Business and pleasure are intimately connected in Osaka, and have been for hundreds of years. The business reputation is a reflection of the city’s history as a commercial capital and a major commercial center. When, after the unification of the country in 1583, Hideyoshi built his main castle in the center of Osaka, it seemed that prosperity was guaranteed for her. With a free entrepreneurial class eager to spend its newfound wealth, Osaka quickly developed into an indisputable national hub for entertainment and theater. Despite the downturn in the 1990s, a consequence of the bursting bubble of the Japanese economy, anyone walking through the famous nightlife districts of downtown Osaka will quickly find that the city’s residents still love to eat, drink and have fun. Their adherence to the food cult is defined by the term quidare(depending on the interpretation means “eat until you drop” or “eat until you go broke”) . Osaka does not win the most beautiful city competition, but there are many interesting things here, including several interesting museums, a remarkable aquarium and possibly the world’s largest underground shopping complex.
The best way to get around the city is the subway. Taxis are expensive and move at the pace of heavy traffic, and information about the bus routes that are indifferent to the needs of tourists is almost all in Japanese. A daily metro pass (available from any ticket machine) costs less than four central zone tickets (around £ 12)… Providing tourist information in Osaka is one of the best of any city in Japan. Information desks are scattered throughout the city, and the central one is located at the train station in Umed. You can start your acquaintance with Osaka from the bustling Umeda district, where, in addition to the train station, there are three subway stations and two private train stations. It is also home to some of Tokyo’s most famous department stores and the giant buildings of Hankyu and Hanshin, whose private railways link Osaka to Kyoto and Kobe. The Osaka Tourist Information Center is located just outside the main entrance to Hankyu Station. Situated on the northern border of the city’s business and entertainment district, simply called Kita (North) , Umeda is the quintessence of modern Osaka.
During rush hour, Umeda’s crowded subway platforms are as crowded as the Tokyo subway. No less impressive are the crowds outside Umeda, in a gigantic cluster of shops, bars and inexpensive stylish restaurants, the number of which is amazing. The base of each major building within a one mile radius is associated with a kind of modern trade labyrinth. In fact, there are several shopping centers underground, moving one into another, which maximizes the turnover of customers and cash. If you want to explore underground attractions, start at Whity Umeda under the Hankyu and Hanshin buildings and head towards Herbis Plaza, but be aware that you will not see the light of day soon.
Umeda Sky Building Observation deck of Umeda Sky Building from below
The cure for a long stay underground will be the ascent to the 40-storey Umeda Sky Building. Unusual in appearance, futuristic structure consists of two towers made of glass and steel, connected to each other at the very top. There, a panorama of the city and the surrounding area opens up to the eyes of the visitors to the “Floating Observatory”.
Shopping arcades are a characteristic feature of any Japanese city and village. It is not surprising that in Osaka they are the most impressive and may seem excessive to some. Perhaps you will enjoy wandering for hours through the Hankyu Hidasi-dori Passage next to Hankyu Station, not as posh but no less interesting than the more famous Shinsaibashi Passage. In the south of Kita, opposite the American consulate, is Kita-Sinti – Osaka’s main entertainment and food district, centered on Sinti Hondori Street. This is a great place for people-watching, although only those with a solid vacation budget can eat here.
Near Kyobashi Station, there is the Fujita Art Museum with a fine collection of Chinese and Japanese paintings dating back to the 11th century. If you have become a fan of the tea ceremony, appreciate the magnificent collection of 14th century objects, including ceramic teacups, teapots and teapots, as well as bamboo spoons, whisks and flower vases. Ceramics can also be admired at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics (Tue-Sun 9.30-17.00;), surrounded by a garden at the tip of Nakanoshima – the “central island” in the middle of the wide river flowing through the center of Osaka. Here you can see fine examples of the work of Korean and Chinese masters, whose influence has largely shaped the own style of Japanese ceramics. It is one of the finest collections of its kind in the world with over a thousand exhibits. Nakanoshima is home to most of Osaka’s municipal buildings, including the elegant 1918 European-style City Hall, one of the few red brick buildings in Japan.
