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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in osaka
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Osaka Castle and the skyscrapers of Osaka Business Park, Ky?bashi
If Tokyo is Japan's capital, ?saka (??) might be called its anti-capital. The central metropolis of the Kansai region and the capital of Osaka prefecture, Osaka is the largest of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto trio, and its inhabitants exhibit a friendly rivalry towards the Kanto region, from baseball, food, popular culture, even to which side they ride escalators (on the left in Tokyo, but on the right in Osaka).
The concrete expanse of Nishi-Umeda(West-Umeda)
"Osaka" can mean either the larger Osaka prefecture (??? ?saka-fu), covered in a separate guide, or central Osaka city (??? ?saka-shi), the topic of this guide. The city is administratively divided is divided into 24 wards (? ku), but in common usage the following divisions are more important:
- Kita (??, "north") — the newer center of the city, corresponding to Kita ward (??). Umeda (??) is the main terminal. Department Stores are around the Osaka Station of JR and the Umeda Stations of subway and private railways.
- Minami (???, "south") — the traditional commercial and cultural center, composed of the Chuo (???) and Naniwa????) wards. Namba (???, ??) is the main railway station, and the surrounding area has the department store and showy shopping. Shinsaibashi(???) is the fashion area, which contains many upscale brand shops. D?tonbori (???) is famous for food.
- Semba (??) straddles the line between Kita and Minami, and contains the business districts of Yodoyabashi (???), Kitahama (??) and Hommachi (??).
Other important wards include:
- Tenn?ji (???) — built around and named after the Shitennoji temple. Tennoji Park and Zoo.
- Ky?bashi (??) — northeast of Osaka Castle, home to Osaka Business Park (OBP).
- Shin-Osaka(???) — Shin-Osaka Station(Shinkansen),Office buildings, Hotels
Back in the days of the Tokugawa shogunate, Edo (now Tokyo) was the austere seat of military power and Kyoto was the home to the Imperial court and its effete courties, but Osaka was where the merchants made and lost their fortunes. To this day, while unappealing and gruff on the surface, Osaka remains Japan's best place to eat, drink and party, and Osakans still greet each other with m?karimakka?, "are you making money?".
The main international gateway to Osaka is Kansai International Airport, covered in a separate article. Domestic flights, however, mostly arrive at Osaka's northern Itami Airport (ITM). Itami is in Hyogo prefecture, but this city is next to Osaka, so it is mistaken in Osaka very often. Itami is connected to the Osaka Monorail, but the monorail is expensive and doesn't go to the center city, instead tracing an arc around the northern suburbs. Airport Limousine Buses run frequently from Itami to various locations within Osaka and elsewhere in the region, with fares starting around ¥500-600.
Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (???? 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.
- From Tokyo, Nozomi (???) trains cover the one way ride in about 2 1/4 hours (¥14050); Hikari (???) trains take about 3 hours (¥13750). With the Japan Rail Pass, there is no charge to take the Shinkansen if you use the Hikari service.
- From points west of Osaka, Nozomi trains run from Okayama (¥6060, 45 mins), Hiroshima (¥10150, 80 mins) and Hakata station in Fukuoka (¥14890, 2 1/4 hours). Japan Rail Pass holders can use the Hikari Rail Star (?????????) service instead, which runs at a comparable speed to the Nozomi and makes a few more stops, but its trains are shorter (8 car trains, compared to 16 cars on the Nozomi).
- Slower Kodama (???) trains connect the rest of the stations on the Shinkansen route.
Several overnight trains make runs to the main Osaka Station. Of note are the Ginga (??) which runs daily to and from Tokyo, and the Twilight Express (????????????) and Nihonkai (???) trains which run toward Hokkaido.
There are many regional railway lines connecting Osaka to nearby cities:
- From Kyoto, JR offers fast, but slightly more expensive, shin-kaisoku (special rapid) trains to Osaka Station. The cheaper but slower alternative is the Hankyu Railway's limited express service. Both lines terminate in the Umeda area of Osaka. Keihan Railway also offers Kyoto-Osaka trains, but its Osaka terminals are in Kyobashi and Yodoyabashi, which are probably well off of most tourists' itineraries.
- From Kobe, JR again offers faster but more expensive service than Hankyu. The third choice is Hanshin Railway, which is even more expensive than JR and mainly useful for getting to Koshien Stadium to see Hanshin Tigers games. All three lines go to Umeda.
- From Nara, JR offers trains to Kyobashi, Tennoji, and Namba, and Kintetsu offers trains to Tennoji and Namba.
- From Nagoya, an alternative to the Shinkansen is Kintetsu's premium limited express service, which goes directly to Namba.
Overnight highway buses from Tokyo and other areas can get you to Osaka for significantly less than a Shinkansen ticket. Buses from Tokyo typically cost ¥8500 each way, with a discount if a round-trip is purchased. The Japan Rail Pass is accepted on most overnight buses that are operated by JR.
JR also offers daytime buses, which take about 8 hours (including an extended lunch break in Shizuoka) and cost ¥5,000 each way.
