Osaka Travel Information
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Introduction || History || Climate || Sightseeing || Entertainment || Currency || Restaurant || Shopping
Things To Do || Getting Around || Transportation || Map Of Osaka
Introduction
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In the 7th century, the first capital of Japan was established in Osaka. Thereafter, though the capital was subsequently moved to nearby Nara and Kyoto, Osaka continued to flourish uninterruptedly, serving as the gateway to culture and trade. During the Edo period, people called Osaka the "Nation's Kitchen" due to it being a gathering and distribution center of numerous materials and commodities.

Osaka, site of the 1970 World Expo and host of the 2002 World Cup is a bustling, vibrant city that works and plays hard. Enjoy the fabulous nightlife, great shopping, world-class sports and the city’s reputable cuisine. With a population of 2.5 million, Osaka is Japan's third largest and second most important city. It has been the economic powerhouse of the Kansai region for many centuries.

Osaka was formerly known as Naniwa. Before the Nara Period, when the capital used to be moved with the reign of each new emperor, Naniwa was once Japan's capital city, the first one ever known.In the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi chose Osaka as the location for his castle, and the city may have become Japan's capital if Tokugawa Ieyasu had not terminated the Toyotomi lineage after Hideyoshi's death and moved his government to distant Edo (Tokyo).

The idiosyncratic mood of this metropolis is perhaps best reflected in its nationally-televised manzai teams: duos who put on bawdy performances in the manner of Abbot and Costello that rock the rest of straight-laced Japan.

The flip side is the city's reputation for aggression, although Osaka is very safe compared to other world cities of the same size. To think of it as little more than colorfully rough and ready, though, is to do it a disservice. It is a source of bubbling cultural energy, beauty and historical richness.

Famous for its down-to-earth citizens and hearty cuisine, Osaka combines historical and cultural attractions with all the delights of a Japanese urban phenomenon. At night Osaka is live-wired with flashing neon, beckoning with promises of tako-yaki (fried octopus ball), good times and lots of beer.

Often maligned by visitors as 'ugly' and still best viewed under the neon light of night, Osaka is currently undergoing a facelift to woo daytime visitors to its concrete and pachinko city grid. Waterfront developments are restoring Osaka's image as a port town and creating new attractions for tourists.

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History
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Osaka's history stretches back to the fifth century, when it was known as Naniwa and its port served as a gateway to the more advanced cultures of Korea and China. For a short period, from the middle of the seventh century, the thriving city served as Japan's capital, but in the turbulent centuries that followed it lost its status, changed its name to Osaka and developed as a temple town. It was on the site of the temple Ishiyama Hongan-ji that the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi decided to build his castle in 1583 and it became a key bastion in his campaign to unite the country.

With Toyotomi's death in 1598, another period of political instability loomed in Osaka for his supporters, as rival Tokugawa Ieyasu shifted the capital to Edo. The shogun's troops besieged the castle in 1614 and destroyed it, along with the Toyotomi clan's hopes for power, a year later. With Japan firmly under their control the Tokugawa shoguns were happy to allow the castle to be rebuilt and for Osaka to continue developing as an economic and commercial centre, which it did with spectacular success. The wealth of what became known as the "kitchen of Japan" led to patronage of the arts, such as Kabuki and Bunraku, and an appreciation of fine food, still retained today.

In the twentieth century, Osaka has dragged itself up from rubble of World War II bombings to become one of the wealthiest cities in the world, its gross domestic product exceeding that of Australia. Although its hopes of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games are probably misplaced (Nagano having held the 1996 Winter Olympics), the development programme being pushed through is resulting in many new facilities, including the Universal Studios theme park on Osaka Bay

Pre-20th-Century History: Osaka has been a major port and mercantile centre from the beginning of Japan's recorded history. It was also briefly the first capital of Japan (before the establishment of a permanent capital at Nara). During its early days, Osaka was Japan's centre for trade with Korea and China, a role which it shares today with Kōbe and Yokohama.

In the late 16th century, Osaka rose to prominence when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, having unified all of Japan, chose Osaka as the site for his castle. Merchants set up around the castle and the city quickly grew into a busy economic centre. This development was further encouraged by the Tokugawa shōgunate, which adopted a hands-off approach to the city, allowing merchants to prosper unhindered by government interference.

