Osaka (大阪市 Ōsaka-shi) (Japanese pronunciation: [oːsaka]; About this sound listen (help·info)) is a designated city in the Kansai region of Japan. It is the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and the largest component of the Keihanshin Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan and among the largest in the world with over 19 million inhabitants. Situated at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, Osaka is the second largest city in Japan by daytime population after Tokyo's 23 wards and the third largest city by nighttime population after Tokyo's 23 wards and Yokohama, serving as a major economic hub for the country.
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Osaka Castle Area
Sitting about a kilometer to the east of Osaka’s two downtowns (Kita and Minami), the Osaka Castle area is the tourist heart of the city. Built around the awe-inspiring tower of Osaka Castle, this green and spacious expanse provides a pleasant escape from the otherwise crowded and concrete expanses of the rest of the city. Easily reached by the JR Osaka Loop Line, two subway lines and the private Keihan Line (good for those coming from Kyoto), this area is good for a morning or afternoon in Osaka. In the Tanimachi area to the west of the castle, you’ll find lots of reasonably priced hotels and some excellent restaurants, making this a decent place in which to be based.
Kita and Umeda Area
Kita (Umeda) is the daytime heart of Osaka. It’s the transport and business hub of the city and there are plenty of restaurants and attractions here. It’s also where many of the city’s hotels are located.
Building (skyscraper/observation deck)
About 10 minutes’ walk from the central north gate of JR
Osaka Station, accessible by an underground walkway, the
Umeda Sky Building is one of the tallest and most impressive
buildings in Osaka. It’s more like two buildings connected
by a bridge at the top. There’s a great observation deck at
the top called the Kuchu Teien (“Garden in the Sky”)
Observatory. The views from here are great, especially in
the evening, although they’ve now been overshadowed by those
at the Abeno Harukas Building in the Tennoji Area. Tickets
for the Kuchu Teien Observatory can be purchased on the 3rd
floor of the east tower. There’s an indoor and outdoor
observatory. Below the Sky Building complex, you’ll find
Takimi Koji Alley, a re-creation of a Showa Period shopping
street that is filled with restaurants.
Osaka Museum of
Housing and Living (museum)
Two stops east of Umeda and Osaka Station, on the Tanimachi
subway line, the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living contains
a full-size reproduction of a 1830s Edo Period shopping
street. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what the city looked
like before the coming of electricity and it’s highly
recommended for people with an interest in history. It’s
located on the 8th floor of a building and the last time we
went, there was no English sign (perhaps there is one now).
Take Exit #3 from Tenjinbashisuji Rokuchome Station.
Shopping Street (shopping arcade)
This 2.6km covered shopping arcade is the longest shotengai
(shopping arcade) is Osaka, and that’s saying a lot because
Osaka is famous for them. It’s an almost endless stretch of
vaguely retro shops, restaurants and cafes. Start at
Tenjinbashi-suji Rokuchome Station (two stops east of
Umeda/JR Osaka Station on the Tanimachi subway line) and
walk south. You’ll finish very near Kids Plaza Osaka, which
is a great stop for those with children (see following
Osaka (children’s play zone and science museum)
For those with kids, this enormous play zone and science
museum is perhaps Osaka’s top attraction. The top floor has
an incredible interactive science museum, where kids can
have fun while learning about science, and then there’s a
giant three-floor castle that children can explore while
their parents take a break on nearby benches. It’s hard to
do this place justice with words, but take it from the
father of two young children: this place is awesome! And the
nearby Tenjimbashisuji shopping arcade (see previous entry)
is packed with cheap restaurants. The closest subway station
is Ogimachi Station, from which it’s a five-minute walk.
Five (entertainment/shopping complex/Ferris Wheel)
A short walk east of Umeda and JR Osaka stations, this huge
shopping and dining complex is topped by a Ferris wheel that
offers a great view over the city of Osaka. This
106-meter-high wheel offers an incredible view, especially
in the evening. It costs Y500 but is free with an Amazing
Osaka Pass. There’s often a queue to get on, but the line
About 15 minutes’ walk south of Umeda/JR Osaka Station,
Nakanoshima-koen Park is a lovely and semi-green island in
the middle of the Yodo-gawa River. It’s a nice place for a
stroll and to escape the rush of the city. You’ll also find
two museums here (see following two entries).
Oriental Ceramics (ceramics museum)
If you’re a fan of Oriental ceramics, this museum is a
must-see. It’s relatively small but the collection is first
rate. The collection includes Japanese, Korean and Chinese
of Art, Osaka (art museum)
This is another small museum on Nakanoshima Island, a short
walk west of the above museum. The museum itself is a
dynamic modern structure. The permanent collection (at least
the part exhibited at any one time) is relatively small.
It’s worth going if the special exhibition is of interest to
you (you can ask at any of the tourist information counters
near the main train stations) or check online at
the National Museum of Art, Osaka website.