See Also: Best Things to Do in Osaka
Japan's growth story is the stuff for legends, and for good reason. And there are few better places to experience the country's culture, both present and yesteryear, than in the Bayside city of Osaka. Strategically situated on the top of the large bay, to which it also imparts its name Osaka is one of the largest metropolitan areas not only in Japan, but the entire world. And the city has become known for its extensive urban scenery, stunning waterfronts, vast shopping districts, gourmet industry and yet, amidst all of that, it has preserved its history and culture that dates back to the Morinomiya ruins of the 6th century BC. It is a feat in its own on how the two worlds collide in Osaka and deliver one of the most dynamic cities for travellers from all across the globe.
The city has been divided into 24 wards, each with its own unique landscape and distinctive vibe. They are all connected to each other through extensive public transportation undertakings including the West Japan Railway Company's Osaka Loop Line and Osaka Metro aside from the road network. It then gives you easy access to every part of the city, from the billboard-heavy shopping streets to the best dining experiences (both international and quintessentially Japanese). It is, however, still important to pick a neighborhood that best meets your requirements for an ideal stay (and has many, many cherry blossom orchards, of course!). And we are here to help with a list of the best neighborhoods of Osaka and what they might have in store for you. Yukō (let's go), traveller!
Home to the central business district of Umeda and administrative centre of Osaka, Kita-ku, or known simply as Kita, is one of the most popular neighborhoods of the city. Start off the downtown part of the city in Umeda, which is known for its vast shopping districts and lively food and nightlife scene. Look no further than the Umeda Sky Building for the best experience in the neighborhood. The tall skyscraper is home to a multitude of entertainment options that feature vast shopping and restaurant/cafe options, an underground marketplace and food villages that capture the yesteryear glory of the city. While you are still at the venue, do not miss out on catching a view of the city's skyline from the observatory at the top of the Umeda Sky Building. The view, especially during sunset and nighttime is breathtaking, offering you a skyline that stands testament to Japan's development into an urban marvel.
But don't worry, the wide avenues that are perfect for an afternoon stroll, and the many green parks in the neighborhood (the cherry blossom-heavy Minami-Temma and Ogimachi Kids Plaza being the highlights) offer a quick escape from the glitzy parts of the city. You can always take out time to visit the small island of Nakanoshima, which is home to not only the administrative buildings, but some of the best green spaces in Osaka, including the city's first public park that shares its name with the island. Pay a visit to the National Museum of Art and the Osaka's Science Centre which are also in the vicinity for a richly rewarding experience.
Kita is the hub of transportation in Osaka and is accessible through all modes of public transportation. The JR West Osaka station in Umeda connects the city to all major neighborhoods within Osaka. The numerous malls in and around the station have also converted it into a major attraction for tourists and residents of the city. Finding a hotel in Kita should not be too much trouble as there a wide range of establishments in this part of the city.
Continuing the conversation on shopping and entertainment options, the neighborhood of Chuo-Kuo is home to some of the best shopping districts and sightseeing opportunities centred around a few major thoroughfares. Starting with the central street of Honmachi, which is a delightful venue for a walk. You can choose from the many restaurants available in the area or visit a few sights including Kiatmido, the Buddhist temple at the far west end of the street. Further south there is the Dotonbori Canal and the entertainment district that runs parallel to it. Connected at various points through footbridges and a couple that are open for vehicular traffic, the picturesque street, which was once home to many theatres has now become known for its many restaurants and nightclubs with glitzy signs and billboards that look as good on the walls as they do in their reflection in the canal.
And that's not all, as you can always go indulge with the the options in the west-oriented Amerikamura (American village), which has become known for its international appeal (has a replica of the Statue of Liberty) and also as a home for the Japanese fashion stores and artsy restaurants and clubs. And then there's the big landmarks of the neighborhood. Anchored by the iconic Japanese castle complex of Osaka Castle, the entire Eastern side of Chuo-ku is a paradise for travellers. Aside from the venues in and around the Osaka Castle, the other must visit tourist attractions in the neighborhood include the Osaka History Museum and the Namba shrine, a famous Shinto shrine known for its cherry blossom orchards.
The neighborhood is accessible through the Osaka Loop Line subway station of Morinomiya. Travel within Chuo-ku is best done through the Osaka Metro and the thoroughfares are best explored on foot. Living options and hotels are cheaper here than in some of the more mainstream neighborhoods of the city.
