August 08, 2012

Umeda, Osaka

While Namba is Osaka's old South, Umeda is the new North. Whereas Namba is defined by its slightly wacky landmarks - a giant crab, the Glico running man - Umeda keeps it classy, with the imposing Umeda Sky Building and red Hep Five Ferris Wheel against the skyline acting as the area's main symbols. The district is home to the world's third busiest train station, JR Osaka/Umeda Station, and contains a lot of office buildings, hotels, and department stores. It is polished, posh and full of people who walk around with purpose.
Umeda cityscape
Hep Five Ferris Wheel
I never used to like Umeda as much as Namba. The layout of the station was completely overwhelming, and I always felt bored, surrounded by suits and serious faces. Department stores have never been my shopping style, and Hep Five shopping mall, while a haven for young Osakan fashionistas, was a bit too expensive for my budget - although sometimes I would go and splash out on imported lollies from the Plaza store in the mall.
HEP Five shopping mall
After months of walking somewhat aimlessly around Umeda, I now have a list of favourite shops and places that make it worth visiting. Childhood shopping fantasies come in the form of Kiddyland, located in the underground Hankyu San Bangai. This store is two levels of cute, with sections dedicated to Hello Kitty, Disney, Snoopy, and the Rilakkuma Bear. Small Japanese children toddle around carrying their own shopping baskets while mothers follow behind looking defeated. Next we have the world's biggest Pokemon Centre, which is rather strangely located in the swanky Daimaru department store. Go from Prada on one floor, to Pikachu on the next...
Geeks at the Pokemon Center
Behind Hep Five is Don Quijote, the crazy discount warehouse chain store that has everything you need and everything you really don't need but really want. Like a dancing monkey that you plug into your iPod. It also has the most impressive range of candy, snacks and alcohol I have ever seen in my life. For reasonably priced electronics, on the other side of Hankyu Umeda Station is Yodobashi Camera, which is like Akihabara all rolled up into one monstrous store. There are also some clothes shops on the upper floors, including a huge Uniqlo, and a floor of restaurants.
Yodobashi Camera, Umeda
Umeda may be a well-to-do destination by day, but by night, you'll be pleased to know, all sorts of interesting things creep out from the shadows. A thriving gay district pops up in Doyama-cho, behind Hep Five. The neon glare of love hotel lights reveal themselves after dark. 'Information' shops, 'costume' shops, girls dressed as cheerleaders asking you to visit their 'restaurant'... they're all here, hidden within a long, covered shopping arcade called 'Higashi Dori'. I have other reasons for visiting this street though. The actual restaurants. Conveyor belt sushi, Okinawan style cooking, and best of all, all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue for 1000 yen.

Sometimes you gotta go off your own beaten track, and onto somebody else's.
Higashi dori, the most interesting street in Umeda


  1. I would have done a whole post on the Pokémon Center.

    1. That does not surprise me. But it wasn't that interesting, it's just a shop full of Pokemon toys. Though I suppose that's your ideal shop. =P

  2. Cool blog. I look forward to reading more before my 2 day visit to Osaka.

  3. visiting osaka now. will check out Umeda tmrrw thanks! hope they have shoes. mine died today.