Osaka

Osaka Castle

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.

Districts

"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:

Osaka's districts
Kita (キタ)
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)
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).
Tennoji (天王寺)
Generally means the area around JR Tennōji Station, Abeno and Tennoji subway stations and Kintetsu rail 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.
Osaka castle
Osaka Castle (大阪城) is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Japan. Kyōbashi (京橋) is northeast of Osaka Castle, home to Osaka Business Park (OBP).
North
Covering the area north of Osaka. Includes Shin-Osaka(新大阪) and Juso(十三).
East
The eastern suburbs of Osaka.
South
The southern suburbs of Osaka containing various districts, which has the Sumiyoshi-Taisya Grand Shrin.
Bay Area
Huge amusement area with many gigantic facilities.

Understand

Osaka and the "808 Bridges" (八百八橋)


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'.

If Tokyo is Japan's capital, one might call Osaka its 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. (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?".

Get in

By plane

The main international gateway to Osaka is Kansai International Airport (IATA: KIX) . The airport has two railway connections to the city: JR West's Kansai Airport Line and the private Nankai Electric Railway.

Several ticket offers from Kansai Airport are available, which may appeal to foreign visitors:

Most domestic flights arrive at Osaka International Airport, also known as Itami Airport (IATA: ITM), . Itami is connected to the Osaka Monorail , but the monorail is expensive and traces an arc around the northern suburbs, so to get to the centre of the city you will need to transfer to a suburban Hankyu railway line. A more convenient option for most are the Airport Limousine Buses , which run frequently from Itami to various locations within Osaka and elsewhere in the region (including Kansai Airport), with fares starting around ¥500-600. Taxi from Itami airport to Osaka castle area costs ¥4000 plus ¥700 for toll road.

By train

Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (新幹線) trains arrive at Shin-Osaka station, to the north of the city center. From Shin-Osaka, you can connect to the city center by using the Midosuji subway line, or connect to the local JR network for other destinations.

If travelling from the east without a rail pass, you can take advantage of the Puratto (Platt) Kodama Ticket, which offers a discount for Kodama services if you purchase at least one day in advance. You get a reserved seat and a coupon for a free drink (including beer) which can be redeemed at a "Kiosk" convenience counter inside the station. With this ticket a trip from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka costs ¥10,300 - a savings of almost ¥4000. Note that there is only one Kodama service per hour from Tokyo, and a few early-morning Kodama trains cannot be used with this ticket. Travel from Nagoya with this ticket costs ¥4300.

During travel periods when the Seishun 18 Ticket is valid, you can go from Tokyo to Osaka during the day in about nine hours using all-local trains. Travelling in a group, however, discounts the cost significantly from the standard ¥8500 fare: A party of three costs ¥3800 per person, and a group of five traveling together brings the cost down to ¥2300 per person. See the Seishun 18 Ticket article for more information.

Those travelling from the Hokuriku region can use Thunderbird (サンダーバード) limited express trains from Kanazawa (2 3/4 hours, ¥7650). Kanazawa is the present terminal of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, connecting to Toyama, Nagano and Tokyo.

There are many regional railway lines connecting Osaka to nearby cities:

Stations with the same name but belonging to different railway companies are sometimes very far apart. For example, the Nakatsu stations on the Hankyu and subway networks are about an hour's walk from each other, even though they look close on the railway map. Allow up to half an hour for walking between the various Umeda stations and about the same for the various Namba stations, especially if you are a first time visitor.

In Kobe the Sannomiya stations belonging to JR and Hankyu are connected but Hanshin Sannomiya is across a street.

Hokuriku Arch Pass

The Hokuriku Arch Pass is a new rail pass that will be available to foreign tourists starting in April 2016. The Arch Pass allows unlimited travel between Tokyo and the Kansai area via the Hokuriku region, using the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa and the Thunderbird from Kanazawa to Kyoto and Osaka. At a cost of ¥24000 for seven consecutive days of travel (¥25000 if purchased inside Japan), the Arch Pass is ¥5000 cheaper than the national Japan Rail Pass. On the other hand, a trip from Tokyo to Osaka is twice as long via Kanazawa compared to the more popular Tokaido Shinkansen.

Overnight travel

Overnight trains use to be one of the prides of the national railway network, but aging rail equipment combined with competition between buses and the shinkansen has resulted in the elimination of almost all services to/from Osaka.

Only one daily train remains: The Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto, which passes through Osaka en route to the Chugoku and Shikoku regions. Unfortunately, it may only be useful as a means to travel to and from Tokyo. The daily eastbound service picks up passengers in Osaka at 12:34 AM, arriving in Yokohama at 6:44 AM and Tokyo at 7:08 AM. The daily westbound service from Tokyo (10:00 PM) and Yokohama (10:23 PM), on the other hand, don't stop in Osaka at all - the first morning stop is in Himeji at 5:25 AM. From Himeji, you will have to backtrack to Osaka on a commuter service or the shinkansen on a separate ticket.

