In my travels throughout Japan there is one place that keeps pulling me back no matter how many times I visit. It encapsulates everything I love about Japan; interesting architecture, streets to explore, and most importantly, good food. In fact, it is actually the very first place I ever stayed in Japan, so it holds a special place in my heart. This place is none other than the Shin-Imamiya area. Located within an area known as Nishinari, Naniwa district’s Shin-Imamiya is home to a variety of extremely different attractions to visit. Today let us explore my favourite area in all of Japan!
For the traveller looking to save money, this is also one of the best places to stay the night. Many backpacker hostels have set up shop here over the years, and it is not uncommon to find accommodation starting from $15USD per night. Despite the low prices, the service at many of these places is still at a good standard.
Our first stop in the Shin-Imamiya area is Abeno Harukas. It is home to Abeno Harukas Kintetsu Department Store, the largest department store in Japan. Here is another interesting fact: reaching 300 metres in height, the building itself is actually the tallest skyscraper in all of Japan! Two records in one building is quite impressive for such a quiet area as Shin-Imamiya. The building also contains an observation deck at the top, as well as the Abeno Harukas Art Museum. It is definitely worth a look if you are staying in this area for a day or two! Abeno Harukas is easily accessible, sitting above Tennoji and Tennoji-ekimae stations.
Imamiya Ebisu Shrine
Known to the locals as “Ebessan”, Imamiya Ebisu-jinja is located just a short 1-minute walk from Imamiyaebisu station. According to local history, its conception was intended to ward off evil spirits coming from the west, specifically from Shitenno-ji Temple in Osaka.
Today it is a popular spot for locals to come and quietly pray for good fortune, and while most of the year it is very quiet (as it was upon my visit), in January during the Toka Ebisu Festival, it becomes very lively, with thousands upon thousands of people coming to witness the festivities. For fans of traditional Japanese religious architecture and cultural history, don’t miss this shrine!
Of course, we save the best for last. Shinsekai is possibly one of the most visually interesting places I have been to in Japan, and is home to a range of bars and restaurants, many serving authentic Osaka cuisine, in particular fugu (blowfish) and kushikatsu (skewered and fried meat and vegetables). Aesthetically it is interesting, as it is a mix of futuristic and old-school design, from the sci-fi look of Tsutenkaku Tower to the traditional lanterns adorning the outside of the many restaurants. I always get ‘Blade Runner’ vibes when I visit Shinsekai.
There is actually a rich history in this area, the name of which literally translates to “New World”. In the early 1900s, millions of people came to this area for development. The aesthetic chosen to model the area around was ‘half-Paris, half-Coney Island. A strange mix that has turned into something completely original more than century later.
Tsutenkaku Tower and Jyan Jyan Yokocho
Certainly the most iconic and recognisable landmark in the immediate area, Tsutenkaku Tower was constructed in 1912, during the expansion of the Shinsekai area, and was modelled after the Eiffel Tower. The tower stands at 103 metres in height, and features an observatory from which visitors can get a 360-degree view of the surrounding area.
Jyan Jyan Yokocho is a small covered strip, filled with a small range of restaurants, small stores and arcades. As you walk through, it is easy to see yourself being transported twenty or even thirty years into the past, as aesthetically it has not been updated in the same way that many other places in Japan have. During the day or the evening, it is a perfect place to grab a quiet beer or some kushikatsu. It is also extremely photogenic!
Speaking of kushikatsu, Shinsekai is the place to go for it! Kushikatsu is skewered meat or vegetables, deep fried in panko batter and served with a communal dipping sauce. The one rule of kushikatsu is: NO DOUBLE DIPPING! Besides kushikatsu, in almost any of the many restaurants that call Shinsekai home, you can find local Osaka delicacies such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki and even fugu, better known as blowfish!
For the budget-conscious, experience-craving visitor to Japan, Shin-Imamiya, particularly Shinsekai is an absolute not-to-miss destination. Every time I visit I have an amazing time and become more and more fond of this area. It stimulates the senses in ways that most other places do not; it is a visually exciting, mouth-watering, nostalgia-inducing haven.
If you find yourself yearning for a unique and unforgettable experience in Osaka, take yourself on an evening adventure in Shinsekai and learn why I consider Shin-Imamiya to be my favourite place in Japan!
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.