Photo:jpellgen on Flickr

Shop ‘Til You Drop: Bargain Hunting in Osaka

Since I moved to Osaka a little over 2 years ago, I’ve often been fascinated by how many similarities this great city has to the city of my birth, Glasgow, Scotland.

It’s not just the rough accent, the wild sense of humour, or the love of good food and drink. These days Glasgow and Osaka share another passion. Shopping.

Photo: Allan Donque on Flickr

Glasgow, a much maligned city in central Scotland, has long been synonymous with social degradation, poor health and sectarian prejudice. However, in the last ten years or so, it has emerged as a retail hub, reinventing itself to become the UK’s second most popular shopping venue outside of London.

Like its Scottish counterpart, Osaka also has something of a downtrodden image to those from other parts of Japan, but now things look to be very much on the up. In recent years the cities major commercial centres of Tennoji, Namba and Umeda have all undergone major refurbishment and rejuvenation. Today such landmarks as Namba Parks, Osaka Grand Front and Abeno Harukas (Japan’s tallest commercial building) offer great views over the entire city. These days, an increasing number of those who come for the view tend to stay around a little longer: for the shopping!!

Photo: meridican on Flickr

Whether its luxury goods from the department store, quaint antiques from the market, or high technology from one of the many electronics showrooms, Osaka has something for everyone.

Let’s begin in Umeda. Just a brief 5 to 10 minute train ride from Shin Osaka Station, will bring you to Umeda, home of Osaka Station.

Photo: soho on Flickr

As soon as you disembark the train, you’ll be presented with a variety of shopping choices. It can be as exciting as it is disorientating. The famous Department store Hankyu and Hanshin are both located just outside the main station building. In these stores you will find the finest fashions, home appliances and soft furnishings, as well as a huge selection of fine foods and jewellery. Each of these stores has around 10 floors of content, so if you’re a serious shopper, make sure you set aside at least a couple of hours to cover these two landmark stores.

Photo: GORIMON on Flickr

Once you’ve finished, head back through the main corridor of JR Osaka Station, on the other side, you will find two more shopper’s paradises: The huge glass-fronted twin towers of Grand Front Osaka and the technological mecca that is Yodobashi Camera. Opened in 2013 Grand Front Osaka is a retail project several years in the making. This new addition to the Umeda Skyline has already become something of an iconic locale. The first 6 floors comprise some of the best high-class shopping in the Kansai region, with everything from home electronics and moderately priced clothes, to bookstores and coffee shops.

Photo by m-louis .® on Flickr.

You can also enjoy fine dining on the 7th and 8th floors, with a variety of restaurants, cafes and casual bars catering to all tastes.

Photo: takosaka on Flickr

Once you’re done with lunch, why not head up to the 9th floor to enjoy the amazing views of the rooftop gardens. A popular dating site for young lovers in Osaka, it has even been the site of one or two marriage proposals in recent months. Indeed with such a spectacular skyline as the backdrop, it would take someone especially hard-hearted to say no.

With Grand Front out of the way, a short 5 minute walk back towards Osaka Station will bring you to Yodobashi Camera. Whilst it may not be the cheapest, Yodobashi does offer possibly the widest selection of moderately priced electronics in Osaka. If you time it right, you can certainly pick up some bargains in the seasonal sales.

Photo: Toshiyuki IMAI on Flickr

Next, let’s head down to Namba. Namba may not quite have the glamour of Umeda, but it can certainly stand toe to toe with its classier companion in the bargain-hunting stakes.

Regular shoppers in Japan will be familiar with the delights of Takashimaya Department Store, and the Osaka branch is no different. This multi-storied shopper’s paradise has all you would expect from one of Japan’s most popular department store chains.

Photo: inefekt69 on Flickr
Photo: Toshiyuki IMAI on Flickr

Just beyond Takashimaya, you will also find Namba Parks, undoubtedly one of Japan’s most elegant and beautifully laid out shopping malls.

This magnificent structure has the usual assortment of stores and shops, but it also has two floors of restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes. There’s also a multiplex cinema where you can unwind after a hard day’s shopping as well as a stunning rooftop garden. I particularly recommend visiting here in the winter time. The music and light show that spans across the entirety of the rooftop is guaranteed to put even the staunchest scrooge into the Christmas spirit.

If you’re more interested in the bargains than the bourgeois however, then a 10 minute walk from Namba Parks will take you to Nippombashi. Often given the label of “Osaka’s Akihabara” this collection of small streets has enough anime, video game and electronic stores to satisfy even the most ardent Otaku. You’ll find none of the glitz and the glamour of Namba Parks or Osaka Grand Front here, but what you will find is some of the cheapest second hand electronics in Japan.

I can testify to this, as last year I was lucky enough to pick up a 40” LCD TV for a little under 20,000 yen (200 USD).

But of course not retail road trip of Osaka would be complete without a trip to Tennoji to take in the delights of Abeno Harukas. I have already discussed the pleasures of Japan’s tallest commercial building in a previous post, so I won’t bore you by repeating myself. However, what I didn’t mention was the bargains that can be had in the adjoining Kintetsu department store, and the adjacent “Cues Mall”.

Photo: Guilhem Vellut on Flickr

Tennoji is pretty much the physical embodiment of Osaka’s retail revival. Previously seen as place for sleazy bars, love hotels and gangster types, Tennoji is now fast becoming one of the trendiest and most visited retail districts in Osaka. It may lack the high end glamour of Umeda, or the cheap practicality of Nipponbashi, but for those of us who just want to enjoy a bit of casual shopping, Tennoji is hard to beat.

As you can see, there’s plenty of good shopping to be had all across Osaka. Just don’t forget your wallet! Enjoy shopping!

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