashi, often pronounced -bashi, when affixed to a preceding name) is the kanji character meaning 'bridge'.
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. (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 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?".
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:
A rechargeable smart card, ICOCA, can be used on rail, subway and bus networks in Kansai area, Okayama, Hiroshima, Nagoya (Kintetsu) and Tokyo (JR East). These cards are available at vending machines at these rail stations, and cost 2000 yen, which includes a ¥500 deposit that will be refunded when the card is returned at JR West Station.
One of the best value for money pass is the 5 day consecutive unlimited Kintetsu Rail Pass valued at ¥3500 for travel within the Kansai region. Holders of this rail pass can get on & off any number of times within the 5 day consecutive period. The holder of this pass can decide on the start date to be activated. This is good for exploring the Kansai or Kinki region covering Kyoto, Nara Prefecture, Nagoya, Mie Prefecture. Tourists spots like Kyoto , Yoshino in Nara Prefecture, Akame Shiju-hattaki Falls & Ise-Jingu Shrine in Mie Prefecture , Mount Kongozan in Osaka Prefecture are some of the destinations covered by this pass. The more expensive Kintetsu Rail Pass Wide is valued at ¥6800. It is also valid for consecutive 5 days with only marginal value added services 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. A comparison chart between the cheaper Kintetsu Rail Pass & the Kintestsu Rail Pass Wide is here . Full list of Kintetsu rail map and sightseeing areas is available here . The pass is available for purchase at Kansai International Airport at the arrival lobby from Kansai Airport Agency Travel Desk to be paid in cash only , access map of Kansai Airport Agency Travel Desk is here . It is also available for purchase overseas.
The comes in two versions. The one-day pass (¥2000) offers unlimited use of 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 version sets you off only ¥2700 but 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 actually pay off quite well. If you just want to get around Osaka a regular one-day pass for ¥850 might be better. It helps to plan beforehand where you want to go and see if you can actually save money or not. Don't underestimate the time it takes to get from one site to the next. 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.
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.
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.
Bar Kama Sutra, , 9PM-morning daily, East Shinsaibashi 東心斎橋, a few meters from Cinque Cento on 5F of Jumbo Bldg, Small cozy karaoke bar is almost impossible to find but well worth the effort. Foreign and English-speaking Japanese staff, and over 130,000 songs to choose from. The owner, Richard, is a long term resident of Japan and is a wealth of information on what to do and see in the area, where to stay and even where to find work. (No
Hub, This British pub, on Midosuji in Shinsaibashi, serves as a meeting place for many local expats as well as Japanese locals.
Try Amemura area - There you will find all kind of bars with different genre from hip-hop to reggae.
Club Heaven, +81 077-510-0321, Shinsaibashi, just down the street from Club Pure near the police station, Gets very crowded late when Club Pure and some other clubs are closing for the night. Very international crowd.
Club Pure , +81 06-2536-6278, +81 06-2536-6278, 10PM-5AM, Chuo-ku, Soemon-cho 2-3-12 Diamond Bldg B1F, Extremely crowded dance club. The crowd is around 25-30% international. Be sure to bring your passport, as the ID check here is atypically rigorous. The closest subway station is Namba Station, which is about 5-10 min walk.
Sam and Dave Nagahori, 1-21-19 B1F, Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku, +81 06-6251-5333.
Sam and Dave Shinsaibashi, 1-3-29 4F Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, +81 06-6243-6848.
Sam and Dave Umeda, 4-15-19 1F Nishi-tenma, Kita-ku, +81 06 6365 1688.
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. Near Amerika-mura,Horie (堀江) is shopping street of mainly Japanese brands shops. 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 Nippombashi (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.
If you are a fan of shochu you can buy it in the Sho-chu Authority shop in Namba Parks. There are hundreds of varieties of shochu from all over Japan in crazy bottles. There usually is a selection of bottles to taste from (help yourself). Also sells shochu pottery and glass as well as traditional snacks.
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. 2.6km length. The arcade is running north-south along Tenjinbashi-suji street, and is accessible from multiple subway and/or JR stations, eg. 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 Edo period.
"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:
Kita (キタ, "north") — 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.
Minami (ミナミ, "south") — 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).
Tennōji (天王寺) or Abeno (アベノ, あべの, 阿倍野) — generally means the area around JR Tennōji Station, Abeno subway station and Kintetsu lines, located 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.
Other important places include:
Kyōbashi (京橋) — northeast of Osaka Castle, home to Osaka Business Park (OBP).
Shin-Osaka (新大阪) — Shin-Osaka Station (the shinkansen and airport express stop)
The occupation of most resident Americans, Europeans and Australians is teaching English (as is the case in most of Japan). In recent years, the economy in the Osaka region had 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.
Opti Café is a surprisingly cheap internet café in Umeda. ¥100/30min. Yodobashi Camera department store's groundfloor, next to Excelsior Café. You are requested to register for membership but it doesn't cost anything.
Y-net Cafe, Labi 1 Namba GF, Nambanaka 2-11-35, Naniwa-ku. First hour of use is free and no registration needed.
Australia, 066-941-9271 , MID Tower Twin 21 29F, 2-1-61, Shiromi, Chuo-ku
China, 066-445-9481, 3-9-2, Utsubohommachi, Nishi-ku
United States, 066-315-5900, 2-11-5, Nishitemma, Kita-ku
In nearby Toyonaka, there is also a Russian Embassy:
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.
Its location makes Osaka a perfect base for doing one-day trips to nearby cities like Kyoto (30 minutes), Kobe (20 minutes), Nara (40 minutes) or Himeji (1 hour). (Typical times shown on JR Trains available without extra express charges starting from Osaka Station.)
The Expo Park in Suita, the huge commemorial park of the Japan World Expo '70, with its interesting Japanese Garden and Museum of National Ethnology.
Hirakata - Home to the child-friendly Hirakata Park and Kansai Gaidai University.
Church of light (茨木春日丘教会 Ibaraki Kasuga-oka Kyoukai)(Ibaraki), one of the masterpiece architecture by Tadao Ando.
Minō Koen (Minō), a popular maple watching spot in autumn.
The temples and lush greenery of Mount Koya, 90 minutes away by train, are an entirely different world and the perfect getaway when all the concrete starts to get to you.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the world's longest single-span suspension bridge is located near Kobe, about 40 minutes away by train.
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