Best Areas to Stay in Osaka
Osaka is the capital of the Kansai region and is one of the most populated city of Japan with about 3 million inhabitants. Its urban fabric intertwins with the neighboring Kyoto and Kobe, creating a 20 million inhabitants cityscape, the 2nd largest after the Tokyo - Kawasaki – Yokohama trinity. Consequently, with such a density, it can be difficult to grasp the ideal location where to stay when visiting for the 1rst time.
Travelers are increasingly favoring Osaka to stay in the Kansai area, thanks to its location that is both close to Kyoto and helps avoiding being clustered in the touristic former capital.
Osaka is divided into 24 wards with a quite concentrated downtown, and many interesting neighborhoods to use as bases for traveling insofar as they are suitable for your traveling and living styles. The Osaka Loop Line, the circular train 🚅 line that serves the city center is free for Japan Rail Pass holders, but actually quite difficult to use on a daily basis. We rather recommend to choose an accommodation close to the Osaka Metro, and one of its 9 lines that all cross the center of the city.
Namba, Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi
The dynamic and colorful heart of Osaka is located in minami, the downtown’s south in the very popular Namba district. The eponymous JR and subway 🚇 (Midosuji Line) stations are within walking distance from the major touristic streets of Dotonbori, Den-Den Town, Otaroad and Shinsaibashi covered arcades towards north.
This lively area is thriving with shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues for going out in the evening, some shops even opening 24-7. you will also find more traditional gems, such as Kuromon Market to try the local food, and the sacred sites of Hozen-ji, Yasaka-jinja and Mitsu Hachiman-gu, which are lovely in the cherry blossom season in spring 🌸.
The accommodation range is large, with various prices depending on the choice of a Western-style lodging or a Japanese guest house.
Umeda and the north of Osaka
In the downtown’s north, the area around Osaka-Umeda station is also suitable for tourists who enjoy a very urban life and the nightlife, but with a different ambiance, more sophisticated than in Namba in the south, but just as equally noisy. Umeda is a good location for a base to travel through the Kansai area and quickly reach Kyoto, Himeji or Nara by train.
This business district is characterized by numerous skyscrapers whose vertical architecture encourages in taking an elevated view on the city. For this, you will find restaurants and bars in the high-rises that provide a wonderful night view on Osaka at nightfall. The most interesting tall buildings popping to mind are Umeda Sky Building and its lounge bar Stardust or the Conrad hotel 🏨 on Nakanoshima Island and its luxury restaurant All Day Dining at the 40th floor. Likewise, their international hotels provide an upscale experience, with big-tickets views from their high-end rooms.
For a more human-sized atmosphere, the surroundings of Osaka Tenman-gu shrine as well as the small arty and bohemian neighborhood of Nakazakicho allow to find a room at more affordable prices.
Tennoji and Shinsekai
Lesser known to tourists, Tennoji area is a good alternative to stay in the south of Osaka in a more traditional and relaxing atmosphere than Namba. With a good public transport service, Tennoji also has a direct connection to Kansai Airport (KIX) and to Kyoto with the Haruka Express Train, covered by the JR Pass. As for lodging, the area has a comprehensive range of accommodation choice, for all budgets when looking carefully.
Tenno-ji is spreading around a station overlooked by Abeno Harukas panoramic tower, and a large 30-hectares park home to a zoo, Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts and Keitaku-en garden. Nearby, stands the Shitenno-ji, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan.
The retro district of Shinsekai, with the characteristic Tsutenkaku tower, is easily accessible on foot from Tennoji. With a plebeian ambiance, one can also mention Nishinari ward, and especially the area around Dobutsuen-Mae metro station, that is infamously known as Osaka’s poor area. There are, however, very affordable accommodations right at the center of the city.
Located in the west to the center, the Osaka Bay offers accommodations with attractive prices, but is far from the central railway network and requires the use of the Chuo subway line from Bentencho station, or the New Tram Line (Nanko Port Town) that serves the industrial port area by the south.
Residential streets are quiet, and on the seaside, walks are sided by several entertainment venues such as Kaiyukan Aquarium, Tempozan Ferris Wheel or the famous Universal Studios Japan theme park 🎡, built on one of the artificial stretches of land on the bay. Yumeshima Island will also host the coming 2025 Universal Exhibition.
Kansai Airport (KIX)
Kansai International Airport (KIX) serves the whole area encompassing the Osaka Bay, Wakayama Bay and to the shores of Lake Biwa. Located on an artificial island about 50 kilometers to the south of Osaka, the airport is connected to the mainland by a road and rail bridge that can be closed and sometimes damaged by harsh weather conditions, such as typhoons 🌀. It is therefore not recommended to stay there if planning to focus the visits on the center of the city. Note however that a few beaches have been laid out to relax while looking at the planes landing and taking off at KIX, such as Nishikinohama and Rinku Marble Beach 🏖.
The hotel selection is large, with establishment directly connected to KIX terminals or located on the "mainland" next to the beaches, on the other side of the bridge. They can be used for an overnight stay when arriving late or if your flight ✈️ is very early in the morning.
What about expatriates?
Osaka is not specifically known for clearly identified foreign neighborhoods, however, you may find interesting spots to gather with fellow countryfolk. For example, you can try Osaka Salon, a French-Japanese bar located in Honmachi midway between Umeda and Namba, to drink good wine in a comfortable setting.
Higashinari and Higashi-Osaka
Eastern Osaka, surrounding the castle 🏯, is backed by Nara prefecture’s forest mountains, and is a good location for those who would like to stay on the medium or long term. We recommend using the services of a real estate agent for a larger housing choice.
Higashinari ward and its neighboring suburb Higashi-Osaka are pleasant to live in: lively, with a good transport coverage and affordable rents. The Korean town around Tsuruhashi station, operated by both JR and Kintetsu companies, is also attractive.
In the downton’s south, the small Daikokucho neighborhood extends around the eponymous metro station, served by the Midosuji and Yotsubashi lines. We recommend its clean safe streets, at a stone throw away from Namba, to unpack your suitcases in Osaka and do daily activities on foot or on bicycle.
Green suburbs in the north and the south of Osaka
When leaving the very urbanized center of Osaka, the northern and southern suburbs quickly show a greener, nature-oriented surroundings. You will find vast green spaces and human-sized suburban towns:
- In the south: mainly Sakai City, a students’ town and home to Japan’s largest Kofun (Mozu Kofungun), reachable by the Nankai and Hanwa (JR) Lines operating down to Wakayama;
- In the north: Toyonaka, Ikeda, Minoh, Suita and Takatsuki (bound for Kyoto) have a Japanese countryside look and are by the way considered by city dwellers as nature getaways on the weekend.
There, rental prices are more attractive and it is possible to find a 45m² apartment for less than ¥50,000 to 60,000 (~US$333.00 to ~US$399.60) per month.