Shinsaibashi is one of the most popular areas in Osaka, with countless stores from high-end retailers to the familiar high street shops. This neighborhood is more than just for shopping though, with some of the most exciting attractions, delicious foods, and fun bars and nightclubs. Be sure to make the most of your time in this thriving district with our list of the 10 best things to see and do.
Video Game Bar Space Station
Bar, American, $$$
The neon interior of Space Station in Osaka.
Space Station is a staple of this niche bar scene. It’s packed with both locals and tourists almost every night of the week, so it’s a great place to meet like-minded people from all over the world. Space has 13 consoles, 8 screens, and scores of games ranging from nostalgic NES favorites to the most recent Super Smash Brothers. Space Station is the only game bar in town that doesn’t have a cover charge – you only pay for your drinks, many of which are named after video game characters you love, like the “Floating Peach” and “Gin Sonic”. To find it, just look for the flashing, animated LED staircase at street level and climb on up!
Almost as famous as Dotonbori is Shinsaibashi-suji, an undercover shopping avenue that is the heart of the Minami district. Shinsaibashi-suji has been Osaka’s most important shopping area for 400 years, with hundreds of shops lining this 600-meter long street. From huge department stores like Daimaru and flagship Uniqlo clothing stores to small independent boutiques, there is something for every shopper and every wallet on this street. There are also dozens of delicious restaurants and cafes hidden in the streets and the alleys leading just off it.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for all your quirky Japan souvenir purchases, or simply a place to willingly get lost in for a few hours, Mandarake is the place to go. Mandarake is a multi-story specialty shop selling goods like used video games and action figures, old movie posters, costumes, manga, anime, and more. Many of the toys and electronics are used and nostalgia-inducing. It’s a great place to shop or simply pass the time perusing the shelves.
Nestled away in this busy entertainment district is the Mitsuhachimangu Shrine, which has been standing since 749. The name “Mitsu” means port, suggesting the sea once came inland up to the Shinto shrine. These days the grounds are surrounded not by water, but by the hip Amemura district. The shrine is the home of the guardian god of Minami, the south section of Osaka. This quiet shrine is particularly lovely in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom.
Mitsutera Temple is another holy site to take refuge in if you need a break from the rushed urban atmosphere of Shinsaibashi. Located just off the busy Midosuji street and surrounded by urban highrises, this temple is a sanctuary of tranquility. This temple was built in honor of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, founded in the 8th century in Koyasan, a venerated town south of Osaka.
Located to the west of Shinsabashi is Amerikamura, also known as Amemura. With its American-style boutiques and shops, international bars, and low prices, Amemura is a popular hangout spot for trendy youths who like Western fashion and pop culture. Rather than the big-name brands found in Shinsaibashi or Midosuji, Amemura has indie boutiques and thrift stores that give it its quirky and lively reputation. Flea markets are sometimes set up on weekends and there are often street performances. This makes this a fun place to visit and hang out to experience the fusion of Japanese and Western culture.
Alice on Wednesday is a great shop to grab some gifts and knick-knacks. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, the tiny entry door is only a meter tall. The interior reflects all the adventures that Alice experiences in Wonderland, including bottles labeled “drink me” and chocolates labeled “eat me”. “Would you dare try one in case you shrank to the size of a mouse or grew to the size of a giant?” The store is small, so be ready to queue to get in. It’s worth it to see childhood memories brought to life.
A night out in Japan is not complete without a little karaoke, and a nighttime excursion in Shinsaibashi just isn’t the same without a trip to Kama Sutra. This tiny but lively karaoke bar is a staple of the local nightlife scene. Customers sing together in one space, and you can choose from one of the over 130,000 songs while ordering a drink at the bar. The staff are extremely friendly and speak both Japanese and English.
Another way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of this crowded district is to stop at Cat of Liberty, a cute cat cafe and the first in the country. Customers pay by the hour to simply sit and drink coffee or tea with over a dozen furry friends. Cat treats and toys cost slightly extra. There are many types of cats to play with at this cafe, including a Sphinx cat and a giant Maine Coon. The atmosphere is very calming and both the staff and the animals are very friendly.
A tiny little bar among many in Shinsaibashi, rock bar Cherry Bomb stands out with its laid-back atmosphere and rock music scene. American owners Chris and Jesse originally started this place to fill the gap of rock music bars in the local bar scene, and it has since evolved into a gathering place for locals, expats, and travelers, where you can be sure to find English-speaking company. While they don’t have anything fancy in terms of drinks, with a respectable selection of ice-cold craft beers on tap, Cherry Bomb offers what is at the core of the best bars – a fun atmosphere, good music, and most importantly, great company.