Modern History: The Osaka area industrialised rapidly in the twentieth century and became the driving force behind the country's economic transformation until its pre-eminent position was taken by Tokyo. Previously known for its textile industry, it reinvented itself into a centre for heavy industry and high finance. In 1994, the area's economic prospects received a boost with the opening of Kansai International Airport on a nearby man-made island.

Recent History: Tokyo has usurped Osaka's position as the economic centre of Japan, and most of the companies formerly headquartered in Osaka have moved east. Nonetheless, Osaka remains an economic powerhouse and the prefecture has recorded a GDP bigger than the individual GDPs of all but eight countries in the world in the past several years. However, the city has been hard hit by Japan's ongoing recession and many businesses have closed, particularly those that used to cater to businessmen out entertaining clients. On the upside, the city has been revitalized by the spate of new developments in the Osaka Bay area.

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Climate
Temperature (average ° C)


Humidity (average %)


Summers in Osaka are hot (26-34°C) and sticky, which can make travelling quite uncomfortable. In winter, although snow is rare, it does get cold (1-10°C) and you will need to pack plenty of warm clothes. The best time to visit Osaka, if you want to catch some hanami (cherry blossom) action, is April through to May or, if you would like to see the leaves change colour, October and November. Both shoulder seasons offer mild temperatures (15-22°C) and not too much rain. However, hanami season is also when most Japanese take their holidays; many popular destinations get very busy and you will need to book accommodation well in advance.

Osaka has a temperate weather pattern; the summers are hot and humid and the winters are cold. Plenty of rain falls over the summer months of June and early July, while the warm weeks of September and early October bring occasional typhoons. The autumn is usually sunny and cool. It seldom snows in the winter, as temperatures rarely fall below freezing.

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Sightseeing
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Floating Garden Observatory

Overlooking the City of Osaka, Umeda Sky Building is Japan's first tall building with a rooftop observation deck--the Floating Garden Observatory. At basement level is the restaurant mall Takimi Koji, which recreates the atmosphere of Osaka as it was from Taisho era to early Showa era

Osaka Temmangu Shrine

Famous for the Tenjin Festival held in early summer. This shrine is also dedicated to the deity of scholarship.
If you stroke the head of a cow statue in its grounds, it is said, you might win divine grace for academic achievement.

Osaka Museum Housing and Living


The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is a remarkable facility located in the northeastern part of the Kita Area. The museum has re-created buildings and streets that show what life was like in Osaka in the past. A model of the entire city during the Edo Period, the only one of its kind in Japan, is housed in the building. Visitors can learn all about Osaka's development, experiencing via interactive exhibits the different ways of life in the city during different Periods of its history.

The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka

The museum, opened in November 1982, was established to commemorate the donation to Osaka City of the world-famous Ataka Collection" by the 21 Sumitomo Group companies. The museum currently owns as many as about 2000 pieces of Oriental ceramics.

Minami

Kuidaore(Eat until you drop), center of Youth Culture... Minami is an Energetic, Primary-color-suited, Multi-faceted area including the famous shopping areas, Shinsaibashi, Nanba and Nihonbashi.

Nipponbashi Den Den Town

Den-den Town (electric town), also called the "Akihabara of Osaka," is clustered with electric appliances wholesalers' shops standing side by side on Nipponbashi 3-Chome through 6-Chome. Many shops give an in-house advertising broadcast in Korean or Chinese. The advent of an increasing number of computer shops is a recent phenomenon.

Sennichimae Doguyasuji

Here you will find about 40 utensil shops, selling cutlery, hardware and tableware, as well as shops dealing in plastic food replicas and lanterns.

Dotonbori

Dotonbori represents the food culture of Osaka known a gastronomists town, an unbelievable number of restaurants and amusement facilities are lined up along the Dotonbori River with large famous billboards drawing attention. It is also known as an entertainment district, featuring theaters and entertainment halls.

American Village

The western area of the Shinsaibashi is nicknamed as the American Village, with over 3,000 young fashion boutiques and clothes dealers. Casual shops for trend-conscious young people are concentrated in the American Village, giving off a contrasting atmosphere.

