Osaka's Minami Area
Osaka’s Minami (or South) area, which is actually considered the “centre” of the city, is quickly becoming a hot destination for younger travellers as its shopping and nightlife districts have exploded in popularity over the past few years. From the bright and colourful nightlife of the Dotonbori to the cool, refined fashion of Horie, the Minami area has much more to offer visitors than just its spectacular food.
An office and shopping complex in the Naniwa district of Osaka, Namba Parks is home to approximately 120 stores, including both restaurants and retail establishments. The most recognisable feature of Namba Parks, however, is its sprawling rooftop garden, which was originally designed as an answer to Osaka’s increasingly dense urban population. The rooftop park’s condition will also change depending on the season, in both its natural and man-made features. From November, during my visit, Christmas-themed decorations began to appear around the complex. It be accessed directly by a short walk from Namba Station.
Just a short walk from Shinsaibashi Station, Amerika-mura, or “American Village” as it directly translates, is a local hangout spot for younger Osaka residents. It originally gets its name from when from the 1970s, this area became popular for selling many used items from the United States, such as vintage clothing and records. There are a vast number of retail stores for fashion-conscious shoppers, as well as a variety of bars, cafes and restaurants where one can get burgers, beers and the latest trendy meals and clothing items. If you are vising during the day it is a perfect time to shop, and if you end up back there in the evening why not grab a drink?
For travellers who prefer a slightly more upmarket, refined sense of fashion and retail culture, Horie is home to a wide range of designer retail stores and trendy cafes, many of which run along Tachibana-dori, also known as Orange Street.
There are several smaller streets that connect to Orange Street which also contain a variety of boutique stores, many often sitting at the bottom of residential apartment buildings. Visually, it is an interesting mix of modern artistic aesthetics with older, more industrial architecture. Adjacent to the business area is Horie Park, where many young people and children come to hang out or play. Horie can be accessed via an approximate 10-minute walk from Shinsaibashi Station.
Shinsaibashi suji shotengai
Simultaneously the most well-known shopping areas and a historical landmark, Shinsaibashi-Suji Shotengai (also known as Shinsaibashi Shopping Strip) is an approximate 600-metre-long shopping arcade with a history spanning back almost 400 years.
Accessible directly from Shinsaibashi Station, Shinsaibashi-Suji Shotengai has an incredible range of retail stores, cafes, restaurants and amusement centres, where just about any visitor can find something appealing. Shoe stores like ABC Mart, 100-yen shops such as Daiso, and even a range of more local, traditional-style shops like kimono stores can be found along this incredibly long stretch of retail heaven. In my experience, the further that you walk away from the Dotonbori area of the Shotengai, the more interesting the stores become. While in recent years the busier areas are filled with familiar international brands, it is not until you venture far away from the crowds that you can find the hidden gems – the more “authentic” stores, if you will!
Probably the most famous part of Osaka, and certainly the most popular evening destination for visitors to this city, Dotonbori is a strip of mainly restaurants, bars and amusement arcades that spreads alongside the Dotonbori river.
This area is perfect for travellers looking to get a taste of authentic Osaka food while admiring the interesting signs and figures that adorn the restaurants. The area comes alive at night, when all the neon lights colour the strip. The Glico “Running man” is one of the most famous photo spots in Osaka and perhaps Japan. My recommendation for first-time visitors to the Dotonbori area is to line up for some takoyaki, grab a beer and walk along the river and admire the neon lights as they bounce and dance off the river’s surface.
Accommodation in the Minami Area
Finding a good place to stay in any city can sometimes be daunting. It is difficult to know the area before going and in a country where we usually rely on public transportation, we need to consider how close the accommodation is to a train station. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to stay in a few different places in my travels to Osaka, and below are a couple of recommendations.
Sarasa Hotel actually has two locations in Osaka: Shinsaibashi and Nipponbashi. I stayed at the Shinsaibashi location, which is perfectly situated close to both Shinsaibashi-Suji Shotengai and the Dotonbori area. Just a short 5-minute walk down to the Dotonbori, the hotel is close enough to not be much effort but far enough to not be crammed with other tourists. The hotel supports five languages, including English and Chinese, and the amenities are clean and modern. Prices start at around $100USD per night and include breakfast.
Hotel WBF Art Stay is a hotel company with locations in Osaka and Okinawa. The location in Osaka is situated in the Namba area, in the Den Den Town district. Their unique appeal is in the artwork that adorns the interior of the hotel, with a unique piece of art in each room, hence “Art Stay”. The hotel chain actually has charitable connections with Thai culture and much of the art is influenced by Thai art. It is a rather new establishment, but feels very professionally run, and was possibly one of the most unique hotel experiences I have had in my travels in Japan. The service was friendly and fast, and the provided welcome pack was quite useful. Prices start at around $90USD per night and include breakfast.
The best way to get around is by taking the subway – and the best value for money is the Osaka One and Two-day Subway Passes. For a nominal amount of money, you can take unlimited trips on the subway. It is an incredibly useful method of moving around the city.
Writing about the Minami area of Osaka, I could go on and on. There is so much to explore, to buy and most importantly, so much to photograph! I have been to Osaka at least ten times since my first time setting foot in Japan, but each time I come I end up discovering something new in the southern part of the city. Without a doubt, next time I make it back to the Minami area I will find something new and exciting. That is what makes Osaka such a great city!
MATT DE SOUSA
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I am a freelance filmmaker based in Tokyo. I moved here to study Japanese language and like many others fell in love with Japan and decided to stay. In my rare moments of spare time you can find me reading Dragon Ball manga or having a beer at an izakaya.