There are ferry services from Osaka to Busan (South Korea) three times a week and Shanghai (China) twice weekly.
Osaka International Ferry Terminal 1 (http://www.city.osaka.jp/port/04_facilities/e_04_06.html) is located at Nank? (??) in the Osaka Bay Area. To reach the port, take the New Tram from Suminoe-koen station to Nank?guchi (???).
The convenient Kansai Thru Card can be used on just about anything that moves in Osaka (as well as the rest of the Kansai region), with the notable exception of JR trains.
Osaka has 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, therefore it makes an ideal training ground for travellers new to Japan, or subways in general. However, Osaka subway is more expensive than Tokyo one.
True to its name, the JR Osaka Loop Line (??? Kanj?-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.
- Osaka Castle (??? Osaka-j?) 2 (http://www.tourism.city.osaka.jp/en/enjoy_osaka/attractions/osakacas/index.html). Osaka's best known sight, although it's a concrete reconstruction that pales in comparison with, say, Himeji. Still, it's pretty enough from the outside, especially in the cherry blossom season when Osakans flock to the castle park to picnic and make merry. Open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily, adult admission ¥600 (Children up to middle school free). Closed at the end and beginning of the year. The park can be accessed on a number of lines, but the castle is closest to Osaka-jo Koen station on the JR Osaka Loop Line.
- Umeda Sky Building (???????). 1-1-20 Oyodonaka, Kita-ku (10 min on foot from JR Osaka or Hankyu Umeda), 3 (http://www.skybldg.co.jp/ichiban_e.html). Built in an attempt to upgrade Osaka's somewhat downbeat Kita district, the project wasn't quite the hoped-for commercial success but this bizarrely shaped 40-story, 173-meter building is still a city landmark. Take the escalator through midair to the rooftop observatory for an open-air view of Osaka, which is particularly impressive on a clear night. Observatory admission ¥700, open 10 AM to 10:30 PM daily (entry until 10 PM, varies by season).
- Osaka Expo Park in north Osaka, Suita. Has a memorial park of the Osaka '70 International Exposition, a Japanese Garden, the interesting Museum of Ethnology. The park is popular among Japanese people to see hanami (cherry blossom) in spring and momiji (the color changing of maple leaves) in autumn. The landmark for this park is the Tower of Sun by famous Japanese sculptor Okamoto Taro. From here you can take taxi to Tadao Ando's world famous Church of Light (Ibaraki Kasugaoka Kyokai Church).
- The National Bunraku Theater in Nippombashi 4 (http://www.ntj.jac.go.jp/english/) is one of the last places in the world where bunraku, a form of intricate puppet theater from the Edo period, can be seen live. The large puppets, which require three operators each, are accompanied by traditional music and narration, and act out great Japanese plays of the 1600s and 1700s. Transcripts in Japanese and synopses in English are provided.
- Universal Studios Japan, at Universal-City Station (JR Yumesaki Line, 10 min from Osaka), 5 (http://www.usj.co.jp/e_top.html). Japan's second-largest theme park after Tokyo Disneyland. One-day tickets for adults/children ¥5500/3700.
- Kaiyukan (Osakako, Chuo Line) 6 (http://www.kaiyukan.com/eng/) is one of the world's largest aquariums, with 11,000 tons of water and plenty of sharks, dolphins, otters, seals, and other creatures of the sea. ¥2,000 for adults, ¥900 for children.On the weekend, the music performers or street performers show their performance in front of Kaiyukan.
- Tenpozan Ferris Wheel, next to Kaiyukan. Open 10am to 10pm.
- Expoland, next to Osaka Expo Park. One of Osaka's large amusement parks. There are 3-4 roller coasters and a haunted house with human actors.
There are a number of Japanese language schools in and around Osaka.
Osaka has many universities, although its schools generally have less of an international reputation than those in Tokyo. Note that universities in Kyoto and Kobe are also close to Osaka.
- Kansai Foreign Language University (??????? Kansai Gaikokugo Daigaku), better known as Kansai Gaidai, is located east of Osaka City and has exchange programs with a number of universities overseas.
- Kansai University (???? Kansai Daigaku) in northern Osaka Prefecture.
- Osaka University (???? Osaka Daigaku) is the city's most prestigious university, dating back to the formation of the national university system in the late 1800s. It has two campuses in Suita and Toyonaka cities, north of Umeda.
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 has 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 much higher in Tokyo (as is pay).
- Osaka's most famous shopping district is Shinsaibashi (???), which offers a mix of huge department stores, high-end Western designer stores, and independent boutiques ranging from very cheap to very expensive. Within Shinsaibashi, the Amerika-mura (?????, often shortened to "Amemura") or "American Village" area is particularly popular among young people, and is often said to be the source of most youth fashion trends in Japan. The many shops in Umeda are also popular among trendy locals, particularly in the Hep Five and Hep Navio buildings adjacent to Hankyu Umeda Station, although these shops tend to be too expensive to captivate most tourists' interest. In this area, new shopping buildings are constructed recentry. For example, ?E-ma? buildings next to Hanshin department store, and ?Nu-Chayamachi? (Nu ???), is open in October 2005 near Hankyu Umeda station.
