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Osaka

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Ōsaka (大阪) is the second largest city in Japan, with a population of over 17 million people in its greater metropolitan area. It is the central metropolis of the Kansai region and the largest of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto trio.

Districts

"Osaka" can mean either the larger Osaka prefecture (大阪府 Ōsaka-fu), covered in a separate guide, or central Osaka city (大阪市 Ōsaka-shi), the topic of this guide. The city is administratively divided into 24 wards (区 ku), but in common usage the following divisions are more useful:

Other important places include:

Understand

Osaka and the "808 Bridges" (八百八橋)


Many districts in Osaka derive their names from the Tokugawa-era bridges that were built during the city's reign as transportation hub for the country. Today, Yodoyabashi (淀屋橋) and Kyobashi (京橋) still retain their crossings, while the bridges in Yotsubashi (四ツ橋), Nagahoribashi (長堀橋)and Shinsaibashi (心斎橋) are long gone.

橋 (hashi, often pronounced -bashi, when affixed to a preceding name) is the kanji character meaning 'bridge'.

If Tokyo is Japan's capital, one might call Osaka its anti-capital. With what you will call it so, however, is left much open to your own findings upon the visit to the city. Veiled much with a commercial-centric city touch, you may as well start from picking up the lively intonation of Osaka dialect, heard from the people as you ride on the escalators standing on the right, instead of the left in Tokyo; then discovering the contrast of popular food to eastern Japan, as you look for places to lunch. The deeper you get inside, and at the end of your stay, it is not completely impossible that you may have compiled your own original list of reasons covering from history, culture, sports, to business.

Osaka dates back to the Asuka and Nara period. Under the name Naniwa (難波), it was the capital of Japan from 683 to 745, long before the upstarts at Kyoto took over. Even after the capital was moved elsewhere, Osaka continued to play an important role as a hub for land, sea and river-canal transportation. (See "808 Bridges" infobox.) During the Tokugawa era, while Edo (now Tokyo) served as the austere seat of military power and Kyoto was the home of the Imperial court and its effete courtiers, Osaka served as "the Nation's Kitchen" (「天下の台所」 tenka-no-daidokoro), the collection and distribution point for rice, the most important measure of wealth. Hence it was also the city where merchants made and lost fortunes and cheerfully ignored repeated warnings from the shogunate to reduce their conspicuous consumption.

During Meiji era, Osaka's fearless entrepreneurs took the lead in industrial development, making it the equivalent of Manchester in the U.K. A thorough drubbing in World War 2 left little evidence of this glorious past — even the castle is a ferroconcrete reconstruction — but to this day, while unappealing and gruff on the surface, Osaka remains Japan's best place to eat, drink and party, and in legend (if not in practice) Osakans still greet each other with mōkarimakka?, "are you making money?".

Get in

By plane

The main international gateway to Osaka is Kansai International Airport (IATA: KIX) [1]. The airport has two railway connections to the city: JR West's Kansai Airport Line and the private Nankai Electric Railway.

Most domestic flights arrive at Osaka International Airport, also known as Itami Airport (IATA: ITM), [2]. Itami is connected to the Osaka Monorail [3], but the monorail is expensive and traces an arc around the northern suburbs, so to get to the centre of the city you will need to transfer to a suburban Hankyu railway line. A more convenient option for most are the Airport Limousine Buses [4], which run frequently from Itami to various locations within Osaka and elsewhere in the region (including Kansai Airport), with fares starting around ¥500-600. Taxi from Itami airport to Osaka castle area costs ¥4000 plus ¥700 for toll road.

By train

Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (新幹線) trains arrive at Shin-Osaka station, to the north of the city center. From Shin-Osaka, you can connect to the city center by using the Midosuji subway line, or connect to the local JR network for other destinations.

