The times keep changing, and the way we live changes with it. Osaka is a city that shifts and grows at a whirlwind rate, but among the city’s transforming scenery one place keeps the atmosphere of an earlier time: Shinsekai. The area gives you the chance to step back in time and enjoy nostalgic fun like the half-pachinko, half-pinball Smart Ball; however, in recent years it’s also developed new and popular destinations, including a zoo and a hot springs where couples or families can enjoy the day together. That said, classic dishes like dote-yaki pork stew and kushikatsu fried skewers are still alive and well in the Janjan Yokocho dining alley—in fact, crowds flock here daily to savor Shinsekai’s classic flavors. Well on its way to being a hot new spot for adult travelers, there’s still a lot of hidden Shinsekai charm for you to come and discover for yourself.
Start at Dobutsuen-mae Station, Osaka Metro Midosuji Line
1. Tennoji Zoo
More than anything else, the real highlight at Tennoji Zoo is the Savanna Zone, which features lions and zebras. You’ll feel like you’re out on an African safari! In close quarters with only a glass wall between you and them, you’ll be surprised at just how large lions really are. That isn’t the end to the popular animals, though: You’ll also be able to see the endearing paddling-about of hippos at Japan’s first underwater viewing pool, the polar bear Gogo (Tennoji Zoo’s big star), and the adorable snoozing koalas, too! Rest is key for koalas, so make sure you’re extra-quiet when watching them. There’s also plenty of original zoo goods, so don’t forget to stop by the shop to pick up a memento of your trip.
Adults ¥500, children 14 and under living in Osaka City, Osaka City residents 65 and older, and persons with disabilities: free (ID required)
Literally translated, “Tsutenkaku” means “tower-through-to-the-sky.” Arriving here, the first thing you should do is hop on the elevator to the observation deck. The pamphlet you get when you purchase your ticket will come in very handy. Not only will it point out bits of trivia about the tower and highlights in the area, with it you’ll also get a sheet you can craft it into a paper version of Tsutenkaku. In its completed form, the little paper tower can also hold your change—now that’s neat! Anyway, now that you have your pamphlet, head up 100 m aboveground to the observation deck. Up here, you’ll see an Osaka far different than your usual earthbound view: From the 360° tower-top panoramic view, you’ll look out as far as Mount Rokko in Kobe and Mount Ikoma. Another popular sight at the tower is the statue of Billiken, mascot of Tsutenkaku. It’s said that stroking the soles of his feet brings good luck. At the gift shop on the second floor, you’ll be able to pick up all sorts of uniquely Osakan souvenirs, including Billiken-themed goods.
Adults ¥800, Children 5 – 18 ¥400,
3. Janjan Yokocho
"The townscape of Janjan Yokocho was famously depicted in the manga Jarinko Chie (“Downtown Story”), which was later on adapted to both film and television. From the moment you step foot in the alleyway, you’ll see lines of shops evoking the nostalgia of pre-WW II Japan: kushikatsu fried skewer vendors (a Shinsekai specialty), Japanese chess halls, Smart Ball parlors, and more. It goes without saying that if you’ve come to Janjan Yokocho, you absolutely must try Osaka’s famous kushikatsu fried skewers. Along the 180-meter arcade stretching north to south you’ll find more skewer shops than you can imagine. No matter which one you choose, you’ll be greeted with a lively atmosphere and served freshly-fried and piping-hot skewers. Since each skewer’s no more than a mouthful, you just may find yourself going overboard with them.Also note that though each shop has different closing days, many shops close on Tuesday and Wednesday, so make sure to check ahead before you stop by."
4. Gallery Saikai
Built as the southern European-style coffee house Saikai in 1953, this structure was registered as a Tangible Cultural Property in December 2006 together with Tsutenkaku. At present, it no longer operates as a coffee house and is only open for admission once a month during the scheduled jazz concert.
5. Shinsekai Inari Jinja Shrine
This tiny shrine devoted to the goddess Inari is located on a street corner in Shinsekai. Walking through the shrine’s torii gate, you’ll see a strange roulette-style shrine fortune-teller made out of stone. If you come by, make sure to give it a spin and see what Fate holds for you!
6. SpaWorld—Onsen from Around the World
Good show—you must be exhausted! Once you’ve gotten your fill of the Shinsekai area, stop by Spa World and wash the weariness away. In addition to its rich variety of baths and relaxation salons, Spa World has a swimming pool, a hotel, and restaurants, too. Billed as a comprehensive entertainment and bathing facility, it has plenty to enjoy for adults and kids both. After you’ve tried out the unique and playful array of baths, we recommend getting a massage at one of the salons. It’ll all feel so good, don’t be surprised if you start to drift off... As busy as you’ve been during your travels, try it out and consider the whole experience a gift to yourself.
12 and older ¥1,300/ under 12 ¥1,000
Sights to see：Stop in at one of the game arcades or smart ball parlors to teleport yourself back to the Showa era and enjoy a little bit of pre-war Japan nostalgia.
HUNGRY?：Thick and flavorful, the mixed juice over at the classic Sennnariya Coffee House is a popular choice.
SOUVENIRS：Famous for Tsurigane Manju (a miniature steamed sponge cake shaped like a tsurigane-style temple bell and filled with delectably sweet red bean paste), the sweets shop Tsuriganeya Hompo also sells Nadai Basho cakes packed with banana-flavored bean paste—both come highly recommended. One point of interest is the sound of a temple bell ringing that plays when you step into the shop.