Despite being Japan’s fourth-largest city, Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture is often off the radar for tourists, which is a real shame. Nagoya has a lot to offer, from historical sites to some of the best food in the country. It also has Osu, a fun and funky shopping district worthy of any Tokhoku itinerary.
Osu, located not far from Nagoya station on the Meijo and Tsurumai subway lines, is centered around Osu Kannon Temple. Any visit to the temple is not complete without a stroll around the many shops and restaurants. Together, the two share a long history of providing Nagoya’s cultural and entertainment center.
So whether you want to pick up some vintage fashions, check out retro console games or grab a bite to eat, it’s all here.
1. Eat all the food
Osu is jam-packed with street stalls selling all manner of foods, both Japanese—including some Aichi and Nagoya specialties—and foreign food. You could easily spend an afternoon just moving from stand to stand and trying everything on offer.
If you don’t have that kind of time, we recommend that you start with Enshidajipai at the Kamimaezu station end of the shopping area. It sells the kind of giant, flattened fried chicken you can find in Taiwan’s many night markets and it’s fantastic.
Other Osu snack highlights include banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches from Bep Viet, baked Taiwanese buns, called paozu, from Paopaotei (don’t forget the gyoza, too), and Korean kimbap and hotteok from Han-Madan. If you want something a little more substantial, sit down to a bowl of pho at Bep Viet, a doner kebab at one of the many Mega Kebab locations, or a plate of spit-roasted chicken at the fantastic Osso Brasil.
2. Shop all the clothes
Osu is like Tokyo’s Shibuya, Harajuku and Akihabara all rolled into one. We’ll talk about the Akiba similarities later on in the list. Still, if you’re looking for a Tokyo-style fashion experience, Osu is the place to go.
If you’re a fan of thrift shopping for furugi (used clothes), Osu has you covered. There are shops like Big Time and Small Change that focus on styles from the latter half of the 20th century, while others offer more recent fashions from overseas. For goth lolita types, check out the long-running Violet Blue.
Finally, you really have to check out some of the shops selling gaudy casual wear. Nagoyans have a long history of wearing flashy clothes. Although the trend seems to be dying out with the younger generations, middle-aged men with bleached hair have to get their leopard print shirts somewhere. And that somewhere is Osu.
3. Live your best otaku life
No matter your otaku passion or your oshikatsu (the idol or character you support), you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in Osu. Rivaling Akihabara and Osaka’s Nipponbashi as otaku centers of Japan, Osu has you covered.
If maids are your thing, or you’re just curious about the experience, you can check out the popular maid cafe chain Maidreamin, as well as some local, non-chain cafes. Head over to the multi-story Mandarake or the nearby Jungle for toy collectors. There are also shops for anime figures, retro video games, idol photos and even audio and computer components, echoing Akihabara’s early days as an electronics destination. Osu also hosts the World Cosplay Summit every summer.
4. Watch a clockwork puppet show
Banshoji Temple was built by Oda Nobuhide, the father of the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga. The temple now stands in the middle of Osu’s covered shopping area. It’s an incongruous sight among the shops and food stalls with its grand, twisting dragon statue and red torii gates. Head towards the back of the temple, though, to take in an unusual bit of Edo-era technology: a karakuri ningyo, or clockwork puppet, show.
After clocks were first imported to Japan in the 1600s, Japanese artisans used the technology to create automated mechanical puppets. Banshoji features a karakuri performance that tells the story of Oda Nobunaga throwing ashes at his father’s funeral rather than offering incense. It also depicts an older Nobunaga dancing. The show takes place every two hours throughout the day.
For another karakuri ningyo performance, visit Kannon Temple. This performance features Tokugawa Muneharu parading through Nagoya in his flashy, multicolored kimono.
5. Visit Osu Kannon Temple
Osu Kannon Temple is the anchor point of Osu. With its vermillion color and large, gabled roofs, it’s an excellent spot for photos as well as for contemplation. The temple was originally built in the Kamakura Period (1192-1333) located in nearby Gifu Prefecture. After Tokugawa Ieyasu succeeded in uniting Japan, he moved to Nagoya to join his recently completed Nagoya Castle. As a town expanded around Nagoya Castle, the shopping district developed around the newly relocated Osu Kannon Temple.
The temple’s name comes from its main object of worship, a wooden statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It was carved by Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered people in Japanese religion. The temple also houses a library that contains many rare texts. One of them is the oldest existing copy of the Kojiki, a chronicle of Japan’s founding, myths and early history.
Located next to Osu Kannon station, the temple makes a great way to begin or end your day at Osu.
Osu shopping area is in central Nagoya. Nagoya is located about halfway between Tokyo and Osaka on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. It makes a great stop on the way between the Kanto and Kansai region.
To reach Osu, get off at Nagoya station and transfer to the local subway line. Take the Higashiyama Line one stop to Fushimi station and then transfer to the Tsurumai line. The next stop is Osu Kannon station. Alternatively, you can ride one more stop and get off at Kamimaezu station for easier access to the main restaurant and food stall area.
Have you been to Osu? Were there any things that we missed? Let us know in the comments.