Discovering Osaka’s most famous Japanese neighborhoods
Osaka is known for being the third largest city in Japan, but also for its nightlife, its gastronomic variety and its Universal Studios theme park dedicated to film.
With two days in Osaka you have more than enough to see the most famous neighborhoods and places of renown. Even so, if you don’t have too much time, one day should be enough. However, you won’t have time to see the Universal Studios theme park.
How to get to Namba from Kansai Airport?
Osaka airport is called Kansai International Airport. If you arrive in Osaka from the airport, it is very easy to get to the Namba area. The Nankai trains have their last stop at Namba station so have to buy your ticket at the airport and just get into the Nankai train tracks (orange entrance). You will arrive at Namba Station in about 40 minutes. The ticket costs 920 yen.
Where to stay in Osaka?
The most central and famous neighborhoods of the city are Namba and Dotonbori. In both you will find hundreds of restaurants, hotels, subway stops to move around the city and bars where you can have a sake, the famous Japanese drink.
Specifically, I stayed at the Wasabi Hostel (Osaka Bed with Library) located in Namba. I found it in Booking and it is one of the best valued value for money. Both the bedrooms and bathrooms are impeccably clean. The workers are very polite and help you as much as they can. There is a common area that is a great bookstore full of comics that will enchant all those who like the manga world.
How to find your way around Osaka?
What I liked most about this hostel was its location. Right on the edge where Namba ends and Dotondori begins. Ideal to move to anywhere, on foot or by subway.
If you head south you’ll find Den Den town (an area of video game freaks and all kinds of manga) and the Shinsekai district where the famous Tsutenkaku Tower is located. Not far away, a 10-minute walk away, you can visit Isshin-ji Temple, a beautiful Japanese temple enclosure that includes a small, well-kept cemetery.
On the other hand, from Namba, if you go north, you will first find the Dotonbori district, the river area and all its restaurants. If you keep climbing you’ll pass Shinsaibashi, a popular shopping district. A little further northwest is Osaka Castle, which, although not one of the best in Japan, is certainly worth a visit.
¿What to see in Osaka?
1. Bar-hopping in the Namba Quarter
Osaka’s most popular neighborhood is the social center of the city. It is full of restaurants where you can taste Osaka’s delicacies, typical Japanese bars, electronics stores and video game arcades.
2. Eating/Dining in the Dotonbori Quarter
Right next to the Namba neighborhood is the Dotonbori neighborhood divided by a river channel. This neighborhood will be characterized by its historical neon signs in Osaka, such as the Glico athlete advertisement, its Tokayaki street stalls and for being the area of bars and nightclubs.
3. Visit Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan. It is located within a public park where people go for walks or jogging and surrounded by a wall with water similar to European castles. Construction began in 1583, was completed in 1598 and after several modifications, extensions, fires and many restorations, the last restoration was completed in 1997. Admission is free.
4. Strolling through the Shinsekai district and the Tsutenkaku Tower
The Tsutenkaku Tower rises above the Shinsekai district of Osaka. It is 103 meters high and is one of the most famous monuments of the city. It has become a symbol of Japan’s progress after World War II.
5. Shopping in Den Den Town
The geek district of Osaka; ideal for fans of manga, anime and video games. It is next to the Shinsekai district. It is the small Akihabara of Osaka. A must for freaks.
6. Visit the Isshin-ji Temple
Isshin-ji Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in Osaka and also one of the quietest places. It is located near the Shinsekai district, next to a beautiful park and a zoo. Inside the temple there is also a typical Japanese cemetery from where you can see the Tsutenkaku Tower in the distance.
It is known for being a place where many families, from 1854 began to deposit in the temple the urns with the remains of their deceased. Due to lack of space, in 1887 several statues of Buddha were commissioned, mixing the ashes of the deceased with resin to preserve the remains. Since then, every 10 years a new statue is built with the ashes of 150,000 people each. There are currently 14 statues.
7. Have fun like a kid at Universal Studios Theme Park.
Universal Studios Theme Park is an amusement park dedicated to movies and Hollywood. It has been open since 2001 and is one of the most visited places in Osaka. The area dedicated to Harry Potter fans is one of the most famous of the whole park, but not the only one as we also find simulators about Spiderman or Back to the Future.
The entrance fee is 7200 yen (60 euros) for children over 12, 4980 yen (41 euros) for children from 4 to 11 and 6570 yen (55 euros) for those over 65.
8. Sizzle on Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki, Osaka’s specialties
Osaka’s most famous dish is undoubtedly the Takoyaki, a fried ball made of wheat flour stuffed with octopus and topped with ginger and chopped seaweed. Takoyaki is originally from Osaka so you can find it almost anywhere. Prices are around 400-500 yen (3-4 euros) for 6 Takoyaki balls. (Here is a link to a video explaining how to make Takoyaki).
Another famous dish in Osaka is Okonomiyaki, which consists of a flour dough cooked on a griddle with the ingredients of your choice (vegetables, meat, fish). It is a kind of Japanese omelette. (Here is a link to a video explaining how to make Okonomiyaki).
First impression on Japan
So far Japan has surprised me with its small details. Everything is meticulously cared for and everything seems to have its beauty. It’s also surprising how many engine rooms you find and how big they are. In the mornings, before opening, there are people sneaking in to play.
And of course, manga culture is present almost everywhere. You’ll find streets full of manga-only shops dedicated to comics, sculptures and stickers. There are even cafés where the waitresses are dressed as maids. Japan is undoubtedly a world apart and a world worth seeing.
Next Destination: From Osaka to Nara
How to get from Osaka to Nara?
Nara is right next to Osaka and is one of those destinations that everyone recommends. If you don’t have a Jr Pass (Japan Rail Pass), you can take the Kintetsu train line from Namba Station.
To get to the Kintetsu line you have to go down to the second floor and from there walk to the end of the corridor. Tickets are purchased right at the entrance to the tracks. The ticket to Nara costs a total of 560 yen and takes only 40 minutes to arrive. In Nara you can enjoy the deer park, where hundreds of deer walk at will.
Try to make your words better than silence.– Japanese proverb –