Namba, or Minami (lit. South, 南), is Osaka’s (大阪) southern city center and home to the city’s most vibrant entertainment and shopping areas. People almost always refer this southern downtown as “Namba” as it evolves around the big, central Namba Station.
Namba offers everything you could ever desire. People call Osaka “little Tokyo” for a reason, that being the seemingly endless amount of stuff to do. On the other side, Osaka’s northern downtown, Kita (lit. North, 北) spreads around Umeda and Osaka Station and is often just called Umeda. I will cover that one in a separate article very soon.
Two articles ago, I introduced you to Dotonbori, the wild entertainment and dining district.
It lies within Namba as you already know, and plays a big part in Osaka’s culinary scene. Besides Dotonbori there are a good number of other interesting and/or entertaining places to visit.
Whether you want to do some shopping, eat amazing food, discover local culture or ancient history, Namba has got you covered for everything.
Let me give you a quick overview of what you can expect in Namba:
We already discovered Dotonbori in a previous article, but you can’t talk about Namba without bringing it up again. It’s the culinary center of downtown Osaka, with lots and lots of food options available. Most famous are easily the many okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) and takoyaki (たこ焼き) places, which I highly recommend trying out. And, Dotonbori is also great for nightlife.
Den Den Town
Remember Tokyo’s (東京) Akihabara (秋葉原)? This is basically Osaka’s version of it. Den Den Town is not quite as big on the otaku scene (yet) but offers a comparable experience to Akihabara nonetheless. You can find a lot of electronics and game stores as well as anime (アニメ) & manga (漫画) related theme shops. Furthermore, some themed cafés like maid cafés and the likes are also starting to become more popular here.
Literally meaning “America Village”, this place houses American themed shops and restaurants, as the name suggests. It is also a place where local teen fashion thrives and lots of new trends find their origin.
Namba Parks are man-made structures that resemble a canyon. In this rocky-colored environment you can find a big collection of shops and restaurants as well as a cinema and an amphitheater. The whole complex brings a little nature-like scenery into the very modernized and urban “concrete jungle” that is downtown Osaka.
This theater is similar to the Kabukiza Theater in Ginza (銀座), Tokyo. It’s Osaka most prominent location for Kabuki performances. Multiple such performances are held every year, usually lasting 3 to 4 weeks at a time. Unfortunately, there is no direct English translation available during the shows, but you can read about the program in English beforehand.
As with the one in Ginza, ticket prices vary a lot and can get pretty expensive. Depending on the performance, you’re usually looking at a minimum of 4,000 Yen (32€/$36; exchange rates as of March 2019) all the way to over 10,000 Yen (79€/$90).
Kamigata Ukiyou Museum
This museum is a very special one as it is the only one in the world with permanent Kamigata Ukiyou exhibitions. This type of Japanese art describes woodblock prints that you might have already seen in other museums or documentaries about Japanese history.
The museum is opened every day except Monday (or the day after if Monday is a holiday) from 11:00 – 18:00. Entrance fee is 500 Yen (3,97€/$4.50).
Hozenji Yokocho Valley
This alleyway reminds of Kyoto’s (京都) Pontocho (先斗町). A long, narrow street which is clustered with small restaurants and bars left and right. Most of these establishments have been here for a long time and put high emphasis on keeping the traditional vibe alive. The valley gets its name from nearby Hozenji temple that lies at the end of it.
How to get to Namba
Namba, or Minami, is the southern city center of Osaka. As such, it is very easily accessible. The Namba Station area is actually a combination of multiple stations put together.
Starting from Osaka Station, you can take the Midosuji Subway line leading directly towards Namba Station. The trip costs 230 Yen (1,83€/$2.07) and takes about 8 minutes. You can take the same subway line from Shin-Osaka Station (the one where you arrive at via Shinkansen (新幹線)) for 15 minutes and 280 Yen (2,22€/$2.52).
Namba (Minami) is a very fun and vibrant place to be. You can do the usual shopping and dining that you’re used to from other cities and also visit interesting museums and theaters. Dotonbori is a highlight that draws many people to the area, but I highly recommend checking out the rest of Namba too!
Another quick thing that might be interesting to you: Namba Station has the best connection to Mount Koya (高野山), the mountain village south of Osaka. Maybe you’ve heard of it, you can stay at a temple and participate in rituals alongside the monks. It’s the most popular and easiest place to do temple-lodging in Japan (日本).
It’s still quite a ride to the mountain but Namba Station is your best bet for getting there. You can purchase tickets for the route a few days prior as well. I will cover Mount Koya in a separate article in the future!
That’s it for Namba (Minami), I hope you enjoyed it!
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See you there!