If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can book a carpeted floor space on the above service at no charge. Otherwise you can travel in a compartment or room by paying the applicable room fee and surcharges. From Himeji you'll be able to backtrack to Osaka in a commuter train, or in a non-reserved seat on the first Kodama shinkansen service of the day, simply by showing your pass.

During the peak travel seasons, JR runs an overnight service called the Moonlight Nagara between Tokyo and Ōgaki in Gifu Prefecture, from which you must continue on to Osaka by regular trains. The Nagara can be used by holders of the Seishun 18 Ticket, and as a result, is in very high demand when it runs; seat reservations are compulsory.

During University holidays there are some additional overnight services to Matsuyama, Kochi and Fukuoka. As these are considered rapid services they can be very economical if you use a Seishun 18 Ticket.

By bus

JR Highway Buses are among many companies that make daily bus runs between Tokyo and Osaka.

As Osaka is a major city, there are many day and overnight buses which run between Osaka and other locations throughout Japan, which can be a cheaper alternative than shinkansen fares.

From Tokyo

The run between Tokyo and the Kansai region is the busiest in Japan. Buses use the Tomei or Chuo Expressway from Tokyo to Nagoya, then the Meishin Expressway to Osaka. Trips take between 8 and 9 hours depending on the route and stops.

Fierce competition between operators in recent years has led to buses offering better amenities and lower prices. Part of this strategy is the adoption of dynamic pricing on many bus routes. This means that the price of a ticket will vary based on several factors, including:

As a rule of thumb, fares for a weekday trip between Tokyo and Osaka go for around ¥4000-6000 per person during the daytime, and around ¥5000-8000 per person for overnight trips. Children usually pay half the adult fare.

Two of the major bus operators between Tokyo and Osaka are Willer Express and JR Bus. Tickets for all carriers can generally be purchased at major departure points, and can also be purchased (with some Japanese language help) at kiosks inside convenience stores.

Willer Express runs daytime and overnight trips with a variety of seating options ranging from standard seats to luxurious shell seats. Bus journeys can be booked online in English, and Willer's Japan Bus Pass is valid on all of their routes with some exceptions. Willer's buses in Tokyo primarily leave from their own bus terminal west of Shinjuku Station in the Sumitomo Building. In Osaka, Willer's bus terminal is at the Umeda Sky Building. Note that Willer also sells tickets for other bus operators on their website, but these trips are not valid with Willer's Japan Bus Pass.

JR Bus (Japanese Website) reservations cannot be made online in English, but you can make reservations in train stations at the same "Midori-no-Madoguchi" ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains. Buses depart from Tokyo Station - Yaesu Exit (八重洲口) and the JR Highway Bus Terminal (JR高速バスターミナル) located adjacent to Yoyogi Station on the Yamanote Line (one stop south of Shinjuku). In Osaka, buses congregate at the JR Highway Bus Terminal in Osaka Station.

From Yamaguchi Prefecture

Bocho bus offers a nighttime bus from the cities of Hagi, Yamaguchi, Hofu, Tokuyama, and Iwakuni to Kobe and Osaka. It currently costs between ¥6300 and ¥9480 for a one way ticket, depending on where you get on and where you get off. The bus departs Hagi Bus Center at 7:55PM nightly, and arrives at Osaka station at 7:15AM daily. The bus makes a return trip from Osaka station at 10:05PM nightly, and arrives at Hagi bus center at 9:25AM daily. Full details including round trip fares are on the (Japanese Website). It is a good deal if you have time to spare.

From elsewhere

There are a variety of nightbus options from Yamagata, Sendai, Koriyama, Fukushima, Maebashi, Mito, Iwaki, Ashikaga, Saitama (Omiya), Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Kofu, Karuizawa, Yamanouchi (Yamanaka), Niigata, Shizuoka, Mishima, Kurashiki, Hiroshima, Kurayoshi, Yonago, Izumo, Tsuwano, Imabari, Matsuyama, Kochi, Sukumo, Susaki, Fukuoka, Kurume, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki (Miyako City), and Kagoshima.

Same-day arrivals depart from Tokyo, Kawasaki, Kofu, Nagano, Matsumoto, Minowa, Toyama, Kanazawa, Fukui, Obama, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Takayama, Yokkaichi, Maizuru, Fukuchiyama, Kyoto, Shirahama (Adventure World), Shinonsen, Kinosaki Onsen, Arima Onsen, Okayama, Kurashiki, Tsuyama, Maniwa, Niimi, Shobara, Miyoshi, Hiroshima, Tottori, Kurayoshi, Yonago, Izumo, Tokushima, Naruto, Takamatsu, Marugame, Imabari, Matsuyama, Kochi, Muroto, and Susaki.

Be aware that not all departures arrive in Umeda, as many people expect. Some of them arrive at Tennoji Station, Bentencho Station, Shin-Osaka, etc., so know beforehand so that you can plan accordingly.