Hozenji Temple

Built in 17th century it is a tiny temple hidden down a narrow alley and is surrounded by restaurants, bars and cabarets. Decorated with many paper lanters and filled with the smell of incense, the temple is a symbol of traditional Osaka and the people of the city. Visiting the temple is supposed to be helpful to those in pursuit of true love.

National Bunraku Theater

Bunraku is a traditional puppet drama developed over 300 years ago in the Edo Era. Each puppet is manipulated by three puppeteers, and the plays usually feature tragic stories of the feudal era. There are only 6 performances a year and each lasts for about 20 days.

Shin Kabukiza

The theater is easily recognizable for its characteristic architecture in the Momoyama Period, leading actors and singers perform kabuki once a year in April for about a 25 day run.

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Entertainment
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Osaka loves to party and with a premium on space and high rentals, most bars and clubs are pretty cramped. They can also be hard to find, but the rewards are worth it. Whether you prefer a pint of lager or a shot of sake, Osaka offers everything from the warm and cosy to the loud and lively.

Osaka is where Bunraku puppetry flourished during the seventeenth century and performances are still held at the National Bunraku Theatre (tel 06/6212-2531), Namba, in January, April, June, July, August and November at 11am and 4pm. Tickets (price depends on performance) sell out quickly, but you can try at the theatre box office, a three-minute walk from exit 7 of Nipponbashi Station.

The place to catch Kabuki plays is the handsomely restored Osaka Shochiku-za (tel 06/6214-2211), five minutes' walk north of Namba Station, beside the Dotombori canal. Tickets start at ¥4200. If you're interested in sampling the more difficult Jo plays, the Osaka Jo Hall (tel 06/6373-1726), near Nakazakicho Station on the Tanimachi line, or a short walk east of Hankyu Umeda Station, often holds free performances on weekends and national holidays, usually beginning around 9.30am. Full details of all traditional arts performances appear in the free quarterly booklet Meet Osaka , available at all the tourist offices, and in the magazine Kansai Time Out.

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Currency
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Japan is one the most expensive countries in Asia, if not the world for travel, but there are ways of keeping the outlays to a just-about bearable level. A skeleton daily budget, assuming you stay in the cheapest hostels, eat modestly and travel short distances, would work out to US$60.00 . Add about US$10.00 for extras like snacks, drinks, admission fees and entertainment. Staying in business or deluxe hotels and eating in pricey restaurants can easily have the ticker tipping US$200.00 . Long-distance travel is a real budget buster in Japan - if you intend to travel around to different places, it's well worth investing in a Japan Rail Pass. At the other end of the spectrum, high rollers will have no problems off-loading their cash. Japan specialises in establishments catering to the ostentatious flattery of business accounts - the higher the bill, the greater the prestige of the guests

You can buy yen at foreign exchange banks and other authorized money exchangers. At the international airports, currency exchange counters are usually open during normal office hours. The exchange rate fluctuates daily depending on the money market.

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Restaurant
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Osaka is very much an international city, therefore finding an Osaka Hotel will pose no problem to tourists. There is a wide range of budget options available, or for international tourists wishing to spend a little more cash all of the major international hotel chains like the Hilton and the Ritz Carlton are available in Osaka. Of soccer restaurants rely heavily on regional flavors and provide a wealth of gourmet options for hungry travelers. Cooking your own food is very popular in Osaka this is usually accomplished by restaurants that have hot plates embedded into the actual tables and then patrons create their own dishes from bowls of ingredients brought by servers. This is definitely a fun way to eat, and tourists are definitely encouraged to try.

Osaka has a reputation as a foodies' paradise, but it can be a daunting task finding the best places to eat in a city crammed with so many restaurants. The trick is to stick to particular areas and to hunt around until something takes your fancy. Both Umeda and Dotombori offer rich pickings, while Tsuruhashi , on the JR Loop line to the east, is the main place to head for Korean food. The magazine Kansai Time Out reviews the latest additions to the restaurant scene and it's always a good idea to ask the locals what their favourite places are.

Of the several dishes that Osaka specializes in you shouldn't leave town without going to an okonomiyaki restaurant , preferably one where you can fry the thick pancakes yourself. Osaka's own style of sushi is oshizushi , layers of vinegared rice, seaweed and fish cut into bite-size chunks, and the city also has a favourite way of cooking chunky udon noodles , simmering them in a veggie, seafood or meat broth.

