A Guide to Osaka’s Shin-Sekai Area – Sightseeing, Eating Kushi-Katsu and more –
Enveloped in a working class vibe, Shin-Sekai is a retro district that you should not miss when you go sightseeing in Osaka. This article introduces some of the best spots around Shin-Sekai that you have to see!
What is the Shin-Sekai Area?
Shin-Sekai (literally meaning “New World”) is an area south of Osaka City where the deep Osaka culture remains intact, with unique views such as the Tsutenkaku tower and the huge fugu (puffer fish) lantern. This area entered the public consciousness after hosting the National Industrial Exhibition in 1903 to showcase the latest technologies in Japan and abroad at that time. It also the origin of restaurants serving kushi-katsu (deep-fried breaded meat and vegetable skewers) that are everywhere in Osaka now. There is no designated train station for Shin-Sekai, but you can get there by walking 5-10 minutes from Shin-Imamiya Station of the JR-Nankai Electric Railway or the Dobutsuen-mae Station or Ebisucho Station on the Osaka subway. It is a 10-minute train ride from Namba Station, the location of Osaka’s famous sightseeing spot Dotonbori, as well as from Nipponbashi Station. You can fill your entire day exploring this area, as the whole of Shin-Sekai is packed with must-see spots, such as Tennoji Zoo and ABENO HARUKAS.
The large tower called Tsutenkaku can be considered as the symbol of the Shin-Sekai area. Here, you will be able to enjoy not only a special observation deck offering a panoramic view of the Osaka townscape, but also such sights as a golden statue of the god of good luck known as Billiken, which was brought from the U.S. in the 1900s, and Luna Park Diorama, where you can experience the city's atmosphere from 100 years ago. Luna Park Diorama is open daily throughout the year from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, with visitors allowed to enter until 8:30 PM. If you happen to visit after its business hours at night, then you might want to walk to an area that is a little far from Tsutenkaku and enjoy the gorgeous night view of Tsutenkaku from the ground! The sight of the colorful lights of Tsutenkaku and the bright neon kanji billboards will make you feel like you are in a futuristic film where different cultures are fused together.
Entrance fee: Adult - 700 JPY
If you feel tired from all the walking in your trip, head over to SpaWorld to enjoy onsen (hot spring bath) from around the world. The baths are divided into two major zones - the Asian Zone and European Zone (at any time one of the zones will men-only and the other will be women-only, with them swapping gender designations each month). There are 7-8 baths in each zone. The Asian zone houses the Japanese open-air bath, as well as the Islamic stone bath and others. Meanwhile, the European zone has an ancient Roman bath, Atlantis bath, and a Greek medicinal bath for you to enjoy. These baths from different countries will make you feel like you traveled around the world when you’re done soaking in them! There is also a stone sauna and pool, so you can bring the whole family. Another great thing about SpaWorld is that it is open 24 hours a day, which means that you will be able to visit this spa whenever you suddenly have an opening in your Osaka itinerary!
Entrance fee: Adult - 2,700 JPY (incl. tax), but an additional 1,300 JPY (incl. tax) will be added as late night charge when you visit between 12:00 AM and 5:00 AM
The Shin-Sekai area is home to quite a few shrines and temples, such as the Shin-Sekai Inari Jinja shrine that is famous for its roulette-style o-mikuji (fortune slip) that is made from stone. However, if you are someone who wants to visit a proper shrine or temple then you have to check out Isshin-ji! Also called “o-kotsubotoke no tera” (temple of the bone Buddha), this temple enshrines a Buddha statue made of bones placed in the crypt. Some other attractions of this temple that tourists love are the Sanmon (main temple gate) that has a modern design, and the bronze statues of Nio-zo (two guardian Deva Kings) that make for a great photogenic spot. Further, you can pray for love at the Jizo statue for good relationships and for the power to break free from alcohol addiction at the grave of Honda Tadatomo (a military commander during the Warring States period), so try it if you’re curious! This temple is also filled with lush nature, and is a popular spot for viewing sakura (cherry blossoms). If you come in spring, you just might see the sakura in full bloom. The vast temple grounds are open, so take a walk and explore!
4. Smartball New Star
Located just a 3-minute walk from Tsutenkaku, Smartball New Star is a retro game arcade for adults where you can play games from as little as 100 JPY. When you enter, sit on your favorite game machine and put in 100 JPY. When you do, 25 balls will come out, and you need to hit these balls with the designated lever toward the holes with 5 and 15 written on them. When a ball gets into a hole, the number of that ball will appear, and the rule is that if you get 20 points or more, you can exchange your points for prizes. The arcade is overflowing with a retro vibe thanks to the echoing “gasshan” (banging) sounds of the balls. While this seems like a game that even children could play, please note that those under the age of 18 are prohibited by law from entering this establishment.