- For electronics, the Nippombashi (???) area southeast of Namba, and particularly the "Den-Den Town" shopping street, was once regarded as the Akihabara of western Japan; nowadays, most people from northern Osaka would rather shop at the new, enormous Yodobashi Camera in Umeda, although Nippombashi still offers good deals on many gadgets.
- For Japanese and foreign books, try Kinokuniya in Hankyu Umeda Station, or Junkudo south of Osaka Station.
In a nation of obsessive gourmands Osaka is known as an excellent place to eat, exemplified by the Osakan maxim kuidaore, "eat until you burst". The best place for this is D?tonbori (???), a street that contains nearly nothing but one restaurant after another. Some of the more famous establishments here include:
- Kuidaore (????), featuring a mechanical clown beating a drum, is one of the contenders for the title of the largest restaurant in the world. Each floor specializes in a type of food. Affordable, but more fun in a group.
- Kani D?raku (????), easily identifiable by the giant mechanical crab waving its pincers about, specializes in crab. Good but moderately expensive.
While in Osaka, be sure to try Okonomiyaki (?????), a cross between a pancake, pizza, and omelette, as well as takoyaki (????), bits of octopus inside fried dumplings. Okonomiyaki is best eaten in hole-in-the-wall restaurants; takoyaki is best eaten from street vendors' carts, which can be found all over the major districts around nightfall.
- Tsuruhashi F?getsu (????), Hankyu Building 29F (next to Hankyu Umeda station), 7 (http://www.fugetsu-1.kansai.walkerplus.com/). Good okonomiyaki as well yakisoba, with extra toppings (egg, cheese, etc.), all for a cheap price of ¥700-800, plus English menu and a nice view overlooking Umeda. Perfect!
- Clube Joule8 (http://www.club-joule.co.jp/) 2-11-30 Nishi-shinsaibashi, next to Sankaku (Triangle) Park in American Mura. Packed with trance lovers. An absolute must see in Osaka.
- Underlounge9 (http://www.under-lounge.com/) 2-7-11 Nishi-shinsaibashi. House. The guest list is not very seriously maintained and saying 'Ken No Tomodachi' at the entrance should help getting a 500-1500¥ discount.
The cheapest option is capsule hotels, found near the major train stations .
- Capsule Inn Osaka. 9-5 Doyamamachi, Kita-ku (in the Higashi-Hankyu shopping arcade off Umeda station). Tel. 06-6314-2100, Fax 06-6314-1281. Japan's first capsule hotel (opened 1977) is still open for business, happy to accommodate foreigners with some semblance of a clue and a steal at ¥1600 for a night.
And,backpackers recently often use economy hotels around Shin-Imamiya Station?Doubutsuen-mae Station?.
- Hotel Chuo. 1-1-12 Taishi Nishinari-ku Osaka-shi.
Typical Japanese business hotels are step up from a capsule and can be found everywhere. Examples include:
- Hotel Nankai Namba, 17-11 Namba-naka 1-chome, Naniwa-ku (Exit 5 from the Midosuji subway line, walk south, and turn right at the McDonald's), TEL 06-6649-1521 (firstname.lastname@example.org, FAX 06-6632-5061). This is a clean and well-run hotel convenient to transport: 20 minutes from Shin-Osaka, good access to Nara on the Kintetsu Line. Rooms have LAN access at no additional cost- some rooms with WiFi, so ask when making a reservation or checking in. 8,400 JPY-18,375 JPY (single-triple). http://www.hotel-nankai.co.jp/
- The Ritz-Carlton, 2-5-25 Umeda, Kita-ku (just down the street from the Sakurabashi exit of Osaka Station, behind the Central Post Office) 10 (http://www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/osaka/default.html) Japan's only Ritz-Carlton, pending the 2007 opening of a high-rise monster in Tokyo's Roppongi. This particular outlet was voted the best hotel in Japan several times, and has become known as one of the city's swankiest dining and meeting points. Rates start around ¥30,000 a night and rise skyward from there.
- RIHGA ROYAL HOTEL,at Nakanoshima 11 (http://www.rihga.com/osaka/index.html)
- IMPERIAL HOTEL OSAKA12 (http://www.imperialhotel.co.jp/index_e.html)8-50 Temmabashi 1-chome, Kita-ku. At riverside.
Opti Café is a surprisingly cheap internet café in Umeda. ¥100/30min. Yodobashi Camera department store's groundfloor, next to Excelsior Café. You are requested to register for membership but it doesn't cost anything.
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. Unless you're dealing drugs you're unlikely to get involved with the local mafia, but some districts, particularly Shinsekai, may be a little dodgy at night.
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.
- Its location makes Osaka a perfect base for doing one-day trips to nearby cities like Kyoto (45 minutes), Kobe (30 minutes), Nara (1 hour) or Himeji (1 hour by train).
- The temples and lush greenery of Mount Koya, 90 minutes away by train, are an entirely different world and the perfect getaway when all the concrete starts to get to you.
- Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the world's longest suspension bridge is located near Kobe, about 40 minutes away by train.