If travelling from the east without a rail pass, you can take advantage of the Puratto Kodama Ticket (in Japanese). This ticket offers a discount for the all-stopping Kodama services if you purchase at least one day in advance. You get a reserved seat and a free drink on board. With this ticket a trip from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka costs ¥10000 - a savings of almost ¥4000. Note that there is only one Kodama service per hour from Tokyo, and a few early-morning Kodama trains cannot be used with this ticket.

If coming from either Tokyo or Nagoya, you can book your bullet train travel and accommodation as a package and make rather large savings with The Shinkansen Tour [5]. These savings are only offered to non-Japanese travelers.

During travel periods when the Seishun 18 Ticket is valid, you can go from Tokyo to Osaka during the day in about nine hours using all-local trains. Travelling in a group, however, discounts the cost significantly from the standard ¥8500 fare: A party of three costs ¥3800 per person, and a group of five traveling together brings the cost down to ¥2300 per person. See the Seishun 18 Ticket article for more information.

There are many regional railway lines connecting Osaka to nearby cities:

In Kyoto, Keihan and Hankyu trains do not connect with JR Kyoto station but both travel to stations which are more convenient for reaching the centre of the city. about 30 - 45 minutes.

Stations with the same name but belonging to different railway companies are sometimes very far apart. For example, the Nakatsu stations on the Hankyu and subway networks are about an hour's walk from each other, even though they look close on the railway map. Allow up to half an hour for walking between the various Umeda stations and about the same for the various Namba stations, especially if you are a first time visitor. In Kobe the Sannomiya stations belonging to JR and Hankyu are connected but Hanshin Sannomiya is across a street.

Overnight by train

With the discontinuation of the Ginga express train in 2008, direct daily overnight train service between Tokyo and Osaka was curtailed to a single Tokyo-bound departure only - the Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto leaving Osaka station at 0:34 in the morning, arriving in Tokyo just after 7:00.

An overnight train journey by rail is still possible by taking a route via northern Japan. This requires a change of trains and a large sum of money. As a result, this may be of interest to Japan Rail Pass holders.

From Tokyo Station, take the final Joetsu Shinkansen departure towards Niigata, and change at Nagaoka (長岡) station for the Kitaguni (きたぐに) express train to Osaka. The Kitaguni has unreserved standard class seating, reserved green car seating, and couchettes; all seating is non-smoking.

If you use the Shinkansen and an unreserved seat on the Kitaguni, the rail pass fully covers the trip, which takes about nine hours in each direction. Ordinary pass holders who wish to upgrade to the green seat on the Kitaguni can pay ¥5150; Green Car pass holders can use the Green Cars at no charge. Using a couchette on the Kitaguni will incur a surcharge, regardless of rail pass type.

As of November 2009, Max Toki (とき) #353 departs Tokyo Station at 21:40 and arrives in Nagaoka at 23:26. This connects to the Kitaguni, leaving Nagaoka at 23:53 and arriving in Osaka at 6:49. The return Kitaguni leaves Osaka at 23:27 and arrives in Nagaoka at 7:14. The bullet train connection is on Toki #304, which leaves Nagaoka at 7:23 and arrives in Tokyo at 9:12.

During high-peak travel periods, there is also the option of taking the Noto (能登) express from Ueno Station to Kanazawa, changing there to a morning Thunderbird (サンダーバード) train to Osaka; you will need to check the timetables to see when the Noto runs.

While the northern Japan train route can prove to be a good value, depending on how you use your rail pass, remember that the rail pass is also valid for JR buses operating between Tokyo and Osaka (see 'By Bus').

Two overnight trains make runs to and from Osaka Station and northern Japan: the Twilight Express (トワイライトエクスプレス) which runs into Hokkaido and terminates at Sapporo, and the Nihonkai (日本海) train which runs to Aomori in northern Tohoku.

The services listed above also pick up/drop off passengers at Shin-Osaka Station.