From here, you will have a wonderful view of the Osaka Castle (daily 9.00-18.00, August; )beautifully illuminated in the evenings. Wanting to celebrate the unification of Japan after more than a hundred years of civil war, Hideyoshi turned his castle into the greatest fortress in the country, and then in 1615, after the heir Hideyoshi was deprived of power, the Tokugawa considered it their duty to destroy the castle. Later, to increase their own prestige, they restored it, but burned it again in a fit of irritation when in 1868, during the Meiji Restoration, their shogunate was abolished. Today’s concrete reconstruction reproduces only a majestic 42 m high five-tiered tower surrounded by ditches and ivy-covered walls. The castle houses an interesting but depressingly modern museum exhibiting armor, weapons, costumes, and historical documents. There is also an adorable collection of bunraku dolls, providing a rare opportunity to see them up close.
The greenery of the magnificent Midosuji Boulevard, planted with sycamore and ginkgo trees, allows the eye to take a break from the ubiquitous asphalt. This highway stretches south from Umeda to Kita’s southern neighbor, Minami. On one side of the boulevard, America-mura (“American Village”) is a popular hangout for stylish urban youth, named after the large number of stores selling popular second-hand clothes from the United States.
One block east of Midosuji is the famous Shinsaibashi arcade, a shopping mecca second only to Tokyo’s Ginza and Shind-zyuku. If you have time for only one evening walk in Osaka, feel free to go here. Although the arcade starts 1.6 km north, start at Exit 6 of Shinsaibashi Station on the Midosuji Subway Line, located between Sogo and Daimaru Department Stores, and turn right to head south. The area boils every night with popular business nightclubs, girls’ bars and private drinking clubs. By the way, many of the bars are strangely referred to as “snack bars” and tourists should be vigilant! These exotic establishments offer a glass of beer for £ 20, and in general the prices are for single middle and senior managers with a solid account, who want to feel at home away from home. The area is looking for entertainment for trendy youth, as well as a growing colony of young foreign residents who have been tempted by the cheap yen. On Sundays afternoons and evenings there is a real pandemonium here. An evening stroll through the side streets will allow you to plunge into the heady atmosphere of pleasure and commerce that has pervaded this part of Osaka for centuries.
At the far south end is the small Ebisu Bridge, better known as Hikkake-bashi, or “Dating Bridge”, a popular meeting place for the city’s most stylish youth. Before climbing the bridge, on your left you will see the arch marking the beginning of Soemon-cho, a colorful street of nightlife and clubs, a kind of response to Minamachi Kita-Shinchi near Umeda. Pay attention to the ultra-modern black and chrome Kirin Plaza beer hall located next to the arch.
Stop at the bridge to soak up the sights and sounds of people, the glow of the neon, and the view of the Dotomburi River beneath your feet. Hundreds of years ago, during the heyday of Osaka as the capital of theater and entertainment, the stars of the stage sailed on boats to the back entrances to the river in many theaters on Dotomburi Street just south. Enthusiastic admirers gathered at the old bridge, which stood at the same place, to look at their idols, who arrived in richly decorated medieval analogs of modern limousines.
After the bridge, turn left, you will find yourself on Dotomburi, which in the evenings turns into the main irritant of feelings in Osaka. A swarm of strange creatures fill the facades and frames this open-air mall: giant monsters crawl along the walls of restaurants, cinemas, theaters, game centers and sensual noodle bars. No photographer is able to convey the energy of this strange and unforgettable combination of everything and everyone.
At the other end of the Dotom Storm lies the Nipponbashi Territory of Den Den Town, a tentative attempt at answering Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district. Nipponbashi is also known as the nationwide center for bunraku, Japan’s vibrant traditional puppet theater. Although various forms of puppetry have been known since the 11th century, the expressive and elaborately costumed style of bunraku is by the 17th century. flourished equally in Osaka and Kyoto. Although its popularity declined during the Meiji period, it has been rediscovered in modern times, and perhaps the most compelling evidence of this is the significant investment in the National Bunraku Theater in Nipponbashi. Bunraku is an extremely dramatic Japanese performing art worth getting in touch with, even for an hour or so in the midst of an intense sights chase. Although all dialogue and narration is in Japanese, there are simultaneous translation devices or programs in English at your service.
