Cool meets commercial in Osaka.
Osaka has two city centers: quirky and kitschy Namba and its trendy counterpart to the north, Umeda. Umeda is a glitzy district characterized by hip dining, high-end shopping and towering skyscrapers like the cyberpunk-esque Umeda Sky Building. Rooftop restaurants, beer gardens, and department stores season the streets, bridged by the titanic Osaka/Umeda station complex. Though the vibe can get a bit overwhelming, there are tranquil and even historic pockets to be found in the backstreets of Umeda.
It would take even the most passionate fashionista a lifetime — nay, many! — to visit every shop in the Umeda area. To make it easier for you, here are some worth browsing:
For the budget shopper: Discount hobby stores like Thank You Mart, the 100 yen shop Daiso, and apparel mecca UNIQLO are affordable options that feel anything but cheap.
For the trendsetter: NU Chayamachi is a modern, sophisticated shopping center brimming with hip shops and gourmet restaurants.
For the geek: Catch ’em all at the Pokemon Center, get lost in the assorted aisles of Tokyu Hands or bargain for the best deals at Yodobashi Camera.
The Umeda area has some don’t-miss sightseeing and major malls for shoppers.
Osaka/Umeda station: Subways, trains, taxis, and busses all converge in this complex elaborately connected to nearby stations, department stores, and restaurants via an underground labyrinth. Osaka Station itself is an architectural marvel and home to interesting sculptures, cute cafes, rest areas, and, you guessed it, a ton of shops. (By the way, the station has two names. For the JR lines: Osaka and for the subway lines: Umeda.)
Umeda Sky Building: One of the tallest skyscrapers in town, providing a romantic and breathtaking view. The basement floor recreates Showa era Osaka and is filled with restaurants, street stalls and shops.
Grand Front Osaka: This shopping complex is known for its modern design, gourmet food court, and outdoor terrace.
HEP Five: HEP Five, a popular shopping center, is a striking red building known for its architecture, namely the large crimson Ferris wheel on the top floor. There is also an entire floor of purikura (instant photo) booths inside.
Nakazakicho: Spared from WWII firebombing, visitors can get lost among this neighborhood’s historic architecture. The area has been undergoing a revival; second-hand stores, independent cafes, and art galleries now color these atmospheric streets.
Chayamachi: A stylish shopping area, Chayamachi is home to NU Chayamachi, giant hobby store Loft, and a bookstore with a sizable English section (Maruzen and Junkudo).
Doyamacho: Known as the LGBT district of Western Japan, Doyama is an exciting nightlife district with haunts for any and every sexuality there is.
Kitashinchi: Situated on the west side of Umeda is this elite nightlife district where salarymen and women go to party after work. Formerly a geisha district, the bright lights of the modern-day streets are prone to lure in those wandering the area after dark.
There are many wonderful spots to enjoy at Umeda, but just be careful not to get lost in the maze of shopping malls and train lines!