The best choice of restaurants and cafés is around the Kita areas of Umeda and Sonezaki, and the Minami areas of Shinsaibashi, Dotombori and Namba. Strolling around the narrow streets dotted with stand-up noodle and takoyaki bars, and restaurants dolled up with flickering neon signs and crazy displays - especially along Dotombori-dori - is an appetizing experience in itself. The major hotels and department stores are also worth checking out, especially at lunchtime, when many restaurants offer special deals. Reviews give the nearest subway or train station and there are phone numbers for restaurants where you'll need to book.

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Shopping
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Osaka shopping showcases a huge variety of different stories that sell wares at a variety of price points. The American Village shopping district is popular with the young people of Osaka, and is often a source of most young Japanese style. The main shopping district features a large number of megasized department stores along with many upscale western store chains. For tourists looking for the pinnacle of Japanese fashion then attempt to Osaka will prove to be very rewarding. There are not as many stores specializing in regional artifacts as there are upscale boutiques, however tourists looking to shop for regional selections will still find a nice number of shops.

This city is a shopping Mecca, with underground arcades, department stores and shopping centres all vying for the wallets of Osaka's spendthrifts. Apart from the major department stores such as Sony Tower, OPA, Daimaru and Big Step, Osaka has specialised areas for buying particular items. For complete information where to go please look in our special section about the shopping in Osaka. You could also buy a shopping guide from our Osaka webshop.

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Things To Do
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There are many things to do in Osaka, putting it on par with many other popular tourist destinations. The Osaka IMAX is the largest IMAX movie theater in the world and English-speaking tourists will be happy to note that English headphones can be used at no additional cost. The Osaka aquarium is one of the largest in the world, and the Pacific Ocean tank is a must visit. Spa world is a bit like a spa theme park and a great place for the tired tourists to relax. For a bit of history the Osaka Castle is a must visit. Although it is a reconstruction this museum is a great wealth of knowledge as well as a very beautiful place to spend the afternoon. The Osaka science Museum is very popular among families and children for its planetarium and theater.

Find popular things to do in Osaka shared by RealTravelers who've been there. Price compare flights, hotels and packages, and find great deals to get you there. You can find more specific information in our sections about Osaka museums, events in Osaka and also in our popular section about the entertainment in Osaka

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Getting Around
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The tongue-twisting names of the city's subway system are a challenge; thankfully it is also colour coded and so fairly simple to use. Wherever you need to go in Osaka the subway system usually has it covered. There is also a JR Loop line which links in well with key subway stations. There is a handy prepaid day card available for unlimited subway and city bus travel. Private and JR train lines also run through town. The names of JR, subway and private railway stations are displayed in both Japanese and English.

Although trains are more convenient for getting around, Osaka does have a bus network, which uses the same ticketing system as the subway. There's also a sightseeing bus, with a range of different tours available. It leaves from Umeda train station.

Osaka operates a range of ferries and sightseeing cruises around its bay. Most of these originate or stop around the Tempozan Harbour Village (Chuo subway line, Osakako station). The Aqua-bus Aqua-liner travels on the Okawa River in northern Osaka and takes in Osaka Castle, Tenmabashi, Yodoyabashi and Osaka Amenity Park (OAP).

Taxi stands can be found in front of most train stations and it's possible to hail a cab on heavily trafficked streets. Having your destination written down in Kanji will be a help as many drivers don't speak English. Whatever you do, don't try to open the left rear door - only the driver has this privilege. There's no need to tip.

There are several car rental agencies based at both Itami and Kansai International Airport (KIX). You can hire a car on presentation of an International Driving Permit. Note: Osaka's roads aren't cheap, with steep levies applied on all major tollways through the city.

The best means of exploring Osaka's inner-city warrens is on foot. Although cycling in Osaka is very popular with locals (the city is completely flat) there are no bike paths

Transportation
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Osaka is in the heart of the Kansai region in central Japan, about 350km (215mi) west of Tokyo. The city is divided into northern and southern areas. Kita (north), also known as Umeda, is the city's main business and administrative centre. Its biggest train stations, JR Osaka and Hankyu Umeda, are the gateways to Kōbe and Kyoto. Minami (south) is the city's entertainment district and contains the hyperactive shopping and nightlife areas of Namba and Shinsaibashi. In between is the peaceful green Nakanoshima Park, on a small island bounded by the Dojimagawa and Tosaborigawatwo rivers. Osaka-wan, the bay area in the west, is home to a number of attractions, including the spanking-new Universal Studios and the excellent Osaka Aquarium.