5. Janjan Yokocho
If you want to fully experience the shitamachi (working-class) atmosphere, then you should check out Janjan Yokocho! Found in the eastern side of Ebisu-higashi Sanchome in Osaka City’s Naniwa Ward, Janjan Yokocho is a 180m long shopping street that is officially known as Nanyo-dori Shotengai. It got its name from the “janjan” sound of the shamisen, a Japanese three-stringed lute that is used by drinking establishments in the area to attract customers. This street is packed with Osaka-style restaurants where you can sample the town’s popular dishes for reasonable prices. In particular, you should try the delicious kushi-katsu, mixed juice (sweet juice made from fruit juice and milk), and udon (thick noodles)! This is a great place to prepare for your sightseeing activities while dining at an interesting restaurant and soaking in a retro Japanese atmosphere.
6. Shin-Sekai’s Specialty Kushi-Katsu Is a Must!
While kushi-katsu is firmly established as an Osaka delicacy these days, it actually originated from Shin-Sekai. The Shin-Sekai area is filled with restaurants serving tasty kushi-katsu, and below are some of the famous restaurants that are especially loved by locals and visitors alike. Please try one of these locations if you want to try out kushi-katsu for yourself!
If you feel like eating Osaka’s special kushi-katsu in the Shin-Sekai area, then you should consider going to Yokozuna. While kushi-katsu is generally comes in easy-to-eat sizes, the most recommended dish at Yokozuna is the jumbo Yokozuna Kushi-Katsu (480 JPY (excl. tax)) that boasts a size five times bigger than the usual size of kushi-katsu. By all means, take on the challenge of eating this dish! Aside from kushi-katsu, this restaurant also serves Chanko Nabe (1,600 JPY (excl. tax)), a dish of vegetables, seafood, meat and other ingredients stewed in a pot that is often eaten by sumo wrestlers, for this restaurant is named “Yokozuna” (the highest rank in sumo wrestling) after all! Yokozuna's menu is filled with a wide array of Japanese dishes, including sushi and udon, and this restaurant is a good choice for those who want to try various Japanese foods in a single restaurant.
Daruma Shin-Sekai Sohonten
A famous kushi-katsu restaurant with more than 10 branches in Osaka and several branches overseas, Daruma is a well-established eating establishment that is also frequented by foreign tourists. The Sohonten (main branch) is where Daruma began. It was founded in 1929 and is still beloved these days for offering the flavors that represent the working class of Osaka. At Daruma, a stick of kushi-katsu is priced from 105 JPY (excl. tax). It is recommended that as your first order you get the O-toku na Set (great-value meal) (prices start at 930 JPY (excl. tax) for eight kinds of kushi-katsu) that will let you taste different kushi-katsu flavors all on one plate. Plop that freshly fried kushi-katsu in the special sauce, and you will fall in love with the perfect balance between the special sauce and the breading.
Yaekatsu is an extremely popular restaurant in Janjan Yokocho that has an endless line of customers outside its doors. Inside the restaurant, there is a vibrant ambience created by the staff and customers, and the liveliness and atmosphere of its counter seats-only setup is fantastic. There are around 30 kinds of kushi-katsu available at all times, priced for as low as 100 JPY per stick – from the classic kushi-katsu (300 JPY for three sticks of beef kushi-katsu), up to shrimp and other seafood, and vegetables. The kushi-katsu is properly drained of oil and the coating is always fresh, so you can eat as much as you want. Another specialty of this restaurant is the Dote-yaki (300 JPY for three pieces), a dish that is made by stewing been beef tendon in miso for a long time. Yaekatsu is a good choice for those who want to experience the deep vibe of Shin-Sekai to their heart’s content.
Marked by the huge octopus artwork sitting on top of the restaurant, Aji no Daimaru is a place where you can eat kushi-katsu and Osaka’s other famous specialty, takoyaki (octopus dumpling). At this store, kushi-katsu is priced from 108 JPY (incl. tax) per stick, and you can order just one stick if you want! Even the desserts are served on sticks, such as the Baumkuchen (162 JPY (incl. tax)), Banana (162 JPY (incl. tax) and Ice Cream (162 JPY (incl. tax)). You can also try making takoyaki by ordering the Takoyaki Taiken Plan (1,080 JPY (incl. tax) per person) (reservation required). Everyone from children to adults will surely enjoy the original way of making takoyaki! There is also a kids’ space inside this massive restaurant, so it is perfect for those who want to bring along young children.
This article featured some of the most popular spots Shin-Sekai area, which is one of the main locations for sightseeing in Osaka. Even if you walk aimlessly you will definitely find many interesting spots to visit, so try to set aside at least half of your day for exploring Shin-Sekai!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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