As a traveller, you would most likely head for the most popular tourist destination that comes to mind depending on the area you are visiting. Many may have already been to Osaka, but for those planning to visit this place, and if you are returning for a second trip here, this is a very basic guide on how to explore this fascinating entertainment and shopping district in the heart of the city.
Glico Man products, one of the popular items in Shinsaibashi.
Shinsaibashi is hands down the number one place to visit due to the popularity shared on social media, Japanese guidebooks and word of mouth from many travellers. Anyone visiting Osaka will surely make their way here as one of the tourist destinations.
The most popular place here would be the Ebisu Bridge over the Dotonbori Canal, where you can spot the world-famous Glico Man neon billboard.
The Ebisu Bridge is the perfect starting point or meeting place in Shinsaibashi.
Where to Start?
Head to the centre of Shinsaibashi which is at the Ebisu Bridge, where you can get that memorable photograph of the Glico Man neon sign.
From the Ebisu Bridge, you can branch out to multiple other interesting places around here. Not far from the bridge is the famous Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street, which is a covered walkway that stretches almost a kilometer long, and is the main junction to Dotonbori and American Village.
Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street entrance from the Ebisu Bridge.
Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street
Where do you start here? This main covered shopping street is so long that you can keep going and going for over a kilometre in the opposite direction. Along this street, there are all kinds of Japanese shops to explore.
The further you go in the opposite direction, the more local shops you will see. And the closer you get to the Dotonbori area, the more tourist-friendly shops there is. Therefore, for a full Japanese shopping experience, I recommend you head the opposite way.
A sea of people inside the Shinsaibashi-suji shopping street.
While exploring, do keep a lookout for the narrow alleyways that have some smaller shops. Here you can find some of the unique speciality stores and very local ramen noodle shops that are worth trying.
And if you are looking for the Osaka Hard Rock Cafe, it is located in this direction, but on the main Midosuji street. Another landmark is also the Osaka Ritz Carlton Hotel.
An aerial view of the Ebisu Bridge in Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori.
Image Credit: Google Maps
Back to the main area near the Ebisu Bridge, this massive covered shopping street (also known as arcade) is probably the most crowded shopping street in Japan. There are always thousands of people here during weekends and it is like a never-ending sea of people.
Some of the shops offer amazing discounts for Japanese products.
You could find almost anything Japanese along this shopping street.
When you cross the Ebisu Bridge to where the Glico Man neon sign is, you move into the next area, which is Dotonbori.
One of the many entrances to Dotonburi and American Village.
Dotonburi Shopping Area
This section also houses more shopping, lifestyle and entertainment places. Once across the bridge, if you head on straight, it leads you into the Ebisu Bashi-Suji shopping street. When you see the Starbucks on the left, look up and you will see the street name at the entrance here.
Another popular landmark is the famous Japanese Hokkaido crab restaurant, where a giant crab is displayed at the top of the shop entrance. When you turn left into this street by the Dotonbori River, you are in the 1 Chome district which is popular with many Japanese restaurants, department stores and more shopping.
At the main street in Dotonburi.
This place is more commonly known for the Osaka food where you can find the original Takoyaki stalls. Other popular dishes include the Okonomiyaki and Japanese seafood. There are also restaurants that sell Wagyu and other premium Japanese beef. If you are a foodie, then this is the place you need to explore.
The Ebisu Bashi-suji shopping street.
Heading back to the Ebisu Bashi-Suji shopping street, it takes you to many other unique shops and restaurants for about another kilometre, before exiting at the main Nanba area. Around here, you can also find the Nanba Station, which is a popular stop for those travelling into Osaka.
When you walk around the Nanba area and head further south, you will arrive at the Nipponbashi area, which is where you will find the Akihabara of Osaka called Denden Town.
This is Osaka’s version of Akihabara. Located past Nanba City and in the Nipponbashi area, it is only a 15-minute walk from the main Ebisu Bridge. From the Nanba Station, it is only a 7-minute walk. For directions, you can ask the locals for ‘Denki no Machi’ which is the local name for Denden Town. This is a great place to see the latest in Japanese technology or even to buy some special items that can only be found in Japan.
This place is a treat for Otaku fans. There are major stores like Mandarake and Tora no Ana. If you grew up with Gundam, be prepared to fall flat for the two-storey Gundam store called Osaka Gundams.
There are also numerous maid and cosplay cafes found around Denden Town. For some reason, themed maid coffee shops with a simple concept are popping up in this place too. If you are coming by train, you alight at the Nipponbashi Station.
An outdoor Japanese restaurant at the American Village in Dotonbori.
This popular place is in the Dotonburi area, located on the western side of Shinsaibashi from the Ebisu Bridge. After you cross the Ebisu Bridge, turn right and head to the main Midi-suji road and look for the Dotonburi archway. Once you see that, cross the main road and you are in the America-mura district of Dotonbori.
America-mura is commonly called American Village or Amemura, where you will find the best of American influence, style and fashion. This place was heavily influenced by the American culture since the 1970’s and has lived on until this very day.
Vendors and locals around here tend to speak more English than other places in Japan due to the influence of American culture. Along the main street and smaller lanes, you will find an assortment of secondhand clothing stores, cafes, coffee places, record stores, galleries and collector stores.
For more information, visit the official website.
An interesting store in the American Village.
The best place to visit here is no other than the Sankaku Koen or Triangle Park, where you can spot young Japanese in trendy American-inspired fashion. If you are visiting on a weekend, you could explore the Japanese flea market and even street performances related to the American culture.
If you explore America-mura at night, expect the best of Japanese-American entertainment as this place offers lots of American themed restaurants, bars and cafes. Some provide live music, which again very Americanised.
A local Rock Cafe in American Village.
Generally, for a slightly different experience of Osaka, it is recommended to visit American Village to see Japanese pop culture infused with western influences. When you had enough of this place, head back out to the main street, which is Midosuji Street.
Trees along Midosuji Street in Osaka.
This is the mother of all shopping streets in Osaka, and commonly known as the Champs-Elysee of Japan. Here, you can find all the top designer brands in the world and also the five-star hotels.
This street is four kilometres long and 44 meters wide. Beautiful ginkgo trees line the boulevard and it changes colour during each season. Along the street, you will also find 29 art pieces by famous sculptors, making this a very interesting street to explore.
For high street fashion lovers, you can find just about any international brand here, even the latest products or fashion from Paris. And of course, there is also an Apple Flagship Store.
Osaka’s Hard Rock Café.
Looking for some entertainment? There is a Hard Rock Café here and also ultra clubs and bars on the upper level of some of the buildings along the street.
Best season to visit Midosuji: Autumn & Christmas
One of the quirky shop decorations in the Dotonburi area of Osaka.
Osaka is easily accessible just by walking or taking the train. In my many times when I visited Osaka, I never took the train or subway as I believe that walking will bring out the best in sightseeing and shopping.
If you are visiting on weekends or long holidays, be prepared for a crowded Shinsaibashi. Otherwise, come on a weekday.