ALPHA STORIES, FOR THE SMART AND FREQUENT TRAVELER ABROAD
Meet Me In Osaka
No trip to Japan is complete without visiting the vibrant city of Osaka. Unlike Kyoto and parts of Tokyo, Osaka is ultra modern. The city was quickly rebuilt after the second World War and has quite a different look than other parts of the country. Don’t be thrown off by the concrete jungle appearance, this city has so much to offer. I suggest at least two days here to properly see the city if you are scheduling it into your trip. Make sure you bring your appetite because Osaka is known as Japan’s Kitchen and the ultimate destination for any foodie. Here is your guide on the neighborhoods to explore, foods that will make your mouth water, and more.
Where Should I Stay During My Visit?
I recommend selecting accommodations situated around major train stations to make getting around the city easier and saving time on transit. Pick accommodations in either Namba or Osaka/Umeda. Namba, located in the vibrant southern part of the city, serves as a bustling center for entertainment, shopping, and diverse culinary experiences. On the northern end, Osaka/Umeda offers a more sophisticated urban experience with towering skyscrapers, flagship shopping destinations like Osaka Station City, and countless cultural gems. Both areas, strategically positioned near major train stations, serve as excellent bases for exploring the city. Whether you are drawn to Namba’s energetic streets or captivated by the refined ambiance of Osaka/Umeda you’ll be happy you stayed in these parts of the city.
Neighborhoods to explore
(Famous Glico Sign In Dotonbori via Google Maps)
Think of this as the entertainment district of Osaka with light up billboards that almost resemble that of Times Square. I suggest exploring this neighborhood in the late afternoon so you can see it during the day and at night when the lights come on. You will know you’re in the right place when you see the Glico Running Man, an ad for Glico Candy that has become the prime Instagram location for tourists. In true entertainment fashion you can still find Kabuki performances (traditional Japanese theater drama) here, but it’s the foodie hot spots and clubs that truly dominate this neighborhood. A good starting point in Dotonbori is Shinsaibashi- suji Shopping Street as the shops will close earlier than the restaurants and bars.
This 20 min river cruise is an awesome way to see the neighborhood and take some incredible photos.
One of the only English Comedy Clubs in Asia, a great place to start or end a night with international comedians.
This Shinto Shrine in the shape of a dragon’s head is definitely worth checking out and has no admission fees.
Michelin Star Okonomiyaki, run by the same family for three generations.
Street Food Stall for Tayokai, the most popular flavor is the original but there are fun variations like spicy, cheese, and soy sauce as well.
(Kushikatsu Daruma At Nighttime)
Deep Fried Meat Skewers with incredible sauces, the logo of the restaurant is an angry man you can’t miss.
Incredible cafe near Namba station with pancakes I try not to think about everyday.
This building is so fun to bar hop with themed bars, including a maid café, vintage Nintendo bar, Pikachu toy room, and a pub offering haircuts.
Bar Nayuta $$
Located right in front of America Mura, this speakeasy can be a little tricky to find but is well worth it for the world renowned cocktails.
This neighborhood is where you can experience life like a local. Come during the day to check out the shrine the neighborhood is named after (Tenmangu Shrine), and stay after dark to experience an incredible maze of hole in the wall restaurants tucked away throughout narrow lantern lit streets. I suggest starting off exploring Tenma at Tenjimbashi-suji Rokuchome Station, where you will find the self-proclaimed longest shopping street in Japan. Alternatively you can start off at Minamimorimachi Station which is the closest station to the Tenmangu Shrine.
(Via Tenmangu Shrine Official Website)
Open everyday from 7am – 5pm, there is no entrance fee.
A walk along this street can seemingly go on forever but is an absolute must see with so many stores and things to do.
(Via Artist Satoshi Hirayama, PEXELS)
Go to Tenma Station, take the North Exit, and let yourself wander. The narrow streets are bustling with locals and you will find so many different kinds of cuisine. I feel part of the allure of Tenma is walking around and discovering places, however below are a few of my favorite spots. Make sure you bring cash! Many of these places reject credit cards.
Standing Sake Bar with amazing seafood pairings.
Luv wine $$
A must for wine lovers, it also offers Japanese Italian dishes.
Speciality cocktails and locally sourced ingredients, a local favorite.
Shinseki is one of Osaka’s most colorful neighborhoods and surprisingly modeled after parts of Paris. Shinseki is famous for its “new world” appearance and feels as though you are walking through a giant amusement park. This neighborhood used to have a bad reputation but is now extremely safe for tourists and awesome to explore. The best place to begin exploring this neighborhood is to head to the JR Shin-Imamiya Station. Once there, head towards the station’s east exit. Shinsekai is conveniently situated just a 10-minute stroll from the station.
This observation deck has the most incredible view of the city at sunset. Open daily from 9am – 9pm. The entrance fee is dependent on age.
This knife store is definitely worth window shopping in with an extremely knowledgeable staff and gorgeous assortment of different cooking knives.
(Via Osaka Castle Official Site)
Osaka Castle is considered one of the most iconic buildings in Japanese history due to its role in the unification of Japan. Today it is a museum that is open from 9am – 5pm. I personally think the surrounding park is more impressive than the inside, but the castle is worth the walk up to see during your time in the city.
Sennariya has now become a chain across Japan but this is the original location and getting a mixed fruit juice here is a must.
At Pika you can experience making your own takoyaki, a very fun interactive dinner experience.
Offers a classic variety of chinsekai foods. I suggest the kushi katsu and nabe hot pot, also open 24 hours on the weekends if you find yourself needing a late night bite.
This spot has the most amazing octopus balls with a crispy exterior and fluffy soft inside. This was one of my favorite fried Japanese cuisines of the trip.
Other Tips To Keep In Mind
- Try to always have cash on you, many businesses do not take credit cards.
- If you bring your passport shopping with you and present it upon checkout you can be refunded the taxes paid at the airport when you depart Japan.
- When eating Kushi Katsu the number one rule is no double dipping.
- Some bars are members only and will refuse tourists, respect being told no.
- Umegle-Chari is the equivalent of Citi Bike in Osaka and a great way to see the city
Written By Tara Katims for Abroadeez