By boat

Osaka International Ferry Terminal is located at Nankō (南港) in the Osaka Bay Area. There are no banks, post office, shops, or restaurants in the terminal. The nearest subway station is Cosmosquare Station (C11), which is about a 15 minute walk from the terminal. A free shuttle bus is available at the station. Taxis are also available at the station.

Getting to the Ferry Terminal


Osaka-Busan

The PanStar Line operates a ferry between Osaka and Busan. The ferry leaves Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, at 3:10PM from both Osaka and Busan and arrives the following day at 10AM. In Busan, the luggage check-in time is prior to the passenger check-in time: for the Busan-Osaka run, luggage check in is 12:40PM-2PM and the passenger check in time is 2:15PM–2:45PM; for the Osaka-Busan run, luggage check in is 1PM-2PM and the passenger check in time is 1PM-2:30PM. Many different room options are available, including family rooms. Fares start at ¥17,000 and range through seven different room/suite classes culminating in a Presidential Suite, which is ¥250,000 per night. Tickets can be purchased online, but much of the website content is only available in Japanese and Korean, and may be difficult to navigate for English speakers. Tickets are easily obtainable through agents specializing in Korean or Japanese travel.

The ferry holds live musical performances, magic shows, and other entertainment on the run. Schedule varies.

You can take your car on the ferry, but there are documentation requirements, and you should check the website for information. The cost for a single basic room and a car is ₩690,000. Room upgrades are available. Temporary insurance must be purchased at the port upon arrival in Osaka.

Osaka-Shanghai

Shanghai (China) twice weekly.

Get around

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.

By subway

Osaka Subway Map

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. Fares ¥200-350, depending on distance. 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. Fares ¥120-250, depending on distance.

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, but if you are staying longer than a few weeks, purchasing a used bike can be a good deal. Finding a used bike can be a bit tricky, however, particularly if you don't speak Japanese. Craigslist and websites such as Gaijinpot.com have classified listings, and there are a few used bike shops around. Renge , near Osaka Castle, sells a range of used bikes starting at around ¥5500.

Technically, you are required to register your bicycle with the police. Bikes registered under a name other than the rider may be considered stolen, and bicycle theft is not uncommon. Bike shops can help with the simple registration process.

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.

Talk

Osaka has a distinctive dialect of Japanese, which is favoured 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 and large international hotels, but is otherwise not widely spoken.

See

Umeda Sky Building in Shin-Umeda City, Kita.
Tsūtenkaku

Do

Skyline of downtown Umeda, City-Centre Osaka
Universal Studios Japan

Work

The occupation of most resident Americans, Europeans and Australians is teaching English (as is the case in most of Japan). There are also many international students and staff at various universities in Osaka. 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.

Buy

Eat

Individual listings can be found in Osaka's district articles

Okonomiyaki - The DIY Food


Okonomiyaki Osaka style is usually do-it-yourself food at smaller, independent specialized restaurants. Tables are equipped with embedded hot plates and you'll receive a bowl of ingredients, which you are expected to cook on your own. However, in larger franchised chains the staff can often cook for you — and even in smaller places staff will usually gladly help if asked.

Should you decide to try your luck on your own, you might want to dress for the occasion: pork slices, the most common topping, are usually very fatty and tend to splatter grease all over the place. Try Modernyaki which is an Okonomiyaki with Soba on top, or go fried egg on top of the pancake.

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:

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

Individual listings can be found in Osaka's district articles

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

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.

This area is the centre of nightlife.

Sleep

Individual listings can be found in Osaka's district articles

Osaka has a vast range of accommodation, including some of the best hotels in the world. Most of the city's moderate and expensive hotels can be found in Umeda, Namba, Shin-Osaka and Kyobashi, though they also have their share of budget options.

Backpackers have recently begun to use budget hotels around the JR Shin-Imamiya (新今宮) and subway Midosuji Line Dōbutsuen-mae (動物園前) stations, located in Tennoji area. Room quality varies widely and prices vary from ¥800-3000, but there are many options see the Osaka International Guesthouse Area for the full list of foreigner-friendly establishments. The area is rather poor and there are many homeless that wander about during the day, but generally they are harmless and safety is not an issue. One benefit of the district being so poor is that prices at the supermarkets and such are generally very low. However, as always use common sense when traveling in unfamiliar areas.

Connect

Cope

English Speaking doctor (The doctor is Dr Miyoshi who speaks good English and is a general doctor as well as a specialist in gynecology.), See the website http://miyoshi-clinic.com/ for the address and Google map. (near Uehommachi Station).

Consulates

Stay safe

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.

Go next

Routes through Osaka

Hiroshima Shin-Kōbe  W  E  END connects to Tōkaidō line
connects to Sanyō line END  W  E  Kyoto Nagoya
END  W  E  Nara Nagoya
connects to Sanyo Main Line Kobe  W  E  Kyoto Nagoya


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.