Kita (Umeda) is the daytime heart of Osaka. It’s the transport and business hub of the city and there are plenty of restaurants and attractions here. It’s also where many of the city’s hotels are located.
JR Osaka Station and Kita Area
Kita, which means “north” in Japanese, is one of the city’s two downtown hubs (the other is the Minami, or “south,” district). Kita is also known as Umeda, which is the name of one of the main train stations here. You’ll probably spend a lot of time in this part of the city. It’s just three stops south of Shin-Osaka Station on the Midosuji subway line. And, if you’re coming from Kyoto on the regular JR Line or one of the two private lines that connect the cities, you’ll arrive here.
The heart of the district is the newly rebuilt JR Osaka Station. It’s surrounded by all the city’s main department stores and many of its biggest businesses. The area is filled with restaurants that cater to the many workers in the area. There are also plenty of bars, shops and hotels. For visitors, there’s the pleasantly green Nakanoshim-koen Park, the Hep Five shopping and entertainment complex and the Umeda Sky Building.
Things to See and Do in Kita and Umeda
- Umeda Sky Building (skyscraper/observation deck)
About 10 minutes’ walk from the central north gate of JR Osaka Station, accessible by an underground walkway, the Umeda Sky Building is one of the tallest and most impressive buildings in Osaka. It’s more like two buildings connected by a bridge at the top. There’s a great observation deck at the top called the Kuchu Teien (“Garden in the Sky”) Observatory. The views from here are great, especially in the evening, although they’ve now been overshadowed by those at the Abeno Harukas Building in the Tennoji Area. Tickets for the Kuchu Teien Observatory can be purchased on the 3rd floor of the east tower. There’s an indoor and outdoor observatory. Below the Sky Building complex, you’ll find Takimi Koji Alley, a re-creation of a Showa Period shopping street that is filled with restaurants.
- Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (museum)
Two stops east of Umeda and Osaka Station, on the Tanimachi subway line, the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living contains a full-size reproduction of a 1830s Edo Period shopping street. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what the city looked like before the coming of electricity and it’s highly recommended for people with an interest in history. It’s located on the 8th floor of a building and the last time we went, there was no English sign (perhaps there is one now). Take Exit #3 from Tenjinbashisuji Rokuchome Station.
- Tenjimbashi-suji Shopping Street (shopping arcade)
This 2.6km covered shopping arcade is the longest shotengai (shopping arcade) is Osaka, and that’s saying a lot because Osaka is famous for them. It’s an almost endless stretch of vaguely retro shops, restaurants and cafes. Start at Tenjinbashi-suji Rokuchome Station (two stops east of Umeda/JR Osaka Station on the Tanimachi subway line) and walk south. You’ll finish very near Kids Plaza Osaka, which is a great stop for those with children (see following entry).
- Kids Plaza Osaka (children’s play zone and science museum)
For those with kids, this enormous play zone and science museum is perhaps Osaka’s top attraction. The top floor has an incredible interactive science museum, where kids can have fun while learning about science, and then there’s a giant three-floor castle that children can explore while their parents take a break on nearby benches. It’s hard to do this place justice with words, but take it from the father of two young children: this place is awesome! And the nearby Tenjimbashisuji shopping arcade (see previous entry) is packed with cheap restaurants. The closest subway station is Ogimachi Station, from which it’s a five-minute walk.
- Hep Five (entertainment/shopping complex/Ferris Wheel)
A short walk east of Umeda and JR Osaka stations, this huge shopping and dining complex is topped by a Ferris wheel that offers a great view over the city of Osaka. This 106-meter-high wheel offers an incredible view, especially in the evening. It costs Y500 but is free with an Amazing Osaka Pass. There’s often a queue to get on, but the line moves quickly.
Nakanoshima-koen Park (park)
About 15 minutes’ walk south of Umeda/JR Osaka Station, Nakanoshima-koen Park is a lovely and semi-green island in the middle of the Yodo-gawa River. It’s a nice place for a stroll and to escape the rush of the city. You’ll also find two museums here (see following two entries).
Museum of Oriental Ceramics (ceramics museum)
If you’re a fan of Oriental ceramics, this museum is a must-see. It’s relatively small but the collection is first rate. The collection includes Japanese, Korean and Chinese pieces.
National Museum of Art, Osaka (art museum)
This is another small museum on Nakanoshima Island, a short walk west of the above museum. The museum itself is a dynamic modern structure. The permanent collection (at least the part exhibited at any one time) is relatively small. It’s worth going if the special exhibition is of interest to you (you can ask at any of the tourist information counters near the main train stations) or check online at the National Museum of Art, Osaka website.
