Kita (also known as Umeda) is one of the city’s two downtown hubs, centred around the space-age Osaka Station. A great way to get your bearings in any new city is to head upwards; in Osaka this means ascending the Umeda Sky Building, where two skyscrapers are connected by the Floating Garden Observatory for 360-degree views of the city. Head here at sunset or after dark to see the skyline light up before your eyes, before dining on some of Osaka’s celebrated cuisine at ‘underground eat street’ Takimi Koji on the basement floor. Kita is also home to some of the city’s best shopping malls, including the Grand Front Osaka and Hankyu Department Store.
Osaka’s second city centre is Minami, the city’s most-visited area and a culinary and nightlife hotspot with its excellent hole-in-the-wall eateries and neon signs. Most of the action takes place in the Shinsaibashi neighbourhood – dip into boutiques and luxury stores along the Shinsaibashi Arcade and Mido-suji thoroughfare before partying in the countless live music venues, bars and nightclubs scattered through the adjacent streets.
Wander a little further south and you’ll reach the Dotonbori Canal, known as the ‘Times Square of Osaka’, where buildings are shrouded in garishly-lit billboards and TV screens. The most iconic is the Glico Man, which has remained in situ for more than seven decades. Many of the city’s most popular restaurants line either side of the canal, some with striking 3D signs above their doors. Sip on sake, cocktails or craft beer and try the local street food delicacy of takoyaki (octopus dumplings) for a truly authentic Osaka experience.
While its nightlife scene may be Osaka’s main draw, there are also plenty of cultural attractions to fill the daylight hours. Although a late 20th-century reconstruction of the original, Osaka Castle is a real contrast to the modern high-rises of Kita and Minami. The five-storey main tower houses a contemporary museum and is surrounded by glorious gardens, striking turrets, stone walls and moats; you can almost feel a connection with old Osaka here. Like many places in Japan, the castle and its grounds look their best during cherry blossom season from late March to early April, when locals flock to Nishinomaru Garden for traditional blossom-viewing picnics known as hanami.
Back in the heart of the city, the Kuromon Ichiba Market is a must-visit spot for foodies and draws top local chefs stocking up on fresh fish, seafood and other locally-sourced produce. As Osaka’s culinary scene takes off, the market has become a popular tourist spot and you can sample some of the city’s freshest cuisine as stall-holders rustle up delicacies on the spot. Thrill-seekers should head to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka Bay, a world-class theme park where you can explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, experience Shrek’s 4-D Adventure and come face-to-face with prehistoric creatures during Jurassic Park – The Ride.
Travel east from the centre of Osaka and you’ll reach the suburban city of Higashiosaka, known locally as the ‘rugby football town’. The area’s Hanazono Rugby Stadium opened in 1929 and is the country’s oldest dedicated rugby stadium. Visit the attached museum to learn about the heritage of the game, from its origins in 19th-century England to the 2019 Japan World Cup, and hop on a gondola to the peak of Mount Ikoma for breathtaking views.
Itami Airport and Kansai International Airport are located just under an hour from the city. Simply contact one of our team and we can arrange everything you need to charter a private jet to Osaka.