Osaka's Kansai International Airport (KIX) is a state-of-the-art virtual city built on an entirely man-made island, the first of its kind. 50km (30mi) south of downtown Osaka, KIX handles all international and some domestic flights, while the ageing Itami airport (10km/6mi northeast of Osaka) only handles domestic traffic. All international carriers fly to and from KIX; departure tax is US$20.00 . The flight from Tokyo (Haneda or Narita airports) is only an hour or so.

Limousine airport buses shuttle passengers direct from Itami to Osaka (Namba, Umeda or Tennoji stations). KIX has every known transport possible into Osaka including limousine bus, taxi, ferry, shuttle bus and passenger train, but by far the most convenient and fun is the sleek Nankai Railways Rapito, a great introduction to the joys of bullet-train travel that takes only 29 minutes. It really is the only way to go.

Osaka is also on the main shinkansen (bullet train) route through Japan. The Tokaido shinkansen (Hikari) makes the sprint from Tokyo to JR Shin-Osaka in three hours, passing through Yokohama and Shizuoka on the way. Most trains coming from the north of Japan pass through Tokyo on the way to Osaka.For water babies there's a ferry service between Shanghai and Osaka (Nanko International Ferry Terminal).

Served by two airports, numerous ferries and buses, not to mention a slew of railway companies, you can arrive in Osaka from almost any point in Japan and, via Kansai International Airport, from many places overseas, too. There's also a twice-monthly ferry service between Osaka and Shanghai in China

At Kansai International airport , the international departure lounge is on the fourth floor, and you must pay a ¥2650 departure tax here before leaving. Domestic departures are on the second floor. It's worth noting that Kyoto, Nankai Namba and JR Namba stations all have CAT (city air terminal) facilities, as does the jet-foil terminal on Kobe's Port Island, where you can go through check-in procedures for Japanese and some other airlines.

If you plan to depart Osaka by bus , check first with one of the tourist information centres on timetables and which station to go to.Among other places, there are ferry services from Osaka to Beppu, Miyazaki and Shin-Moji on Kyushu , and to Kochi, Matsuyama and several other destinations on Shikoku . In addition, there's a slow boat to Shanghai, China, which leaves twice a month from Osaka Nanko International Ferry Terminal, close by Cosmosquare Station, where the Techno Port line meets the New Tram line. It's always best to check current timetables and fares with the tourist information office.

Osaka's extensive subway and train system operates exactly like Tokyo's. It even has an overground circular line, called the JR Loop line, with trains running both clockwise and anticlockwise, just like the Yamanote line in Tokyo. The Loop line is handy, especially if you're using a rail pass, but most of the time you'll find the subway more convenient and quicker for getting around the city. You can transfer between the seven subway lines and the New Tram line on the same ticket, but if you switch to any of the railway lines at a connecting station you'll need to buy either another ticket or a special transfer ticket when you start your journey. Most journeys across central Osaka cost ¥230.

Because Osaka's attractions are widely scattered, investing in a one-day pass (¥850) is worth considering if you're up for a hectic round of the sights. The pass, like a thin telephone card, is valid on all the subways and will be date-stamped when you pass it through the gate machines the first time. On the twentieth of each month (or twenty-first if the twentieth falls on a Sunday) you can buy the "No-My-Car-Day" pass, which is the same as the one-day pass, but only costs ¥600 (a consciousness-raising scheme to encourage people to use public transport instead of their cars). If you're spending a few days in Osaka, you could also buy a pre-paid subway card which costs ¥3000, but provides ¥3300 worth of travel - these can be bought at subway-ticket vending machines as well as station kiosks.

There are plenty of buses , but you'll find the subways and trains with their English signs and maps much easier to use. If you do need to go short distances quickly, flag down a taxi ; a city-centre journey shouldn't cost more than ¥2000.

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Map of Osaka

 

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