Places to Eat in Kita and Umeda
Kita is packed with restaurants, starting in both train stations and working out to the thousands of great little restaurants in the streets around the stations. And don’t forget that every department store has a great restaurant floor on its premises. In addition, there are some other great dining complexes in the area, including the first entry in the following list.
- Shin-Umeda Shokudogai (restaurant complex)
Just down the escalators and to the right when coming out of Hankyu Umeda Station, this is the cheapest place to eat in central Osaka. It’s packed with tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants that are popular with local office workers. Don't be afraid to just walk in and give one a try. They usually put the day’s special on display outside.
- Gunjou (ramen; budget)
A short walk from Tenjimbashisuji Rokuchome Station on the Tanimachi subwayline, this ramen and tsukemen (soup on the side noodles) specialist is well worth the trip from real ramen lovers. Look for the funky noren curtains in the doorway.
- Kiji (okonomiyaki; budget)
Hidden up a staircase in the cramped Shinumeda Shokudogai dining area (roughly between Hankyu Umeda and JR Osaka Station), this tiny little okonomiyaki specialist is our favorite place to try this famous Osaka treat. It’s highly recommended!
- Binbiya (izakaya; moderate)
This is such a rarity in Japan – a nonsmoking izakaya! And what a good thing that is. You can enjoy some truly refined izakaya fare here and wash it down with brilliant sake and beer. It’s in the Kita-Shinchi entertainment district. Highly recommended!
Arabompu (soba; moderate)
Not too far from the US Consulate, this artisanal soba specialist is a must for fans of real soba. It’s an austere and pleasing meal and this place does it very well.
- Umeda Hagakure (udon; budget)
If you love thick and hearty udon noodles, you must try them here at this casual and approachable udon specialist. At lunch, there’s almost always a line, but it moves quickly. It’s on the B2 Floor of the Osaka Eki-mae Dai-san Building.
- Resshishouyumenkoubousanku (ramen; budget)
Taking the award for the restaurant with the longest name, this restaurant also gets top marks for it’s brilliant thick-soup shoyu (soy sauce flavor) ramen. It’s an absolute must for ramen lovers. Take the Tozai Line to Shin-Fukushima Station. Look for the red noren curtains in the doorway (and there’s usually a line out front).
- Aoki (sushi; expensive)
A bit out of the way, near Tenjimbashisuji Rokuchome Station on the Tanimachi subway line, this little gem of a sushi place offers brilliant sushi for less than you’d expect, give the quality and taste. You’ll want the concierge at your hotel to call for reservations. The front is very austere, with no English sign. Look for the name 青木 written on the sign in the little illuminated alcove.
Takuya (tonkatsu; moderate)
Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets) are usually cheap workingman’s fare, but this place elevates them to high art. If you like tonkatsu, you’ve gotta try them here! It’s a short walk southeast of Umeda/JR Osaka stations.
- Iroha (kaiseki; expensive)
In the Kita-Shinchi nightlife district, a short walk south of Umeda/JR Osaka Station, this kaiseki/kappo place deserves the star it got from Michelin. The food is superb and the presentation is beautiful. If you’re looking to try Japanese haute cuisine while in Osaka, this is a great choice.
- Épais (French; moderate)
This fine little French place in the Kita-Shinchi district offers reasonably priced set meals for lunch and dinner. If you need a break from Japanese food while in Osaka, I recommend this place.
- Goichi (yakitori; moderate)
For brilliant yakitori in a casual atmosphere, this popular local place about 15 minutes’ walk east of Umeda/JR Osaka stations is highly recommended. Look for the red lantern with 吾一 on it.
- Takama (soba; budget to moderate)
A bit of a walk north of the Tenjimbashisuji Rokuchome Station on the Tanimachi subway line, this artisanal soba spot is one of the best soba restaurants in Kansai. There’s no English sign – look for the distinctive wooden exterior. Highly recommended!
- Bon (kushikatsu; moderate)
If you love the deep-fried goodness of kushikatsu, then you don’t want to miss this excellent kushikatsu specialist located on the B1 floor of a building in the Kita-Shinchi district. The kushikatsu are so good here that the Michelin folks listed them in their most recent Osaka guide.
- Sushidokoro Tada (sushi; expensive)
If you’re after first-class sushi, have the concierge at your hotel book you into this sublime Kita-Shinchi sushi specialist. It’s expensive, but worth it considering the quality of the offerings.
