Found in the Kansai region towards the south of Japan, this bustling and boisterous city draws many similarities to Tokyo while also bearing an independent identity of its own. From lively streets, flashing signs and a passionate food scene, Osaka can proudly stand tall on its own.
Here you can find iconic sights like the ‘Glico Man’ sign in the famous ‘Dotonbori’ area, surrounded to the brim by an overflowing abundance of food establishments. Hailed as the ‘food capital of Japan’ and spearheaded by dishes like ‘takoyaki’ and ‘okonomiyaki’, anyone that wants to experience a trip with a belly full of goodness, must at least stop by Osaka.
Whether you are an explorer, nightlife vampire, food enthusiast or anything in between, below you will hopefully find helpful information on tackling the fierce city of Osaka.
Geographically, the city itself is built quite large, but in a narrow fashion where it stretches further north and south than east and west. This means that figuring out which area of Osaka you want to situate yourself at is just as important as in other cities, as it will affect your travel times a lot more. So, to get a little taste of everything, staying in central Osaka is your best bet.
The previously mentioned, symbolic area of ‘Dotonbori’ lies here in the heart of the city, so you will have no trouble spending as much time as you wish exploring here. With this city boasting a younger demographic compared to Tokyo, typically the nightlife here is a lot more energetic and livelier. This is where many believe Osaka comes to life where bright lights illuminate the dark sky, paired with the chatter and laughter of people eating and drinking the night away. Luckily, for anyone who is big into the nightlife and especially wants to experience a Japanese one, there is no better place to do that in Japan than in central Osaka.
Right through the middle of ‘Dotonbori’ you will find a straight lengthy canal. This gives a lot of character to Osaka, as seeing a canal cut right through a high-profile area surrounded by towering buildings on either side is something quite unique to see. As you may expect, boat tours are available through here, where some even provide a dining experience, allowing for you to get a new perspective of this place while shovelling your cheeks full of delicious food. Recommended to go on a boat tour during the evening when all the electronic signs and billboards are surging with volts, but be sure to book it early or in advance as it can get booked out pretty fast. If you walk to the end of the ‘Dotonbori’ area following the canal by the ‘Glico Man’ sign, there will be a staircase that will elevate you onto the main street level. This is a great spot for taking photos of the famous area as you get a comprehensive view of the canal right down the middle, stretching as far as the eye can see. As the canal is so long, there are numerous bridges built, so you should have no problem finding a good photo spot.
Where to stay in Central Osaka?
As the biggest benefit of staying in central Osaka is the location in the vicinity to other popular areas, I have gone with ‘Karaksa Hotel Osaka Namba’ with it being located right at the heart. Only a brisk five-minute walk till you land in the middle of ‘Dotonbori’ this is the epitome of a great location. With this area catering to nightlife-centric travellers, you will have no trouble hitting up the abundant amount of bars and 24/7 restaurants. Knowing that your accommodation is only five minutes away, should also give you peace of mind that you can get back swiftly.
The rooms are clean, well-kept, and can accommodate large families. Although the rooms may be quite simple and nothing spectacular, central Osaka is right at your doorstep and should keep you busy for endless hours, whether it be shopping in the crowded district nearby or exploring the urban complex.
Located to the north of central Osaka, Umeda is the transport hub of the city. Hosting numerous significant train and bus lines, including Osaka Station which acts as the station for the ‘shinkansen’ or also known as the ‘bullet train’, it is an important district of Osaka. This is a suitable area for people who are not going to be staying long, or plan on travelling to many of the nearby cities like Kyoto, Kobe or Himeji. However, do not let this stray you from the fact that Umeda still has a lot to offer on its own. Built-up and designated as the more modernised part of Osaka, here you will experience a similar aura with Tokyo in terms of its tall skyscrapers and large commercial complexes. As you may expect, the departments of shopping and entertainment thrive here deeply, and while food also excels, this can be found in abundance throughout the city, and feel that there is no real need to highlight it here.
The main attractions in this region consist of newer era structures like the ‘Umeda Sky Building’ and various museums. While this does not mean that historical sights like shrines and temples cannot be found here, if this is something you plan on doing a lot, you are probably better off staying in one of the other areas. The ‘Umeda Sky Building’ soars tall andpresents visitors with sweeping views of the city from its observatory at the top. Where it shines in appeal at the top, it is also replicated at the bottom in the underground section, where a market is found which has been recreated to mimic a 20th century Osaka.
Where to stay in Umeda?
Since this area acts at the transport hub and modernised area, you will be happy to hear that there are multiple hotels and accommodation available, so you should be able to find an open booking here if other places become unavailable. For Umeda I have gone with the ‘Hotel Granvia Osaka-JR Hotel Group’. Convenience is key to this place, and that is realisedby the fact that it is built directly above Osaka Station.
When arriving in the city you will have no problem finding this hotel, let alone making your way towards it. The restaurant here gives dinning guests skyline views of the city, and this is available only a few steps away from people staying here.
In polarity to Umeda, Tennoji is located at the southern end of the city. The less developed area when compared to the other districts, however, there has been a rapid revitalisation here in the past few years and is nothing to be frowned upon. Despite it being less developed, there is a charm and appeal to the old-fashioned, retro ambiance this place gives and should be a stop for anyone seeking that possible sense of nostalgia in Osaka. To be able to experience this the most, ‘Shinsekai’ is the place to be, symbolised by the distinctively shaped ‘Tsutenkaku’ tower that can be found in the middle of the area. The retro aura radiates outwards from here, with the dated-looking store signs and large models in front of stores to attract customers. You can make all your nostalgic Japanese dreams come true here.
In contrast to that, in this region, you can find the ‘Abeno Harukas’ building, constructed in 2014. It stands mighty tall at around 300 meters and is the tallest building in the whole of Japan. This commercial building is home to a station, department store, hotels, and much more. On the top floors of this skyscraper, you are greeted by multiple observation decks that give the greatest views of the Osaka skyline, and even offer views of other nearby cities and the ocean.
For anyone looking for something a lot calmer and more peaceful, close by you will find the large and lush ‘Tennoji Park’. And if that was not enough, within the park there is Osaka’s fine arts museum as well as a zoo. There is so much to do here that you could very well spend an entire day exploring and enjoying a nice day out at the park.
Where to stay in Tennoji?
Due to this area’s development, fortunately, you are able to find accommodation here to be pretty cheap. So, in the spirit of that, I have picked a cheap place in the form of ‘BON Condominium Namba Ebisu’. This is an apartment-style hotel where you have a private bathroom and kitchen but will not have typical services like room cleaning you would find in a regular hotel. It is only a six-minute walk to the retro ‘Shinsekai’ area, and a ten-minute walk to ‘Tennoji Park’. You have plenty to see and do from this location, and by saving some money with this accommodation here, I am sure you will be able to enjoy your time even more.
Those were the top recommendations for areas and hotels in Osaka, so we will round off here. Are you ready to prepare all the practical details of your trip? Once that is done, you can look forward to an amazing trip to one of Japan’s best cities. We wish you a great trip!