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Osaka, Japan is an underrated city, with some of the most incredible food and nightlife in all of Japan. Practically everything happens after 5:00 pm here, and you’ll see lots of businesspeople out and about after work, often til the wee hours of the next morning. Only a 15-minute train ride from Kyoto, Osaka gets less attention and fame, but is a hidden gem very worthy of exploring. And while you’re doing so, learn why the Conrad Osaka is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
Denden Town (pictured above), a neighborhood once known for cheap electronics, is now the place to go to understand “geek” (otaku) culture in Japan. It’s a spectacle in its own right. Read on for more!
How to Get to Osaka, Japan
Osaka is a major business center in Japan. There are many rapid trains that take you straight from Kansai Airport to Namba Station, in the center of the city, in about 40 minutes and for about $12. If you’re coming from Kyoto, you can take the high-speed shinkansen (bullet) train from Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka station in 12 minutes for about $14, or free if you have the Japan Rail Pass. Alternatively, the JR Kyoto Line takes you into the Osaka Station in about 25 minutes and for about $5. Bottom line, there are hundreds of trains each day that will take you into the center of Osaka.
Don’t even think about renting a car. Use subways and trains, which are excellent and easy to understand, even if you don’t speak or read a word of Japanese. Taxis in Japan are wonderful, but expensive, and won’t necessarily save you time relative to the train. Check out my guide to booking a 2-week, $53K luxury vacation to Japan using points and miles, complete with an itinerary for getting between cities.
Where to Eat in Osaka, Japan
Mizuno // You can, and should, get okonomiyaki multiple times and in multiple places in Osaka. Mizuno is one of the most famous locations, a Michelin-guide restaurant with queues out the door. This restaurant is open til 10:00 pm and in Dotombori, on our list of things to do.
Kuromon Ichiba Market // The Kuromon Market is a massive collection of places to shop for both raw ingredients and cooked food. It’s a real marvel to walk from one stall to another and sample everything from strawberries to raw uni to cooked meats on sticks. You can even watch bonito flakes getting shaved off of the dried fish and dropped into barrels (pictured below). Different stalls have different hours, but many are open until late at night.
Kani Doraku Crab // Now a small chain across Japan, Kani Doraku got its start in Osaka and is famous for the giant crab on the front of its storefront in Dotombori. Go here for all kinds of crab, served in every way imaginable. The menus are set menus, meaning you’ll get a multi-course, crab-based meal for between $60-$100.
Train station sushi // The Shin-Osaka train station has dozens of places to eat, including for carry-out. I’ve had some of the best toro (fatty tuna) of my life for about $12 from train stations in Osaka. Though I wouldn’t recommend doing this in the U.S., I definitely recommend wandering around train stations in Osaka and eating whatever looks good to you.
Hot dogs in America-mura // Arirang Hotdog is a famous place to try outrageous fried hot dogs with various toppings. It’s in America-mura, a neighborhood of Osaka focused on “youth culture.”
Things to Do in Osaka, Japan at Night
You must visit the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan // It’s literally the world’s largest aquarium, and you can easily spend hours here. There’s an interactive exhibit (pictured below) where you can touch shark eggs and stingrays too. However, it’s only open until 7:00 pm on weekdays, with the last admission of the day at 6:00 pm, so make this your first stop after work. Note, on some nights there are night programs too.
Petting zoo/animal café Tempozan Anipa // After the aquarium, wander around the Tempozan shopping-entertainment complex. Within a five-minute walk inside the complex, you’ll come across a petting zoo called Tempozan Anipa. Some feel these are controversial due to the number of exotic animals that are kept indoors with people walking around them. I was pretty amazed to be able to pet kangaroos and alpacas, and the animals appeared well-fed and comfortable.
Walk around Denden Town, a neighborhood of Osaka devoted to electronics and “geek culture.” // Shops selling all kinds of electronics are open late, and arcades are plentiful too. Arcades are a big deal here, where people in their 20s and 30s spend lots of time. Wander into a few that look interesting, and generally just enjoy the colorful neighborhood.
Umeda Sky Building // This is a huge towering building that includes businesses, shops, restaurants, and even an observatory you can go up to and see all of Osaka from. The building is open until at least 10p even on weekdays.
America-town or America-mura // This is a neighborhood that celebrates “youth culture” in Osaka. You’ll see young people walking around in really unique outfits, and shops selling t-shirts with English phrases on them. This is also where you can try out Arirang hot dogs!
Also check out:
- Osaka, Japan After 5:00 pm
- Kyoto Shrines and Temples at Night
- Kyoto, Japan After 5:00 pm
- Tokyo, Japan After 5:00 pm
- Nagoya After Five: Traveling in Central Japan