During University holidays there are some additional overnight services to Matsuyama, Kochi and Fukuoka. As these are considered rapid services they can be very economical to use if you use a Seishun 18 Ticket.

Overnight by train with rest stop

As a Rail Pass holder, you may also choose to simply split up your journey, stopping at an intermediate destination en-route in order to sleep somewhere, and the cost incurred will only be for the hotel room. This is also a good way to travel overnight, especially if you are able to find cheap accomodations, such as a business hotel. Yes, it may be a little hectic, and it might require some research, but this method carries two significant advantages: location and money. You will more than likely find good accomodations very close to a main train station in a smaller city, compared to a big city such as Tokyo, and it will more than likely be cheaper than hotels found in Tokyo.

For example, you can use the Tokaido Shinkansen late at night and sleep over at a hotel in Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Toyohashi or Nagoya; In the morning, grab one of the first bullet train departures in the same direction to continue your trip. As of December 2009, here is one way you could go about this: at 10 PM, take the Hikari train for a 75-minute ride to Hamamatsu. Once there you can take a rest at Hamamatsu's Toyoko Inn, which costs ¥6000 for a single room. At 6:30 the next morning, board the first bullet train of the day, a Kodama, and you will be at Shin-Osaka station by 8:15.

By car

It is generally a bad idea to use an automobile to visit Osaka. Many streets do not have names, signs are usually only in Japanese and parking fees are astronomical. In addition, an international driver's license is required.

By bus

As Osaka is a major city, there are many daytime and overnight buses which run between Osaka and other locations throughout Japan, which can result in significant savings when compared to shinkansen fares.

The JR Bus Group (Japanese Website) is a major operator of the routes from the Tokyo area to Kansai. Buses operate via the Tomei Expressway (to/from Tokyo Station) or the Chuo Expressway (to/from Shinjuku Station).

Other bus companies offer trips between Tokyo and Osaka, but it should be pointed out that seat reservations for most JR Buses can be made in train stations at the same "Midori-no-Madoguchi" (みどりの窓口) ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains. Moreover, the Japan Rail Pass is valid on ALL JR buses operating from the Tokyo area to Osaka. (Note that the pass is NOT valid on buses to/from Yokohama.)

Bus tickets are also sold at separate ticket counters operated by the various JR bus companies; you can find these counters in and around major train stations served by the buses. If you wish to buy discounted advance-purchase tickets offered on most buses, you must purchase your tickets at these counters, not from the "Midori-no-Madoguchi" windows.

From Tokyo, buses run to and from Osaka in approximately 8 to 8 1/2 hours. Major bus locations are as follows:

All buses that run from Tokyo to Osaka are double-decker buses and can be classified under the following three categories, in order of price:

The following services are available: (Current as of October, 2009)

Daytime buses from Tokyo

Seishun Bus
Standard Bus
Premium Bus

Nighttime buses from Tokyo

The nighttime bus service from Tokyo to Kansai is called Dream. This route name has several variants.

Seishun Bus

The next two are for the budget-conscious, as they are the two least expensive journeys on the Tokyo-Osaka bus route.

Regular Bus

For the above routes: ¥7300 each way for M-Th departures; ¥8610 each way for F-Su and holiday departures. ¥1000 discount on most departures if ticket is purchased 5 days in advance.

Premium Bus

Other bus operators

Another bus provider on the Tokyo-Osaka route is Willer Express [6], which is recognizable by its pink-colored buses. An advantage over the JR Buses is that Willer Express offers bus descriptions and booking services in English. However, many services from this company do not allow you to carry large luggage (e.g. suitcases) with you. It is best to confirm with the company whether or not there will be space for luggage before making your booking. In addition, some services do not offer on-board toilets.

Kintetsu (Japanese website) and Hankyu (Japanese website) also operate buses between Osaka and Tokyo, as well as other major cities throughout Japan.

