Translated by Greg
Osaka Guide: Information On Access And The City’s 5 Main Areas
Written by Jumpei Kawashima
Osaka is a vibrant, fascinating city, boasting just as many sightseeing places and attractions as Tokyo. This article introduces information on how to reach Osaka's various areas and what is worth visiting in each area.
What Kind Of Place Is Osaka?
Osaka is the largest city in the Kansai region. It's Japan's most populous city after Tokyo and a famous tourist destination visited by many people from both inside and outside Japan.
It's also known as a foodie's paradise with its own distinct food culture, including the ubiquitous okonomiyaki.
Osaka makes a good base of operations when sightseeing in the Kansai region, due to its close proximity to Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.
So look no further because we've got all the information you'll need when visiting here.
How To Get From Kansai Airport To Osaka
Kansai International Airport is Osaka's closest international airport. It's often referred to as Kanku, and many people overseas call it by its airport code, KIX.
If you're going from the airport to the city, then the train is convenient. However, in the central part of Osaka, many stations are similar to each other, and also two separate train lines join up at the airport, so access is slightly complicated.
If you'll be traveling over a wide area in Osaka we recommend taking the JR Line, but if you want to concentrate your visit to the central part of the city only, then the Nankai Line is probably your best choice. The Airport Express takes 38 minutes and all seats are reserved. One-way and round-trip tickets are available for purchase online via Klook, the travel reservations website.
For means of transportation, Osaka not only has the JR Lines, but private railways, and the subway and buses, so you can choose the route best suited to your travel plan and destination.
The Loop Line And Subway Are Convenient
Although Osaka has an extensive network of transportation lines, when you essentially just want to see the central part of the city, the JR Osaka Loop Line and the Osaka Municipal Subway will sufficiently meet your needs.
The JR Osaka Loop Line, makes a clock-wise and counter clock-wise loop around the center of Osaka and covers all the main stations, including Osaka station and Tennoji station.
When your travels focus on one specific area, it's best to use the Osaka Municipal Subway. There are a total of nine lines taking you north and south, east and west, and everywhere in between. You'll have no difficulties getting to the main sightseeing spots.
To save money on transportation in Osaka, we recommend taking advantage of discount passes like the JR Pass for the Loop Line, and the passes for the Osaka Metro and buses.
An Open-Air Bus That Circles The City
If you decide to see the city by bus, there are sightseeing buses such as Osaka Sky Vista. These are double-decker, open-air buses that give you a 360° panoramic view of the city. First-time visitors to Japan can sightsee in comfort because audio guides are available in English, Chinese, and Korean.
A ticket for Osaka station departures costs 1,500 Yen. For further details and recommended routes, please refer to the Kintetsu Company Website (Japanese only).
Osaka Has Five Main Areas
Generally speaking, Osaka is divided into five main areas. We'll explain the characteristics of each area and introduce the main sightseeing spots.
1. Kita Area - Umeda
The Kita area, or north, is essentially one of Osaka's downtown neighborhoods. It centers on the Umeda district which includes Osaka Station and the surrounding area. The transportation network is well developed here, and the north area is well known for fashion, art, and new trends.
Grand Front Osaka, which opened in 2013, is a commercial building near Osaka station. There are 266 shops and green space within the building, so you can take your time and enjoy a full day of shopping.
There are other shopping facilities as well, such as Osaka Station City. If you want to catch up on Osaka's latest trends, then the north area is the place to be.
2. Minami Area - Namba
With Namba as its focal point, the south area, or Minami is a flourishing, bustling district that holds wide appeal. There's Dotonbori with its innumerable eating establishments and amusement facilities, and Shinsaibashi, the center of Osaka's thriving youth culture.
The south area also has theaters for kabuki and manzai (2-person stand-up comedy), and you can see remaining traces of an area that once featured numerous playhouses during the Edo period. For those of you who want to get a feel for the "real" Osaka, the south area is the place to visit.
3. The Bay Area
The Bay area symbolizes the time when Osaka historically flourished as a port city. The area is dotted with various points of interest such as an aquarium, shopping mall, Ferris wheel, observation deck, and a theme park.
It's the home of Universal Studios Japan. While taking in the beautiful view of the ocean, you can relax and spend the entire day wandering around the bay area.
4. Osaka Castle Area
The Osaka Castle area is a place that evokes history. In addition to the castle, there's also a historical museum and Kyōbashi, a town that still retains its traditional flavor, so one can experience this history close-up.
The Osaka Castle area also has new shopping spots that are attracting widespread attention. There's Osaka Business Park and Osaka Tsurumi-Mitsui Outlet Park, to mention just two of them. This is definitely an area where Osaka's present and past merge.
5. Tennoji-Abeno-Shinsekai Area
The Tennoji-Abeno-Shinsekai area is situated in Osaka's southern half. It's an area that features many sightseeing spots such as a zoo, art gallery, numerous temples and shrines, and two of Osaka's landmark towers, past and present, Tsūtenkaku and Abeno Harukas.
Shinsekai, where Tsutenkaku is located, is one of the best places for eating and shopping. With bold and brash billboards and signs, Osaka's distant past remains safely intact here. If you'd like to experience a retro-like Osaka, then Shinsekai is the ideal place.
Economical Sightseeing Passes in Osaka
For those who want to travel around efficiently, buying a transportation pass is worth considering. We'll show you two different, recommended kinds.
Suito Osaka Mankitsu Pass (3,000 Yen) is a pass sold by Osaka's Transportation Authority.
The municipal subway and bus and the Unitram (Nanko Port Town line) all offer unlimited riding privileges with this pass, and you can also ride Osaka's Water Bus.
Osaka Amazing Pass (Osaka Shuyu Pass)
In addition to the water bus, the Osaka Amazing Pass also allows you to get on and off whenever you like. There's a one-day pass and a two-day pass, so travel worry-free by choosing the one best suited for your travel plan. These passes are available online via Klook, at all of Osaka's Municipal Subway stations, and at Osaka Visitor Information Centers (Umeda, Namba stations). Credit cards are accepted.
As the Kansai region's biggest city, Osaka has an extensive transportation network making it convenient to get around. There are many highlights worth seeing here. Places where you can experience a more traditional Osaka, shopping areas showcasing the latest trends, and areas lined with commercial buildings; there's truly something here for every visitor.
This is the one and only place where you can fully enjoy Osaka culture, so making a trip over here will definitely be worth the effort!
Travel Tips for Osaka
Below are helpful services for those in Osaka. Click each link to learn more.