And onto the quieter parts of the city then! Tennoji-ku, with its numerous green spaces and historical sites, is one of the best neighbourhoods of Osaka for a more laid back vacation. It is home to Japan's first Buddhist temple, the Shitennoji Temple (Temple do the four heavenly kings), which also imparts the neighborhood its name and the other famous Buddhist place of working, Isshin-ji. Not far away from these temples is the Shinto shrine of Ikukunitama Shrine, which hosts a popular annual festival sometime in September. The sights not only give you an insight into the cultural history of Osaka, but also makes for an eclectic experience within a small area.
Another enticing prospect in Tennoji-ku is the centrally located Tennoji Park. Home to a botanical garden, a zoo, and the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, the area is the preferred venue for a family day-long outing. The lush green space makes for a picturesque setting for picnics and small gatherings as well. And while the tranquil and laid back parks remain the major draw of the neighborhood, Tennoji-ku also has the more modern and mainstream entertainment options including a shopping district around the Tennoji station and a lively nightlife scene, Japanese arcade and gambling parlours, and many mahjong clubs in the once-seedy sub district of Shinsekai, which is also the venue of the Tsutenkaku Tower (the tower reaching to heaven).
Apart from the major Tennōji Station, the neighborhood is also serviceable through the Teradachō, Momodani, Tsuruhashi, and Tamatsukuri stations of the Osaka Loop Line and the Tanimachi line on the Osaka Metro. Most of the best hotels in Tennoji-ku are concentrated in the central part of the otherwise large neighborhood.
And North of the Yodo river is the other laid-back garden district of Osaka, Yodogawa. The neighborhood is anchored by a large green park on the banks of the river, which is home to multiple baseball fields in close proximity, while also serving as a nice venue for an afternoon picnic or an open air barbecue. The venue attracts many families for picnics and day outs and for good reason. Aside from the facilities, the view is refreshing on both sides of the park (the night skyline of the city space is an added plus). You can head out on a bicycle ride in the elongated green space to best experience the beauty of the Osaka riverside. It is close to a handful of stations and is easily accessible from the central parts of the Yodogawa neighborhood.
The central part of the neighborhood in itself is crowded with casual eateries and restaurants, while you can also find quintessential Japanese entertainment options including Karaoke houses and some great local cuisine. The red light district of Juso is known for much more than that and is one of the best places to find a typical Osaka meal featuring dishes like okonomiyaki, negiyaki, and takoyaki. And the Shin-Osaka station, much like the other major transport hubs of the city, offers a vast variety of shopping options in forms of malls and branded stores in its vicinity.
The Shin Osaka station makes the area serviceable via connections on the Osaka Metro. The area also has a nice selection of hotels that offer a mix of establishments in the central locations and some in the more quaint neighborhoods (closer to the riverside) of Yodogawa.
Nishi is everything that you would expect from a charming Japanese neighborhood; cherry blossoms, quaint paves roads and public squares, riverside baseball stadiums, Japanese restaurants and busy shopping districts can all be found in this centrally located district of Osaka. Let's start with lush avenues and public squares around Horie Park. Not only is the public park a favourite for picnic goers, it is also frequented by travellers looking to explore the city on foot. The paved paths surrounded by local establishments, cherry blossom trees, and many cafes and bistros are a whole lot to take in. But it's this very charm of the Horie Park neighborhood that makes it irresistible to the travellers looking for a more quaint Osaka experience, away from the bustling crowds on the glitzy streets and skyscrapers.
The other big draw in the neighborhood is the Utsubo park, which is the venue of the city's famous rose festival and OSTEC Exhibition Hall. The best time to visit is in the months of November and December in time for the Flower and Sculpture exhibition. The eastern end of the park is also famous for its bakeries and cafes that attract large crowds throughout the day. The presence of local boutique and fashion stores has also amped up the appeal of the district for shopaholics and fashion enthusiasts. The Kizu river bank is also known for the big baseball game venue, Kyocera Dome, another one of the big institutions of Osaka that warrants a visit during your travel. And lastly, Nishi is also close to the waterfront district of Osaka and if you find some spare time, make sure you visit the areas around the Osaka-ko station for their beautiful setting on the bayside that will leave you wanting more.
The neighborhood is serviceable through the Nishi-Nagahori station of the Osaka Metro. The other two major stations on the metro transit line are the Kujo and Awaza metro stations. Hotels are in plenty in Nishi and you will have a good time browsing through your choices in the neighborhood.
That's all from our side, traveller! Choose the neighborhood that best suits your vacation idea and get packing for your visit to the Japan's gourmet capital!