Osaka Travel Guide

Osaka at a glance

Osaka is the third largest city in Japan and has been the economic center of the both western Japan and the Kansai region for centuries. The emphasis placed on business continues today and some people still greet each other with the local phrase mōkarimakka? – ‘Are you making money?’

osaka castle photo

The old name for Osaka is Naniwa, which was the first capital of Japan. Even after the capital was moved to Nara in the 8th century, Naniwa continued to play an important role in transporting goods around the country. When the Tokugawa Shogunate moved its capital to Edo (Tokyo) at the beginning of the 1600’s, Osaka established itself as the distribution center for the country’s most important commodity – rice – and became known as ‘The Nation’s Kitchen’. When Japan began modernizing in the early Meiji Era, Osaka became the country’s center of industrial development and was often referred to as the Manchester of Japan – a reference to Manchester’s role as the industrial center of the U.K.Osaka is now Japan’s third largest city, behind Tokyo and Yokohama, and has a resident population of 2.6 million people. During the day, however, the huge number of people going into Osaka to work combined with the exodus of Yokohama residents heading off to their jobs in Tokyo makes Osaka’s population the second largest in the daytime.

The city is also home to some great attractions, including Osaka Castle, the Osaka Aquarium, Universal Studios Japan, and the Museum of Oriental Ceramics.While its more refined neighbor, Kyoto, is known for its high class, reserved customs and exquisite crafts, many consider homely Osaka to be the best place to eat, drink and party in Japan. A local saying goes that while Kyoto is the place to ‘shop till you drop’ (kidaore), Osaka is where you ‘eat till you drop’ (kuidaore). Some of the city’s most famous dishes include okonomiyaki, udon and takoyaki.

Osaka is not without artistic merit, however, and the city is home to some of Japan’s finest art forms, including bunraku and kabuki. Many people from Osaka have a strong sense of Osakan identity, which includes a style of speech very different from the standard Japanese spoken in Tokyo. Most comedians in Japan use the Osaka-ben dialect when performing, and comedian schools teach it to all of their students. While many Japanese are comparatively more reserved than their western counterparts, visitors to Osaka are often surprised at how boisterous local people can be.This Osaka guide includes information about things to do in the city, getting around, and how to find the best Osaka hotel to fit your travel and budget plans.

Orientation

Located in western Honshu, Osaka is the largest city in Osaka Prefecture. It is also the center of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.As with Tokyo, Osaka is divided up into different wards (ku). However, the city is commonly referred to in terms of Kita (north) and Minami (south). The two areas are split by the Dojimagawa and Tosaborigawa rivers.

Kita Osaka

Kita Osaka is the city’s main business and administrative section, and has some of its major railway stations, including JR’s Osaka Station and Umeda Station. The shinkansen bullet train station, Shin-Osaka Station, is also located here.

Minami Osaka

Minami Osaka is the city’s shopping and entertainment district. Namba, Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi have the greatest options for stores, bars, pubs, and nightclubs. JR Namba and Nankai Namba stations are main points of entry to the area.

Tennoji Station

Another of Osaka’s major train stations, Tennoji Station, is located south of Minami Osaka. Two of the city’s subway lines, Japan Railways, Kintetsu Railways, and the Hankai Tramway all stop here.