Osaka

This article is incomplete. More information will be added in future versions of this guide.

Osaka is the third largest city in Japan with about 2.7 million inhabitants. It’s often overlooked as a tourist destination, but I found it to be one of the finest cities in Japan. It can be compared to Tokyo in many ways and in fact, talking to Osaka people, it seems like there is a lot of rivalry between Tokyo and Osaka.

Osaka people are known to have a thick accent. They also sometimes use different words than the rest of Japan. For example, instead of arigato (thank you) they use “no kini”.

One funny cultural difference between the Kansai area (in which Osaka is located) and the rest of Japan is that they queue on other side of elevator.

Reaching Osaka

The most convenient way to reach Osaka is to take the bullet train. If you have a JR Rail pass, the trip is only a few hours.

Alternatively there is an overnight bus service from Tokyo. Prices range from ¥3500 to ¥5000. Be careful about public holidays when taking this bus - on certain days it can easily cost double.

Osaka is also home to Kansai Airport International, so you can go reach Osaka by plane.

Food: Takoyaki

Takoyaki is a typical street dish. Otherwise known as octopus balls, a typical Takoyaki serving consists of 8-12 deep fried balls filled with minced or diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion.

I thought it was terrible, but don’t let that discourage you from trying this Osaka specialty!

Kaiyukan (Osaka Aquarium)

Kaiyukan is Osaka’s aquarium and one of it’s best places to visit.

The main draw of the aquarium was a whale shark but unfortunately when I was there the whale shark was ill. I heard he died a few weeks later. The aquarium guys then replaced the whale shark with a new one. One can start wondering whether an aquarium is a good place to live for such a huge animal.

Ethics aside, this aquarium has a lot of impressive sea life including giant Japanese crabs, sharks and huge manta rays you get to touch.

Osaka Castle (Ōsaka-jō)

Osaka castle is a classic Japanese style castle. I think it’s worth going there to see the castle but I heard the inside doesn’t look very traditional and is a pretty modern looking museum that is not really worth visiting. So my suggestion would be to take a walk in the surrounding park and admire the building from the outside.

Shinsekai

This is a very strange area full of Chinese shops. I saw a run down erotic movie theatre.

Namba area (Hoddonbori)

The Namba area is Osaka’s main nightlife area. Walking along the streets of Hoddonbori can be a real attack on the senses. This is the area where you’ll find the famous Glico running man.

Nipponbashi aka Den Den town

Nipponbashi, also known as Den Den town is an area full of otaku shops. This are is similar to Tokyo’s Akihabara. There are tons of anime, manga and toy shops.

Umeda/Osaka station area

Panasonic center

Nestled in the first 3 floors of the Grand Front Osaka, close to Umeda station, the Panasonic corporate showroom aims to inform customers of the latest and greatest in Panasonic technologies.

Next to the obvious showing of 4K TVs and the newest Lumix digital cameras, on the first floor you can find a sort of exhibit on the modern functional Japanese home — of course full of Panasonic-made appliances.

If you exit the building, don’t forget to spot the magnificent waterfall running down a set of stairs, with the beautiful Umeda Sky building in the background.

Yodobashi Osaka

The famous electronics store also has an Osaka branch (next to being in Akihabara, Tokyo). Expect floors and floors full of electronics, games, household appliances.

In Yodobashi I bought a replacement Casio watch for ¥800 (about 8 US dollars). A few months before I had bought the same watch in Belgium for €35.

In other words, there are deals to be had but you should be careful. Some Japanese cameras for instance have firmware in Japanese only. The provided plug is meant for Japan so whatever electronics you buy will always need a power converter which can be hassle. In other words, your mileage might vary.

Accomodation

Backpackers Hotel Toyo Osaka

This is not really a recommendation but if you’re short on money, try Backpackers Hotel Toyo Osaka. One night is just 1500 yen, which will get you the barest room you can imagine.

The area is known to be somewhat dangerous so, as with anything recommended in this guide, it’s at your own risk. I would say it’s worth it for the weird experience.

Fun fact: next to the hostel, I found the cheapest vending machine I’ve seen in Japan, with 50 yen drinks.

This is hostel is close to the strange Shinsekai neighborhood and actually pretty ideal to start a walk north towards Nihonhbashi (Den Den Town) and Namba, passing Shinsekai along the way. This walk made me discover how cool Osaka really is.

Hotel: Esaka Tokyu Inn

Esaka Tokyu inn is a pretty standard hotel, but I found it to provide good value for a couple (around €60/night). It’s a few stops north from Shin-Osaka so it’s not super central but you can get to the center of town in about half an hour.