Den Den TownElectronic StoresCosplayers on the Streets of Nipponbashi
The Shin-Kabuki-za Theater (at the end of Midosuji Boulevard) in the nearby Namba district only plays three weeks a year. However, other traditional forms of drama are widely represented, such as kyogen farces and manzai two-act comedies. Every spring, the Osaka International Drama and Music Festival takes place in both the theater and the Festival Hall on Nakanoshima Island. Even if you don’t get inside the latter, the architecture of the building itself is impressive and well worth seeing.
Try to find between Nipponbashi and Namba Doguya-suji (Kitchen Street) , a narrow street of restaurant equipment suppliers. Here you can buy as a souvenir replicas of dishes that you see in restaurant windows, as well as Japanese-style plates, bowls, glasses, sake sets, lacquerware, giant paper lanterns and a million other things that you never expected to see on sale.
South of Namba, between Ebisucho and Tennoji stations, stands the Tsutenkaku Tower – a rather pathetic imitation of the Eiffel Tower (and perhaps the only structure that makes the tower in Kyoto look impressive) . From the 90-meter height of the observation deck, a panoramic view opens up, but even it is hardly worth the climb up. Nearby, next to Tennoji Station, Osaka City Art Museum (Tue-Sun 9.30am-5pm;) is worth a visit for Abe’s famous collection of 200 Chinese paintings from the 9th to 13th centuries. and ceramics of the Ming and Qing dynasties of the XIV-XIX centuries. Well worth a look, and Keitakuen Garden (Tue-Sun 9.30-17.00)as part of Tennoji Park, a vast green space with a huge greenhouse. A traditional Japanese garden with a pond in the center, Keitakuen is the gift of a wealthy trading company owner, a certain Baron Sumitomo. The presence of a large permanent camp of the homeless around the park does not paint the area, but it is quite safe there.
Nearby is Osaka’s most famous temple, Shitennoji, founded in 593 by the revered lawmaker Prince Shotoku. Unfortunately, the buildings of this large temple complex are made of concrete copies of the originals destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. At the same time, the massive stone torii gate, built in 1294, is the oldest in Japan. In Shitennoji, on the 21st of every month, the largest temple market in Osaka is open, selling antiques, second-hand clothes and all sorts of other things. To the south is the Sumiyoshi Taisa Shrine, dedicated to the god of peace, song and navigation. The large beautiful arched bridge of the sanctuary is just one of its attractive objects, which are visited by 3 million believers every year on the first three days of the New Year. Although it is believed that the sanctuary was founded in the 3rd century,
Located in the western part of the city, the port offers two ideal activities for the whole family. The futuristic Kayukan Aquarium (9:30 am – 8:00 pm daily;) houses one of the world’s largest reservoirs with a stunning collection of sharks and other large deep-sea fish. It is surrounded with a downward spiral by other containers, introducing the inhabitants of the waters of the seismic zone of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The aquarium is part of a vast array of quirky shops and restaurants. This whole area is a great place for an afternoon break from other attractions in the city.
In this once desolate part of the city, two interesting additions to the city’s cultural and entertainment palette have emerged. The thought-provoking Osaka Human Rights Museum (Tue — Sun— ; ) is an astonishing phenomenon in a country often accused of refusing to discuss a range of burning historical and social issues. Quite different is Universal Studios Japan (daily, opening hours vary; /) with rides familiar to those who have been to the original theme park, including simulations based on Jaws, Alien “and” Jurassic Park “.
The nearby Maishima incineration plant may seem like an odd proposition to tourists, but the building, designed by Austrian artist and architect Friedrich Hundertwasser, is well worth a look. The high-tech production is housed in a surreal castle with turrets, terraced gardens and ceramic columns.