Dominated by the unique architecture of the Sky Building and the huge Ferris wheel on top of the HEP Five Shopping Center, Umeda is home to towering skyscrapers, traditional shopping arcades and a seemingly infinite number of bars and restaurants. The main entertainment and shopping districts are to the east and south of the JR Osaka Station and Hankyu Osaka Station complex.
You can’t leave Japan without having experienced the strange mix of elegance, fashion and chaos that is the Japanese department store, and Hankyu, Hanshin and Daimaru are all worth a visit. For a glimpse of the wild world of Japanese youth fashion and culture, head to HEP Five.
The Umeda Sky Building is an architectural marvel; its floating garden on the top floor gives you excellent views of the entire city. Kinokuniya has an excellent selection of books in English, and there is a large Tower Records in the basement of the Maru Building. Yodobashi Camera offers electronics at bargain prices.
What Umeda lacks in tourist attractions, it more than makes up for in restaurants and bars. There’s excellent Japanese cuisine to be had at Koi no Shizuku. You-Ya serves up tasty Korean food, and if you’d like to try some delicious kaiseki ryori [small, delicate servings of sashimi, grilled fish, tempura, rice and beef], Kiccho is one of the finest luxury restaurants in Japan. If you fancy something a bit more Western, try The Outback Grill. Many tourists don’t realize that a good proportion of Japan’s best restaurants are located on the top floors of department stores, so heading to the upper reaches of Daimaru, the Hankyu Grand Building or Yodobashi Camera is another way to find good food.
For drinks, the Wine Bar on the 29th floor of the Hankyu Grand Building offers nice views of the city. Sam and Dave Umeda – which, as their slogan says, is “always a little wild” – should not be missed. The Blarney Stone, meanwhile, serves up a slice of Ireland, complete with Guinness on tap and live music aplenty. Not far from HEP Five, Physique Pride is a popular gay bar (and women are welcome, too!).
The stylish, four-story Danceteria Saza*e offers different DJs and music on every floor. For live music, featuring some of the biggest names in jazz, soul, blues and hip-hop, go to the Osaka Blue Note.
The Hilton Osaka and the Ritz-Carlton hotels offer the ultimate in luxury accommodation, while the Hotel New Hankyu, Hotel Hankyu International and Osaka Tokyu Hotel have rooms that, while less expensive, are nonetheless excellent.