The Best Things to See and Do in Minami and Namba

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Photo of Ellie Hurley
Contributor9 September 2021

Throbbing with neon signs, thrumming with sushi restaurants and bursting with busy izakaya, Namba is the beating heart of Osaka and one of the main commercial districts in Minami, the southern section of the city. When darkness falls, there’s no better area to eat, shop and drink in the electric atmosphere of Japan’s most fun-loving metropolis. There’s plenty to keep you occupied in the daytime, too.

Buy a Japanese knife at Jikko Namba

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Sushi knives shop in Tokyo
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Japanese knives are among the world’s finest – they’re light and super-sharp, facilitating precise, delicate cutting. Jikko has been making them for more than 120 years. This Namba branch of the shop is a wonderland for gourmands, lovingly laying out crafted blades of all sizes, styles and price points, in glass cabinets as if they were fine jewellery. Whether you’re looking for a specialist sashimi cutter or a multi-purpose santoku knife – great for slicing, mincing or dicing – you’ll find something to suit here.

Learn to cook ramen

Family style, Japanese
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With its tender wheat noodles and umami-rich broths, ramen is one of Japan’s most famous foods – and one of its most diverse, too. Learn to cook two different types – one chicken-based, one veggie – in this three-hour cookery course with chef host Yucco, who is an Osaka local ready to feed you with plenty of washoku (Japanese food) tips. You’ll also learn to whip up two kinds of gyoza, those deliciously crisp dumplings stuffed with meat and veg.

Watch a kabuki show at Shochikuza

Theater
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Shochiku-za Theatre in the Namba district of Osaka in Japan.
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Even though you’ll (probably) not understand the script, a traditional kabuki theatre show is fascinating – the elaborate costumes, dramatic makeup and stylised dances deliver a unique peek into Japanese culture. Built in the 1920s this opulent theatre, with its silky curtain embroidered in flowers, is a grand setting for it. Be transported to the 17th century, then step out to one of the many restaurants in the towers of Namba to teleport yourself back to modernity.

Sip cocktails at Cinquecento

Bar, Pub, Japanese, $$$
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The buzzy bar scene is one reason why visitors flock to Namba and this affordable cocktail haunt northeast of the station doesn’t disappoint. Owned by an Aussie ex-pat (staff speak English), the bar serves a kaleidoscope of flavoured martinis, many for just 500 yen (£3.25) each, as well as beers, wings and burgers. Where some bars in the area demand a coverage charge, Cinquecento waives it, making it even more affordable. Pull up a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar and get ready to make new friends.

Try fresh seafood at Kuromon Ichiba Market

Market, Japanese, $$$
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Visitors at Kuromon Ichiba Market, Osaka, Japan. Image shot 2019. Exact date unknown.
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Just as Osaka is known as Japan’s kitchen, Kuromon Ichiba Market is known as Osaka’s kitchen – with close to 200 outlets, it sells pretty much everything used in Japanese cooking. Many stock fresh ingredients, such as fish, seafood and vegetables sourced from beyond the region. Many also sell cooked food – we say go for the grilled eel, teppanyaki beef, fresh oysters, ramen and bento boxes.

Take in the neon-lit Dotonbori district

Bridge
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© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Eccentric and neon-giddy, this area is one of the best-loved, most vibrant places to hang out in town. It runs alongside the ancient Dotonbori canal and was, historically, Osaka’s entertainment district. Today many of Osaka’s best restaurants, street food vendors, theatres and shops sit along its thoroughfares. Teeming with fashionable folk, it’s a fascinating place for people-watching while soaking up quirky moments.

Hang with hip locals in Amerikamura

Park, Shopping Mall
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With its alfresco art, cafes, galleries and shops, Amerikamura, northwest of Namba station, has been the centre of American-inspired youth culture in Osaka for decades. Some come to catch quirky street style or shop at the weekend flea market, but we want to steer you to Aura Japon, a vintage shop packed with floral-print summer dresses, leather handbags and twinkly bits of jewellery. Choose one themed location – the original Aura or the Paris and Milan offshoots next door – or set aside a couple of hours and buy enough to fill a suitcase in all three.

Embrace tradition at Nambayasaka Shrine

Shinto Shrine
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Since ancient times, Nambayasaka Shrine has been the central place of worship in Namba for believers of Shinto – Japan’s indigenous, nature-worshipping religion that predates the arrival of Buddhism. Damaged during conflict, it remains unmistakable today – a distinctive building shaped like an enormous lion’s head. It has been named a folk culture property and a tug-of-war takes place at the temple every 3 January, saluting a myth surrounding the enshrined deity’s deeds.

Get your geek fix in Den Den Town

Bookstore, Shop
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Den Den Town – one of the largest shopping areas in Minami – is known in the city for selling electric equipment. Japan being synonymous with electrical equipment, this is the area to shop for discounted prices. If you’re an anime and/or manga fan, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Self-avowed geeks love the second-hand CD and video-game stores, too.

Stroll down historic Hozenji Yokocho

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Hozenji Yokocho Alley at night in Osaka, Japan.
Osaka's Hozenji Yokocho Alley buzzes with activity all night long | © Stephen Spraggon / Alamy Stock Photo

Hozenji Yokocho is a narrow little alleyway that still radiates the atmosphere of the Edo period (between 1603 and 1867), with a serene hush that contrasts with the full-on atmosphere of nearby Dotonbori. It’s named after nearby Hozenji, a Buddhist temple dating from the 17th century. Look for the statue of Fudomyoo, the deity worshipped at Hozenji, completely covered in moss and surrounded by visitors pouring water over it in return for its blessings.

Ride the towering Don Quixote Ferris Wheel

Store, Amusement Park
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Now, this is a highly unusual attraction – a Japanese superstore with many floors selling everything from groceries to home appliances, jewellery to sex toys. So far so normal, you might say, but ringing the facade of the building is a vertical “bracelet” of moving carriages: the Don Quixote Ferris wheel, recently reopened after being blighted by mechanical complications. Taking you up almost 80m (262ft), there are sensational views of the adjacent canal and Japan’s tallest building.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Brooke Larsen.

These recommendations were updated on September 9, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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