Umeda (梅田), or Kita (北, lit. „North“) is Osaka‘s (大阪) northern downtown city center. It evolves around the two big central train stations JR Osaka Station and Umeda Station. JR Osaka Station, or the nearby Shin-Osaka Station, are most likely the ones that you are going to arrive at when coming here on the Shinkansen (新幹線) from cities like Tokyo (東京).
Considering this, Umeda is often the first district visitors will witness in Osaka. That is what makes it a very important piece of the city. I’ve covered Osaka’s southern city center Namba (難波) in a previous article and they are quite similar.
They do have distinctive features though, mainly the focus on the culinary side with Dotonbori (道頓堀) in Namba and the more futuristic focus with sights like the Umeda Sky Building here in Umeda.
Apart from that, Umeda houses an abundance of department stores, shopping centers, restaurants and places of entertainment. It is especially popular for its many underground malls.
As the major transportation hub of Osaka, Umeda used to be pretty heavily clustered with industrial sites and other buildings that were there for the practicality. Nowadays, the area has been getting more and more modernized, including a facelift of JR Osaka Station to accommodate the influx of visitors.
Being one of two city centers of Japan’s (日本) third biggest city, there’s of course a ton of stuff to do and explore. Let me give you an overview of what you can expect:
1. Grand Front Osaka
This area is a recently (2013) redeveloped district that consists of shops, restaurants, offices and more. It is one of the first revamps of northern Osaka that I talked about earlier. Grand Front Osaka lies north of Osaka Station and will easily keep you busy for at least half a day, depending on your interests.
The shops have normal opening hours usually ranging from 10:00 to 21:00 while the restaurants tend to be open until around 23:00.
2. Osaka Station City
Another redesign in Umeda district, Osaka Station city describes the entire shopping and entertainment complex that has been built around JR Osaka Station. This train station used to be old-fashioned compared to others but since 2011, it is comparable to the likes of Kyoto (京都) or Tokyo Station (東京駅).
Opening hours are very similar to the ones in Grand Front Osaka.
3. Umeda Sky Building
Often shown as a symbol of modern Osaka, Umeda Sky Building is possibly the most famous and spectacular skyscraper in all of Osaka. Your main point of interest is going to be the open-air observation deck located at over 150 meters of height.
It is open from 9:30 to 22:30 every day and costs 1,000 Yen (8€/$9; exchange rate as of April 2019) to enter.
4. Hankyu Entertainment Park
By now you’ve probably figured out that it’s all about shopping here in Osaka. Yet another reason people compare it to Tokyo so often. Hankyu Entertainment Park is a popular shopping and entertainment area right next to the Hankyu department store. Its highlight is easily the red Ferris wheel that sticks up from one of the main building’s roof.
5. Kitashinchi District
The Kitashinchi district can be described as a little bit of a contrast to the redevelopment of northern Umeda, namely Grand Front Osaka and Osaka Station city. Here, you can still find more traditional, older vibes and the bars and restaurant have the according feel to them. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a mixed experience in this giant city. The area is also great for nightlife!
6. Underground Shopping
Yay, more shopping! If you haven’t yet had enough of the usual shopping supply above ground, you can head into the undergrounds of Umeda and discover hundreds of shops. You can find anything from cheap to Louis Vuitton in these areas, you won’t be disappointed.
7. Shopping Arcades
Another area for your nightlife adventures is the network of shopping arcades east of Osaka Station. This roofed area offers all sorts of arcades, bars and restaurants. It usually starts to become busy in the evening.
8. Nakazakicho District
The closest comparison to this district is Tokyo’s Harajuku (原宿), where a lot of fashion trends are born, and the Japanese youth thrives. Similarly, Nakazakicho district is home to many unusual cafes and shops and interesting clothing stores. This area is also a little quieter most of the time, which allows for a relaxing cup of coffee.
How to get to Umeda (Kita)
Shin-Osaka Station is the Shinkansen stop for Osaka. From here, it’s about a 4-minute ride on the Tokaido-Sanyo Line for 160 Yen (1,28€/$1.44).
From Namba, the southern downtown, you can take the Midosuji Subway line for 8 minutes and 230 Yen (1,84€/$2.07).
Umeda (Kita) is Osaka’s northern city center and a shopping paradise. With hundreds upon hundreds of shops, you will certainly find everything you’ll ever want. And after you’re done shopping, you can grab something to eat in one of the many restaurants around!
Or better even, take a quick detour towards the south and enjoy some high-class Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) or Takoyaki (たこ焼き) in Dotonbori.
With that amount of shopping opportunities as well as entertainment areas to no end, the reputation of being “little Tokyo” is well deserved in my opinion.
And that’s it for Umeda district, I hope you enjoyed it!
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See you there!