Osaka's Kita Area 0

Known around the world for its amazing unique local foods as well as ancient castles, temples and shrines, Osaka is a place that offers any interested traveller a unique and rewarding experience. However, while not as large or as dense as the juggernaut that is Tokyo, Osaka actually has a great deal of varied attractions to appeal to the many different tastes of both Japanese residents and foreign visitors. With the south side (Minami area) being famous for food culture, the north side (Kita area), in contrast, offers explorers a more modern and certainly different experience.

Umeda Sky Building 

In the north side district of Umeda sits the Umeda Sky Building, the most unique-looking and certainly one of the most recognisable buildings not just in Osaka, but all of Japan. The Sky Building is famous for its unique construction, with two separate towers being connected by an over-arching ‘sky garden’.

Originally planned for construction during the economy boom of the 1980s, the architectural team’s intention was to build four towers that would be interconnected. However, due to the famous burst of the economic bubble at the time, the project was scaled down to just two buildings.

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It primarily operates as a corporate office building, but it is actually possible to journey to the top of the building and visit the ‘floating garden’, where visitors can take in a breathtaking 360-degree view of the entire city of Osaka. It is definitely worth a visit for the spectacular panoramic view! Umeda Sky Building is easily accessed by a short walk from either Osaka or Umeda stations.





Osaka Station

Taking a walk through the modern architecture of Osaka’s main train station, it might surprise you that its history dates back to the 1870s. The station actually opened in 1874, making it one of the oldest stations in the Kansai region. Over the previous hundred years the station has seen several redevelopments, with various renovations and expansions. However, over the past decade the station has seen a major transformation into a modern, sleek juggernaut of public transport and retail industry. With a number of different department stores and even a cinema, there is plenty to do and see in this massive station complex.

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Chayamachi

Chayamachi, just a short walk from the Chayamachi exit of Umeda Station, is considered a rather popular hangout spot for young people. With a range of amusement centres, retail stores and affordable restaurants, surrounded by beautiful moody tree-hung lighting, it is not hard to see why young people enjoy coming here. 

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Its history dates back to ancient times when the area was known for its popular tea houses. Chayamachi was actually rejuvenised in 2005 and relabeled “Nu Chayamachi”, in an attempt to appeal to the youth culture. Judging from my experience walking around, I think it may have worked!





HEP Five

Another reasonably trendy place for young people to hang out and shop is HEP Five, a department store with a massive selection of retail stores and cheap restaurant options. It is known to be particularly popular with female high schoolers and university students. Visually-speaking, this department store is like no other I have ever seen. Bursting from the roof of the building is a giant Ferris wheel, and as you enter the building itself you will be greeted (or frightened) by two giant whale sculptures. The consistent motif of red and silver really gives HEP Five a cool, sleek aesthetic. For those looking to spend an afternoon shopping and then take a leisurely ride on a Ferris wheel while grabbing an awesome view of the city, look no further than HEP Five.

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Nakazakicho

For those looking for something a little more artistic, Nakazakicho is home to a range of boutique stores and cafes, many of which are run inside old buildings that have been preserved to maintain their original, authentic aesthetic, while some have been altered to reflect a more artistic design. Just a short walk from the Chayamachi exit of Umeda Station, this series of small streets and alleys is perfect for the urban explorer wishing to see something a little out of the ordinary. It feels like the area itself is an antique!

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Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai

How much time do you think you will need to explore the longest shopping street in Japan? Right here in Osaka is a record-breaking 2.6km shotengai (shopping street) known as Tenjinbashisuji, which is home to approximately 600 different stores. Anything from clothes to textiles to cutlery to ramen can be found in this incredibly deep run of shops, making this an incredibly popular place for locals. While I did not have the time to traverse the entire strip, for retail-minded travellers this shotengai is possibly the pinnacle of shopping adventures. Busy year-round, Tenjinbashisuji is a perfect trip where visitors can stop at one of many restaurants, grab a quick meal and then spend the day roaming the strip and picking up a few choice souvenirs. This is definitely a must-visit spot!


Having been to Osaka numerous times, I was not expecting to find anything surprising upon my most recent trip. However, walking around the Kita area in great depth for the first time has left me impressed that no matter how many times I visit, I always find something new and interesting to see, eat or explore. It offers a nice contrast to the Minami (south) side of the city, as it has a calmer, more refined and has a modern atmosphere. I urge any first-time visitor, or anybody yet to see the north side, to take a day or two to get to know this side of Osaka. I am certain you will not regret it!

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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.