Nighttime Bus from Yamaguchi Prefecture

Bocho bus offers a nighttime bus from the cities of Hagi, Yamaguchi, Hofu, Tokuyama, and Iwakuni to Kobe and Osaka. It currently costs between ¥6300 and ¥9480 for a one way ticket, depending on where you get on and where you get off. The bus departs Hagi Bus Center at 7:55PM nightly, and arrives at Osaka station at 7:15AM daily. The bus makes a return trip from Osaka station at 10:05PM nightly, and arrives at Hagi bus center at 9:25AM daily. Full details including round trip fares are on the (Japanese Website). It is a good deal if you have time to spare.

By boat

Osaka International Ferry Terminal [7] is located at Nankō (南港) in the Osaka Bay Area. There are no banks, post office, shops, or restaurants in the terminal. The nearest subway station is Cosmosquare Station (C11), which is about a 15 minute walk from the terminal. A free shuttle bus is available at the station. Taxis are also available at the station.

Getting to the Ferry Terminal

Osaka-Busan

The PanStar Line [8] operates a ferry between Osaka and Busan. The ferry leaves daily (only Su, T-W, in Jan 2009 from Busan) at 3:10PM from both Osaka and Busan and arrives the following day at 10AM. In Busan, the luggage check-in time is prior to the passenger check-in time: for the Busan-Osaka run, luggage check in is 12:40PM-2PM and the passenger check in time is 2:15PM-2:45PM; for the Osaka-Busan run, luggage check in is 1PM-2PM and the passenger check in time is 1PM-2:30PM. Many different room options are available, including family rooms. Fares start at ₩125,000/¥17,000 and range through seven different room/suite classes culminating in a Presidential Suite, which is ₩2,000,000/¥250,000 per night. Tickets can be purchased online, but much of the website content is only available in Japanese and Korean, and may be difficult to navigate for English speakers. Tickets are easily obtainable through agents specializing in Korean or Japanese travel.

The ferry holds live musical performances, magic shows, and other entertainment on the run. Schedule varies.

You can take your car on the ferry, but there are documentation requirements, and you should check the website [9] for information. The cost for a single basic room and a car is ₩690,000. Room upgrades are available. Temporary insurance must be purchased at the port upon arrival in Osaka.

Osaka-Shanghai

Shanghai (China) twice weekly.

Get around

Kansai Travel Pass: Exploring Osaka & Kansai Region:

If you are planning to travel beyond city limits you might consider using the tickets from Surutto Kansai. For use in Osaka and other cities in the west of Japan, there are some other useful tickets:

By subway

The Osaka Subway here is Japan's second-most extensive subway network after Tokyo, which makes the underground the natural way to get around. The Midosuji Line is Osaka's main artery, linking up the massive train stations and shopping complexes of Shin-Osaka, Umeda, Shinsaibashi, Namba and Tennoji.

The signage, ticketing and operation of the Osaka subway is identical to its larger counterpart in Tokyo. Fares ¥200-350, depending on distance.

By train

True to its name, the JR Osaka Loop Line (環状線 Kanjō-sen) runs in a loop around Osaka. It's not quite as convenient or heavily-used as Tokyo's Yamanote Line, but it stops in Umeda and Tennoji, and by Osaka Castle. Namba and Universal Studios Japan are connected to the Loop Line by short spurs. Fares ¥120-250, depending on distance.

See


Do


Learn

Work

The occupation of most resident Americans, Europeans and Australians is teaching English (as is the case in most of Japan). In recent years, the economy in the Osaka region had been relatively stagnant compared to Tokyo's: although there are jobs in law, finance, accounting, engineering and other professional fields in Osaka, demand for foreign professionals tends to be higher in Tokyo (as is pay). Osaka does have several educational publishers that employ foreign workers, but these jobs require fluent Japanese language ability. Temporary work in a variety of industries is available.