Places to Stay in Kita and Umeda
Mid-Range Hotels in Kita and Umeda
- Mitsui Garden Hotel Osaka Premier
The Mitsui Garden is probably the best mid-budget hotel value in the city. Located on scenic Nakanoshima Island, within relatively easy walking distance of both Kita and Umeda, this is a really nice hotel in a really nice location. Highly recommended.
- Crowne Plaza ANA Osaka
Located in the heart of the Kita-Shinchi entertainment district, this hotel is at the upper end of the mid-range price bracket and it can feel like a proper luxury hotel. It’s a really good deal for the price and it’s surrounded by an endless variety of places to eat.
Hotel Monterey Osaka
Very close to JR Osaka Station, this is a strong entry in the mid-range bracket. It’s nicer than most business hotels and the rooms are quite comfortable. It’s a great choice.
- Hotel Vista Premio Dojima
Well located within easy walking distance of JR Osaka Station and surrounded by good places to eat, the Vista Premio is a pretty good business hotel with reasonable rates.
- Hotel New Hankyu Osaka
Right at Hakyu Umeda Station and steps from JR Osaka Station, this is a competitively priced and comfortable business hotel that rates very high in terms of convenience.
Hotel New Hankyu Annex
Located pretty close to Hankyu Umeda Station, and literally surrounded by good places to eat, this hotel usually offers very competitive rates. It’s a good choice if you want to be based in Kita.
Luxury Hotels in Kita and Umeda
- Intercontinental Osaka
Very close to JR Osaka Station, the Intercontinental is arguably the best hotel in Osaka. It’s exemplary in every way and the location is brilliant, with some rooms offering breathtaking views of the city.
Not far southwest of JR Osaka Station, the Ritz is a close rival to the Intercontinental for the title of best hotel in Osaka. From the Old World common areas to the superb rooms, it’s a refined and class act in every way.
- Hotel Hankyu International
An easy walk north of Hankyu Umeda and JR Osaka Station, the Hankyu International is an excellent hotel with rates below what you’d expect to pay for rooms of this standard. Recommended.
- Hilton Osaka
A stone’s throw from JR Osaka Station, the towering Hilton is a beautiful hotel with a great range of on-site restaurants, cafes and shops. It’s a great choice if you want to be near the station.
- The Westin Osaka
The Westin is a short walk northwest of JR Osaka Station. It offers rooms of a high standard at reasonable rates. It’s a good choice for the price.
- Hotel Granvia Osaka
The cheapest luxury hotel in the city, the Granvia is located directly above JR Osaka Station, making it a great choice for those who need to be near transport options. And, it’s got hundreds of dining options right on the doorstep.
Shopping in Kita and Umeda
- Grand Front Osaka (shopping complex)
A huge two-part shopping mall north of JR Osaka Station, Grand Front is one of the best one-stop shopping centers in the city. In addition to all the shops, there are plenty of great restaurants.
- Osaka Station City (train station, shopping and dining complex)
Surrounding JR Osaka Station, this huge shopping and dining complex offers an almost endless variety of things to buy and places to eat.
- Whity Umeda (underground shopping mall)
This vast underground shopping mall, close to JR Osaka Station and even closer to Hankyu Umeda Station, is one of the largest underground shopping malls in Japan. It seems to stretch forever and you can easily get lost here – if that happens, just come up to street level and figure out where you are.
- Yodobashi Camera Umeda Store (camera and electronics store)
Yodobashi Camera’s main Osaka store towers over the north side of JR Osaka Station. This is the best place in Osaka to buy electronics, cameras and a huge array of other things. This is also the best place in the city to buy SIM cards.
Hankyu Umeda Main Store (department store)
Built over Hankyu Umeda Station, this enormous department store is one of the city’s best. Don’t miss the great food floor and the great restaurants on the upper floors.
Nightlife in Kita and Umeda
While the Minami District is the main nightlife area of Osaka, there are still plenty of places for a drink or two in Kita. Here are two places to start.
- Captain Kangaroo (bar)
A great foreigner-friendly bar on the north edge of Kita-Shinchi, this is a good spot to grab a drink, eat a hamburger and meet some locals and local expats.
- Club Piccadilly Umeda Osaka (club)
One of the largest clubs in Osaka, this is a great place for a night out in the city. Check the Club Piccadilly website for details on upcoming events (it’s mostly in Japanese, but there’s enough English to make sense of things).
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings on Skyscanner
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Get travel insurance for your Japan trip - book online with World Nomads