The Osaka Loop Line is by far one of the easiest ways to travel around Osaka for a beginner, and you can use your JR Travel Pass to board the trains! It links a lot of the best tourist spots in the city, with access to slightly further out areas along the line also.
The layout of Osaka city isn’t quite a clear-cut-grid-design city like Kyoto. It was built around the Yodo River, with it’s many estuaries, as it enters into Osaka bay and the man made islands built into the bay. You can find yourself walking around the city then suddenly cut off from where you want to be by a stream heading towards the ocean. Its streets have been built on partially planned grids but can get a little confusing because of the rivers and the layout of the roads. Due to this, it can be much easier to take a train one or two stops, even if you want to walk and see the sights as a short 10-minute walk can turn into an hour-long diversion.
Around JR Umeda Station is a bustling part of the city where the train lines meet and are connected by a large station complex that runs underground. Osaka Hanshin and Osaka Hankyu have central stations all within sight of JR Umeda station. This place is often crowded but it is simple to follow the signs next to the station if transferring between lines.
There is plenty to do around this north area of Osaka, such as the largely famous department store Hep5. There is a giant red whale display in the entrance hall and has fashionable brands of clothes, cosmetics and jewellery. The department stores Daimaru and Lucua are at the exits on either end of JR Umeda station. Daimaru has the popular Pokemon Center store and a popular shop, Tokyu Hands to buy gifts. A further out walk leads you to Hankyu Station with its own famous department store, famous for having huge and wonderful window displays. In the other direction, Osaka Grand Front, which has large specialty stores such as the Panasonic Center and the Mercedes-Benz showroom. All of these departments stores have floors dedicated to delicious food and great restaurants. Further, from Osaka Grand Front is the Umeda Sky building, where great panoramic views of Osaka can be seen from the highest floors, and the Willer Bus service leaves from the ground floor.
The loop line doesn’t always stop directly at Universal Studios (USJ). From Umeda Station, it is possible to catch a train from the Loop Line platform straight to USJ, but fear not if you find yourself on the wrong train, as you can always hop off at Nishikujo, and catch the train bound for USJ. It usually has some bright print along the side of the carriages of a main attraction, such as Harry Potter or Hello Kitty. This route can be quite busy during peak times, so prepare to be squished into the train with many people.
The route to Namba is not quite as clear cut as other places, you do have to change to another line if you travel by JR along the Loop Line. At the Shin-Imamiya Station change onto the Yamatoji line to reach Namba JR station. All the stations are connected underground but it can be quite a long walk between each one when compared to how close they are near JR Umeda.
A much easier route between JR Umeda and Namba is the subway. From JR Umeda, you can enter the subway and take the Midosuji Line to the Namba Subway Station. It’s very well sign posted as well, so is very easy to find. It removes about 15 minutes from the journey and is only one train, but if you have the JR Travel pass you won’t be able to use it so make sure you buy a train ticket.
Once you get to Namba Station, it’s time to head to Dontonburi and start eating. The paths that run alongside the Dontonburi-Gawa Canal are lined with neon lights and signs. It’s easy to find something to eat as this part of Osaka is famous for being filled with restaurants. It is the very feeling of Osaka to wander the illuminated paths at night, with a full stomach and good company.
If you want to visit Osaka Castle then the station you need is directly on the Loop Line. Get off at Osakajokoen Station and you’ll be a short walk from Osaka Castle. It’s a very pleasant walk through the grounds, which is, even more, popular during the hanami, or cherry blossom season in spring. The castle has had major repair works done to it, this means the insides are now modernised and has easy access for everyone.
Despite Osaka Castle being famous for having beautiful blossoms during spring, there is another place if you want to see a great hanami festival. Get off the Loop Line at Sakuranomiya Station, and head for Sakuranomiya Park. A huge park that covers both sides of the river, known for having a stupendous 4,500 cherry blossom trees and hosting an incredibly busy viewing party in the spring months. The park is filled with families having BBQ’s, stores selling the most delicious foods, and, more importantly, the beautiful blossoms of thousands of trees.
Osaka Loop Line
If you visit Osaka, it will be inevitable to take the Loop Line at some point, especially if you want to see all of the city. Feel free to ask any of the staff members at any of the stations for advice if you are a little lost, they always try their hardest to help. These are just a few of the stations to visit on your journey to exploring all the magic that Osaka has to offer.
For more information on Osaka, check out the Osaka Info Website.
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