At Grand Front Osaka you’ll find world-class restaurants, European-style cafes, name-brand flagship stores, international brands, and a futuristic, conceptualized version of the contemporary shopping mall. With 266 shops and 95 restaurants and bars, this is three hectares of shopping heaven.
Opened in April 2013 on the North side of Osaka station, Grand Front is the first in a series of projects planned to transform the old, abandoned freight rail yard by Umeda station into a commercial space for the public. The rest of the project is expected to be complete in 2025.
It’s easy to get confused within the monolithic complex. Grand Front is actually comprised of four buildings, two of which are open to the public and feature fashionable stores, restaurants, and specialty shops. An elevated walkway connects Osaka Station with the South Building – mainly fashion and home shops on the first through the sixth floors, while the top three floors house restaurants serving world cuisine. A unique feature of the South Building is the Panasonic Center, an interactive area where anyone can test new Panasonic products. This is comprised of three floors that are each dedicated to a different theme: Living, Lifestyle, and Solution.
The North Building, connected to the South Building by way of another elevated walkway, distinguishes itself from other shopping malls with its Knowledge Capital, an “intellectual entertainment arena” which conjures a vision of a futuristic mall complete with cutting-edge technology and interactive displays. Stores and restaurants here don’t offer just one thing, they are conceptualized shops designed to engage the visitor and expand their experience. The first floor, the Cafe Lab, features multiple cafes that double as exhibition spaces for electronic devices, automobile technology (as with the Mercedes store that shares its space with Downstairs Coffee) and a plethora of reading material.
The second and third floors, the Active Lab, are made up of unusually large spaces showcasing new technologies presented by corporations and research institutions alike. The idea is to make such technologies easily digestible to the everyday visitor. Workshops of various topics are held in the Active Studio here. Various shops in the North Building apply the futuristic vision to everyday consumer goods. For example, the Subway sandwich shop features laboratory-like glass planters filled with vegetables used in-house. Suntory Whiskey has an outpost here where you can sample whiskey, nosh on bar food, and visit their gallery and museum.
The Umekita Floor on the North Building’s 6th floor features 16 inexpensive restaurants geared to a younger crowd. Unlike many eateries in Osaka, it’s open late – until 4 a.m..
The Grand Front complex was designed to highlight the beauty of nature. Both the South and North towers have rooftop terraces complete with lush trees and benches, and the North tower even has a grassy field. An area between the two buildings, Umekita plaza, features a rushing waterfall and a tree-lined plaza where one can often find open-air markets and street performers. The street between the towers is lined with majestic Zelkova trees that match the European-style, open-air cafes that line the sidewalk. The north side of the North Building features 4,000 square meters of garden, with trees and fountains.