Life In Osaka
Life in Osaka
Osaka is an exciting place for students to study and live. It is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan after Tokyo and is known for its open and innovative atmosphere. Described as ‘the nation’s kitchen’ it boasts a dazzling variety of restaurants, cafes and pubs. For students who want to experience traditional Japan, the cultural capitals of Kyoto and Nara and the port city of Kobe are just a short train ride away.
Attractions in Osaka:
- Osaka Castle, located in the center of Osaka, is one of Japan’s most famous castles. The castle played a key role in two large samurai battles during Japan’s turbulent 16th and 17th centuries but has now settled into its current position as the serene center of the bustling city of Osaka. A museum dedicated to the violent past, with plenty of examples of samurai weaponry, is located inside the castle keep. The park surrounding the castle is perfect for a picnic, cheery blossom viewing, or for relaxing during your busy forays into the city.
- Shinsaibashi is Osaka’s trendy, chic shopping center. Many of Osaka’s top department stores have a location here. You can come here to shop for electronics (Apple’s Osaka store is located here on the main street), clothes, and great souvenirs (omiyage) for family back home. Just to the east of the main street, you should visit the lengthy shotengai, a covered street with loads of restaurants and smaller shops.
- Amerika mura (or simply Ame-mura), located just to the west of Shinbaibashi’s main street, is a crowded collection of bars, cafes, and music shops that attracts many college students and foreigners. You should definitely come here if you want to shop for guitars or other music instruments.
- Dotonbori, located outside of Namba station (just south of Shinsaibashi), is one of the top tourist destinations in Osaka. This is the site of the famous, large Glico man sign (just google it). You’ll find loads of Osaka’s best restaurants and bars here, and you can take a ferry ride down the Dotonbori canal to see all the neon signs and other sites. You’ll more likely than not come here to meet friends at some point. In general, the area around Namba and Shinsaibashi form the entertainment center of Osaka.
- Universal Studios Japan (USJ) has long been one of the top attractions in all of Japan for Japanese and foreigners alike. USJ is nothing like its southern California namesake; USJ is newer, and has many more rides as well as theme worlds, like its current Harry Potter World. One-day admission is 7200 yen.
- Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan Ferris Wheel: The Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) is one of the largest collections in the world. This is a great place to spend a day on the weekend when you have free time. It is located at Tempozan Harbor Village, which is easy to find thanks to the very large Ferris Wheel next door. Rides on the ferris wheel at 700 yen for 17 minutes, and with a height of 112.5 meters, when you’re at the top you’ll get one of the best views of Osaka Harbor, including neighboring USJ.
- The National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMAO) is located south of Umeda, in the underground level of the island of Nakanoshima. It is comprised mostly of art from the postwar period. College students pay only 130 yen with your id.
- Tennoji Park and Zoo. Tennoji Park is a beautiful botanical garden with small ponds and traditional Japanese structures. Admission to the park is free. The zoo is also located in the park and costs 500 yen to enter. It is Japan’s third oldest zoo. Tennoji Park also contains the Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Art.
- Expo Commemoration Park (Bampaku kinen koen), next door to Osaka University’s Suita Campus, is one of the largest parks in Osaka. Groups of students and families come here for barbecue parties, cherry blossom viewing, swan boat rides, and just to get away from the busy city. The main entrance to the park is dominated by the Tower of the Sun, a statue that looks like it comes straight out of a Miyazaki movie. If you use the monorail to come to Suita campus, you will transfer lines at Bampaku kinen koen station.
- Baseball and football (soccer): Osaka’s baseball and football teams are among the most popular in Japan. Osaka’s top football team is Gamba Osaka, which won the championship in the top tier of the Japanese soccer, J. League Division 1, in 2005 and 2014. They play home games at their stadium at Expo Commemoration Park, next door to Osaka University’s Suita Campus. The Hanshin Tigers are one of Japan’s oldest and most revered baseball teams, while the Orix Buffaloes were formed from the merger of two popular teams from Kobe and Osaka, and currently split their home teams between the two cities.
Outside of Osaka:
Kyoto is only about 30-45 minutes away by train (Hankyu Kyoto line), particularly if you catch an express train. You can reach the city center station of Kawaramachi using the Hankyu line. As the old capital, Kyoto is famous for its numerous temples, shrines, and castles, including the old Imperial Palace, Kiyomizudera, and the Golden Pavilion known as Kinkakuji. All of these buildings have rich histories reaching back to Japan’s medieval period. Kyoto’s Gion District and Pontocho area are the centers of its nightlife. Kyoto is great for exploring on foot. Since Kyoto was spared from the bombing that destroyed many buildings in World War II, many old homes and buildings still stand, giving one a view to what the Japan of the past looked like.
Kyoto is also surrounded by mountains which are great for hikes. The mountain to the east, Arashiyama, is home to a wild monkey park (admission: 550 yen), a bamboo forest, and the scenic Oi River. Kyoto’s most famous season is the fall, when the changing colors draw tourists from across Japan. It’s perfect that Kyoto is an easy daytrip, since the hotels are all booked up around this time.
- Nara is another city which served as Japan’s capital, back in the 8th century. It is located about 60-90 minutes from Osaka (depending on where you start and what line you take). This ancient capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its series of eight temples, shrines and one palace. One of the temples, Todai-ji, houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha. It’s also notable (or perhaps notorious) for its not-so-wild deer which populate Nara Park, where most of the temples and shrines are located. The deer can be aggressive, so pay attention.
- Kobe is a large city located at the upper end of Osaka Bay and only a couple towns away from Osaka University. Kobe has one of only three designated Chinatowns in Japan (the other two are in Yokohama and Nagasaki). And located in northeastern corner of Kobe is the famous Arima Onsen, a small town behind Mount Rokko filled several traditional, natural hot springs bathhouses.
- Himeji Castle is the largest and one of the oldest surviving medieval castles in Japan (Osaka Castle has been rebuilt several times due to fire and bombing). The structure is a beautiful example of 16th and 17th century architecture. It is located about one hour from Osaka University.
- Shikoku: Mainland Japan is composed of four islands, Honshu (the main island), Hokkaido (the northern island), Kyushu (the southwestern island), and Shikoku, the least populated and least-known island. Tucked underneath the western half of Honshu, Shikoku is seldom explored by foreigners. Luckily for denizens of Osaka, Shikoku is easily reached from Osaka by bus from Umeda and Namba stations. Anyone interested in exploring Japan’s natural beauty, including mountains, beaches, and river rapids, should head for Shikoku.