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5 Spots in Osaka Every Photographer Should Know

Aiming to get that perfect shot while in Osaka but don’t know where to start? Check out these popular photo spots.

By 5 min read

Though often overlooked in favor of Tokyo, Osaka is becoming a more popular destination for photography. With a grittier and more retro atmosphere than Tokyo and home to the best foodie scene in Japan, it isn’t hard to see why.

There are many excellent photo spots in Osaka besides those you commonly see online, of course, and photography encourages enthusiasts to be creative, finding unique spots and subjects. But an image search of Osaka will bring up just a few of the same places over again. Some spots are so iconic that they simply cannot be missed; every photographer should have a shot of them in their portfolio.

Here are the five most iconic photo spots in Osaka that every photographer should know.

1. Shinsekai

Enter the new world.

This retro neighborhood contains what is the most well-known view in Osaka. At night, the neon lights of Tsutenkaku Tower and the street leading up to it have elicited comparisons to the 80’s dystopian world of Blade Runner. Even during the day, the brightly-colored lanterns and ornaments evoke a nostalgic, campy, festive atmosphere. The view of the street leading to the tower is a must-visit photo spot for photographers.

Shinsekai, meaning “new world,” was developed in 1912 as a futuristic neighborhood but neglected for decades. The neighborhood’s southern half mimics Coney Island in New York, while the northern half, including Tsutenkaku Tower, was modeled after Paris. The original Tsutenkaku Tower resembled the Eiffel Tower but was torn down during WWII. The current tower was built in 1956 and was designed by the same man who designed the Sapporo TV Tower.

Today, besides its iconic view, Shinsekai is well-known for its kushikatsu, an Osaka specialty of deep-fried skewers, and many restaurants open 24 hours a day. After getting that perfect Shinsekai shot, there is plenty else to enjoy in this old-new world.

2-5-1 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka - Map
Nearest train station: Ebisu-cho
Admission: Free
Hours: Open 24 hours

2. Osaka Castle Park

Where nature and history combine.

Osaka Castle’s striking appearance, with a green roof contrasting white walls and glimmering gold ornamentation, makes it an excellent photo subject. A park surrounds it and sits elevated on a hill, making it easy to focus on from anywhere in the castle park and giving it a seasonal background. In the spring, the castle park is in full bloom back to back, with plum blossoms in February and cherry blossoms at the end of March, and is one of the most popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots in Osaka. During summer, the castle is surrounded by lush greenery that turns to colorful foliage in the autumn.

The current Osaka castle is actually a reconstruction dating to 1931 and underwent major renovations in 1997. Its ferroconcrete structure makes it much sturdier than the original wooden castles of Japan, like the previous versions of Osaka Castle, which led to short lives. Construction of the original castle began in 1583 under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, but in 1615, it was destroyed by Tokugawa troops. It was rebuilt a few years later but then burnt down after being struck by lightning in 1665. Thankfully, the current sturdy castle is designed to be enjoyed for a long time.

1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka - Map
Nearest train stations: Osakajokoen and Morinomiya
Castle admission: ¥600
Hours: Open 24 hours (park) Castle: 9 A.M.–5 P.M.

3. Dotonbori Canal

A photo with the Glico man is a must.

Dotonbori is famous for its neon lights and illuminated signboards alongside the Dotonbori Canal. The most iconic sign is the Glico man, an advertisement for the food company that makes Pocky, which features a man running along a racetrack. Standing on the Dotonbori bridge facing east towards the signs is the most attractive photo spot, but there are plenty of other places along the canal to get good photos. The best time to go is at night when the area is awash in neon light, but Dotonbori during the day is still vibrant and bustling and worthy of a few shots.

Dotonbori has been a popular entertainment district for about 400 years. The canal’s construction began in 1612 by canal administrator Nariyasu Doton. After he died in the Siege of Osaka, the new lord of Osaka Castle named the canal “Dotonbori,” bori meaning “canal.” In the following decades, the area became popular as an entertainment district with theaters and restaurants. Today, the area is a busy shopping area and remains one of Osaka’s most popular food districts, with some restaurants staying open 24 hours.

1-Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka - Map
Nearest train station: Namba
Admission: Free
Hours: Open 24 hours

4. Umeda Sky Building Escalators

Don’t look down.

One of the best places to photograph in Osaka is an escalator. Yes, you read that correctly. Leading up to the Kushu Teien Observatory at the top of the Umeda Sky Building is a spectacular pair of escalators. The Umeda Sky Building consists of two towers connected at the top floors, and the escalators take visitors from one tower up to the observatory. The futuristic escalators are in their windowed capsules between the towers, so riding the escalator up to the observatory feels like ascending to the heavens.

After riding up the escalator, visitors can check out the views of Osaka that the observatory affords. It is constructed in a donut shape designed to offer a 360-degree view of Osaka atop the building’s 170 meters and is an open-air space. Though exhilarating, the winds can be strong, so visitors must secure their hats and umbrellas before stepping out onto the observatory. Despite the panoramic view, though, ironically, the escalators meant to lead you to the observatory are the real attractive photo spot.

1-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka - Map
Nearest train station: Umeda
Admission: Free for the escalators, ¥1,500 for the observatory
Hours: 9:30 A.M.–10:30 P.M.

5. Namba Yasaka Shrine

Unlike any shrine you’ve seen before.

Osaka doesn’t have the most grand shrines and temples, but this one is unlike any other in Japan. The small shrine is home to Namba’s guardian deity, and its main draw is a massive lion-shaped stage. This unique structure feels traditional and retro, appropriate for its city. The stage is believed to swallow evil spirits at 12 meters tall and seven meters deep, leaving only good luck. It was built in 1975 and stands next to a traditional shrine building. Most of the original shrine complex was destroyed in wartime air raids, so the current buildings are reconstructions.

Located a short walk from the busier areas of Namba, Namba Yasaka Jinja is a great photo spot to visit at any time and offers a quiet refuge from the chaos of Namba. One particularly good time to visit is the shrine’s annual festival on the third Sunday in January when a big Tug-of-War competition is held to celebrate the shrine’s deity killing a giant serpent god and thus bringing peace to the people of Japan.

2-9-19 Motomachi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka - Map
Nearest train station: Namba
Admission: Free
Hours: 9 A.M.–5 P.M.
What are your favorite photo spots in Osaka? Would you like to share any secret spots where other photographers can get great photos? Let us know in the comments!

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