Take a spin on the HEP 5 Ferris Wheel
The HEP 5 ferris wheel is an iconic Umeda landmark and a cool way to get great views of Osaka and neighboring Kobe. A 500 yen (US$4.50) ticket is all it costs to take a spin. Employees will take photos before entering the ride, but they’re not mandatory to purchase at the end. Plug in a phone to listen to music while hunting for some Osaka classics, like Osaka Castle, on the horizon. Be careful about who you ride with. Rumor has it that riding with a significant other will doom the relationship forever.
See the best views of Osaka from the Umeda Sky Building
Another Osaka institution is the Umeda Sky Building. Go up to the 40th floor to access some of the best views of Kansai. If you’re brave enough, go outside to walk around the circular walkway on the roof. Those 360 degree views are spectacular but you’ll be 170 meters in the air so be careful. At night the pathways light up to look like a bright galaxy. There are heart shaped padlocks for a 1,000 yen (US$9) to lock on to the viewing platform that will symbolize your relationship forever. Inside the lobby there are plenty of chairs to get cozy in with a friend or a date, perfect for checking out the sunset over the city. For those wanting a view with their meal, there is a Chinese restaurant, a fancy bar, and a small cafe.
Shop at Osaka’s trendy Grand Front mall
The Grand Front shopping complex took years to build, but it added a touch of glamour to Umeda and transformed the area into a shopping destination. Check out one of the many upscale restaurants on the 6th floor of the North building. Set up like a fancy food court, this is where the youth of Japan come to eat and drink. Go back to the South building for some shopping at well-known stores like Steve Alan, Montbell, and Bag ‘n’ Noun. Don’t skip the Umekita basement area for some seriously good gelato at Bar & Gelateria Raffinato.
Get a music inspired cocktail at Techno Bar Dfloor
Techno Bar Dfloor is the kind of place you take people you want to impress to. Tucked away in an obscure building on a back street of Umeda, this place is almost impossible to find. The owner designed his bar as a place for people who want to listen to techno instead of the typical top 40 played most everywhere else in Japan. Every detail of the bar has been designed to be reflective of techno music. It is sleek, futuristic, and minimal. The signature cocktails here are made with an in house black liquor to match the interior. Each barstool seat is bluetooth compatible if you’d prefer to listen to your own tunes. In fact it’s encouraged, but don’t even think about putting anything on that isn’t techno.
Make your own food at Takonotestu
Try Osaka’s favorite food at Takonotetsu, a DIY takoyaki restaurant. Anthony Bourdain made this place famous after it featured on his show No Reservations. It’s been years, but Bourdain fans are still giving this place steady business. There are a few varieties, but the shiso cheese version is particularly yummy. Don’t be worried if you can’t get that perfect twirling action just right. Staff are waiting nearby to help the takoyaki challenged.
Explore the hip neighborhood of Nakazakicho
Nakazakicho is a Japanese hipster paradise. One of the only neighborhoods in Osaka spared from WWII bombing, this area was mostly rundown and ignored until around 10 years ago. Slowly, the traditional buildings were renovated and trendy cafes and shops moved in. Nakazakicho is a dream for vintage lovers. This is one of the only areas in Osaka to have multiple fantastic vintage clothing and furniture stores. This is the perfect place to pick up a unique Japanese souvenir for that picky friend back home.
Eat some kawaii food at a character cafe
Character cafes tend to skip the Osaka area, with almost all of them being in Tokyo. That said there are two permanent Osaka cafes which are both in the Umeda area. The Pom Pom Purin restaurant is down in the Hankyu Sanbangai shopping area under Hankyu Station’s central entrance. This cafe is almost too precious for words, even the chairs are customized to look like Pom Pom Purin. This one has an Osaka only menu with dishes like okonomiyaki and dessert takoyaki. Don’t leave without ordering the Pom Pom Purin pudding. Creamy and decadent, it tastes like a delicious creme brulee in the shape of a puppy.
Gudetama took the world by storm and he hasn’t released his grip yet. The Gudetama Cafe in the HEP 5 building is a perfect place for get your fix of the world’s laziest egg. The food isn’t just cute, its also delicious. White curry is a not a common menu item in Japan, and while it’s almost too cute to eat, it’s one of the most popular dishes.
Learn a local legend at Ohatsu Tenjin
This couldn’t be a best of Umeda list without including the guardian shrine of North Osaka, Tetsu-no-Tenjinsha. Known colloquially as Ohatsu Tenjin, this shrine has been part of Osakan history for over 1,000 years. While beloved by all of the city, couples are the main supplicants this temples sees, due to its reputation as being a lover’s temple. The temple also has a tragic history. There was a courtesan, Ohatsu, who was in love with a man named Tokubei and their love was not meant to be. Determined to be together, they took their own lives at Tsuyu-no-tenjinsha, and together in the temple, they are immortalized forever. Every first Friday of the month, there’s a flea market set up on the temple grounds with stalls selling everything from antiques to used kimono. Don’t miss this perfect opportunity to pick up a unique souvenir.
Find a Pikachu at the Pokemon Center
On the 13th floor of the Umeda Daimaru Department Store is a magical land for children and grown up kids alike. Every conceivable bit of Pokemon swag can be found in this store, from plushies, to school supplies, to baby onesies so you can dress the next generation of Pokemon lovers like your favorite pocket monster. For parents wanting a break from all the fun, head over to the nearby Uniqulo or one of several coffee shops on the same floor. Also popular are Pokemon Events for the franchises hand-held video games in which you can acquire rare Pokemon. Make sure to drop by and catch ’em all!