Buy

Eat

Okonomiyaki - The DIY Food


Okonomiyaki Osaka style is usually do-it-yourself food at smaller, independent specialized restaurants. Tables are equipped with embedded hot plates and you'll receive a bowl of ingredients, which you are expected to cook on your own. However, in larger franchised chains the staff can often cook for you — and even in smaller places staff will usually gladly help if asked.

Should you decide to try your luck on your own, you might want to dress for the occasion: pork slices, the most common topping, are usually very fatty and tend to splatter grease all over the place. Try Modernyaki which is an Okonomiyaki with Soba on top, or go fried egg on top of the pancake.

Even in a nation of obsessive gourmands Osaka is known as an excellent place to eat, exemplified by the Osakan maxim kuidaore, "eat yourself into ruin". The best place for trying out kuidaore is probably Dōtonbori (道頓堀) and neighboring Hōzenji-yokochō (法善寺横町) or Soemon-cho (宗右衛門町), the whole area containing nearly nothing but one restaurant after another.

Some typically Osakan foods worth trying include:

Okonomiyaki is best eaten in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, while takoyaki is best eaten from street vendors' carts, which can be found all over the major districts around nightfall. The best place to find kushiage is in Shinsekai, between Dobutsuen-mae and Ebisucho stations on the Sakaisuji subway line.


Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Nightclubs

Sleep

Budget

Backpackers have recently begun to use budget hotels around the JR Shin-Imamiya (新今宮) and subway Midosuji Line Dōbutsuen-mae (動物園前) stations, located in the southern part of the city center. Room quality varies widely and prices vary from ¥800-3000+, but there are many options: see the Osaka International Guesthouse Area [39] for the full list of foreigner-friendly establishments. The area is rather poor and there are many homeless that wander about during the day, but generally they are harmless and safety is not an issue. One benefit of the district being so poor is that prices at the supermarkets and such are generally very low. However, as always use common sense when traveling in unfamiliar areas.

Note that Hotel Adnis, a love hotel known for its infamous Hello Kitty bondage room, is now closed.

If you are arriving by Shinkansen, there is a very clean, modern, and friendly Youth Hostel available relatively cheap about a block away from the east exit of the Shin-Osaka station. * Shin-Osaka Youth Hostel [40] ¥3300/person, dormitory style.

Capsule hotels


Business hotels

The usual suspects tend to be situated within a 5-10 minute walk north to north-west of JR Namba (a few blocks past the love hotel district). The big advantage here is that this district is also roughly a 10 minute stroll from Dotonbori. Thus, for the light traveller, a cost effective way to stay in a nice hotel is to simply enjoy the food and atmosphere along the canal until midnight, then take advantage of the various after midnight check-in discounts (typically about 30% off the regular night rate). For example the Tokoyo Inn reduces its single room prices from ~¥6500 to a clean ¥4500, and the Dormy Inn from a regular ¥7000 fee down to ¥4900.

Budget apartments

Mid-range

Splurge

Contact

Cope

Stay safe

Osaka has a dangerous reputation (by Japanese standards), but is still remarkably safe for a city of its size, and the overall level of crime is as low as in Tokyo or other Japanese cities. However, some areas, particularly Shinsekai and Tobita, may be a little dodgy at night and the Airin/Kamagasaki area — Japan's largest slum, home to a lot of jobless and/or homeless people — south of Shin-Imamiya is best avoided at most times, especially after dark.

Incidentally, despite the movie stereotype of gangsters speaking in Osakan dialect, the actual base of Japan's biggest yakuza families is neighboring Kobe — and the most gang violence occurs in Tokyo. Unless you're dealing drugs, you're unlikely to get involved with the local mafia.

Get out

from Namba station to Tannowa Station. The trip costs around 720 Yen and takes about 45 minutes. The bag and shower service closes at 5 p.m.

Related Information


WikiPedia:Osaka


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A list of contributors is available at the original article on Wikitravel. Additional modifications may have been made by users at TRAVEL.COM [41].

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.

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