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One of the most difficult parts of planning an overseas trip can be deciding where to stay. Without really knowing a city it can be hard to truly weigh up the pros and cons of different areas. Which areas are convenient, which are close to sightseeing locations, which are ideal for the next part of travel are all aspects to be considered. Osaka is no different, with hundreds of hotels spanning the large city. However, it is possible to narrow these down to a few prime areas.
Osaka is the second-largest city in Japan and is located in the area of Kansai in West Japan. Kansai is a group of prefectures which are regularly grouped together when discussing anything from cuisine to culture to dialect. Osaka is arguably the strongest form of this distinct Kansai personality and is a popular choice for visitors to Japan. It is home to a number of quintessential Japanese dishes and has a range of sightseeing options, from historical to more modern locations. Osaka is also popular due to its proximity to a number of other interesting Japanese cities, making it an ideal place to stay while taking day trips to Nara, Kyoto, Wakayama and more.
Where to Stay in Osaka
When deciding where to stay, one of the first considerations is the type of accommodation. Osaka has a range of hotels to fit all budgets, but in recent years Airbnb has also started to take off. Most listings on Airbnb are similar to those in other countries; the owner of an apartment or house listing their empty property as available. However, there are also a number of small, boutique hotels which list their rooms individually on Airbnb to increase their customer base. From personal experience, these are still perfectly fine accommodation.
However, they do usually have a hotel layout and won’t have the home comforts that might be welcomed, especially for a long stay. Another aspect to consider is Japanese law. In recent years a law has been passed requiring all accommodation to check the passports of international visitors. This includes both hotels and airbnbs. In most cases at a hotel, you will be asked to show your passport upon check-in and the receptionist will ask to make a photocopy. In airbnbs, you will be asked to send a copy or photo of your passport ahead of time.
For some, this can be a privacy concern, especially as Airbnbs are often run by an individual, rather than a large company. Airbnbs and hotels are both acceptable and safe options for accommodation in Japan. However, it is necessary to consider the differences in order to decide on the best choice for you.
Umeda is one of the top choices when looking for a place to stay in Osaka. It is one of the main business districts and a key central shopping area. Umeda is home to a number of the main department stores in Osaka, as well as many other shopping buildings. One of the main appeals of the Umeda area is the accessibility to transport. Umeda is the location of Osaka Station, the biggest train station in Osaka. A number of train lines from various train companies and the subway all converge upon Osaka Station, making it ideal for travelling around the city. It is also within walking distance of the Umeda Sky Building and Nakanoshima, both popular sightseeing spots. Umeda is a common choice for first-time visitors to Japan as it provides convenience and ease of access to transport.
Namba is also a common choice when considering where to stay in Osaka. It is commonly known as the food and entertainment district. This means it is perfect for people looking to experience some of Osaka’s famous hospitality. With everything from street takoyaki to fine dining yakiniku, Namba is a food-lover’s paradise. Namba includes the area of the Dotonbori canal, one of the top tourist attractions in Osaka. It is also home to Shinsaibashi-suji, the most famous shopping street in Osaka. Shinsaibashi is one of the main shopping areas, with Shinsaibashi-suji as the main shopping street bringing it together. Shinsaibashi is more of a mixture than Umeda, with everything from department stores and chain retail to tiny independent shops hidden away in the side streets. Hours can be spent wandering through the streets of Shinsaibashi as there is so much to see and do. As Namba is also a nightlife district, the area can have a grittier feel, but it is still highly popular.
Umeda and Namba are quite similar in their appeal and so it can be difficult to choose between them. However, another option to split the difference is Honmachi. Honmachi is located in the middle of Umeda and Namba and is within walking distance to both. The nearest train lines connect to both Namba and Umeda and so it is easy to travel between the areas. Honmachi is often overlooked as a boring suburb between the more interesting areas, but it can be a good choice as a place to stay. It’s close to the more popular areas, but at a much lower price.
There are a number of moderately priced hotels in the Honmachi area and it is often used by business travellers. It is also a lot quieter than Umeda or Namba, which can be a relief in such a large bustling city as Osaka.
As it is still a business area, there is still a variety of restaurants and cafes. It is also close to Namba Yasaka Shrine, one of the most distinctive shrines in Osaka. With it’s enormous lion-head building and surrounding cherry blossom trees, Yasaka Shrine is quite unique. Staying in the Honmachi area provides close access to both Namba and Umeda, with the comfort and quiet of a more relaxed suburb.
Shin-Osaka is another example of a quieter area that is within close distance of Umeda and Namba. Shin-Osaka Station is another main station in Osaka with access to JR trains and the subway. However, it is also the Osaka stop for all Shinkansen (bullet train) lines. This makes the area very convenient for those travelling by Shinkansen as it reduces the amount of time spent carrying luggage around the city. It is also convenient for day trips to Kyoto as there a number of express trains between the two stations. Shin-Osaka is similar to Honmachi in that it is primarily a business district, making it quieter and more reasonably-priced than the more popular areas, but still with ample access to restaurants, cafes and transport. Shin-Osaka is also a short 10 minute train ride to Umeda, making it still within the inner city of Osaka.
Tennoji is a good option for accommodation in Osaka, despite being less well-known internationally. It has recently undergone a lot of development, making it on par with the most popular areas in terms of access and facilities but without the overwhelming crowds. It has become another transportation hub of Osaka with a number of train lines passing through Tennoji station. Tennoji is also within close walking distance of a number of popular tourist attractions. These include Shi-tennoji, one of the oldest temples in Japan. Shi-tennoji is symbolic of the introduction of Buddhism into Japan and is an often-recommended spot to visit in Osaka. Tennoji is also close to Tennoji Park, which is ideal for a short escape into some green space away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Tennoji Zoo is also located in this park. For a more sleek and modern experience, Abeno Harukas, the largest skyscraper in Japan, is also in Tennoji. Abeno Harukas has a 3 floor observation deck to take advantage of it’s status as the tallest skyscraper, and also houses the largest department store in Osaka with 100,000 square metres of retail space. Next to Tennoji and within walking distance is Shinsekai, a look into the past of Osaka. It is an area which has been largely untouched since the post-war period and offers a glimpse into a very different Japan. This is just one of the many interesting places Tennoji can provide easy access to. Tennoji is an up-and-coming area with a number of highly-recommended attractions. It has good access to transport and has a number of the benefits of the areas of Umeda and Namba.
When it comes to choosing a place to stay in a foreign city, the range of choices can be overwhelming and finding the best place to stay in Osaka is no different. The common go-tos are Umeda or Namba and for good reason; they have proved themselves to be ideal for travellers. However, depending on the preferences of individual people and development of the city, other areas have popped up as popular places to stay in the city. Whether the much-loved areas of Umeda or Namba, the middle ground of Honmachi, the convenience of Shin-Osaka or the newcomer Tennoji are your style, there is somewhere perfect for everyone when taking a city break in Osaka.
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Hannah Cook has been living and working in Osaka, Japan for the last 2 years. She enjoys seeing and trying new things and has been doing her best to experience everything Japan has to offer.