Home to millions people, the city of Osaka, Japan has been an important economic centre for hundreds of years. Electronics giants Panasonic, Sharp and Sanyo are headquartered there, and the Osaka Securities Exchange is based in the city. For many visitors and residents, however, Osaka is known for its bustling and active nightlife. With a daytime population of 2.6 million that swells to over 3 million at night, the nightly goings on in this important economic hub are becoming legendary.
While almost all of Osaka offers great hotel accommodations, if it’s the nightlife you’re craving, there are a couple of areas you’ll want to frequent. Umeda and Namba have impressive club scenes that cater to foreign visitors in particular. Whether it’s clubs or pubs, dancing or drinks, locals or expats you’re hoping to find, Osaka has plenty to offer the nightlife-loving traveller.
“Gajin” is a Japanese word that means “foreigner,” and if you’re in Osaka on holiday — unless you’re fluent in Japanese — you’ll want to hit a gajin bar or club. Gajin bars don’t just serve tourists, and non-gajin bars are open to visitors, but the advantage of going to a gajin bar or club is in the ease of use. Because it’s used to catering to a diverse clientele, you’re more likely to find bartenders, cocktail waitresses and the like who speak English, and the other guests at a gajin bar are likely to be a cornucopia of people and personalities from all over the world, as well as locals who speak English.
The rise of the many excellent gajin bars and clubs is the reason Osaka’s nightlife is booming seven nights a week, especially in Umeda and Namba. One thing to keep in mind as you travel to Osaka is that the nightlife scene is in relatively frequent flux. What is hot and trendy one month may be less so the next, and bars and clubs pop up and disappear with surprising frequency. However, the changeover of clubs never seems to affect the overall number of them or the vast numbers of people out and enjoying them. Thankfully, there are also some pubs and clubs that can be counted on to continue to exist as time and parties roll on.
Namba and Umeda
Osaka’s Namba and Umeda districts span several square blocks each, and they are decked out in neon signs and well-dressed people, both day and night. The clubs and bars open early in the evening — in large part because some of the clubs and bars shut down as early as 1 a.m. Many of the bars and clubs aren’t at ground level, so the streets can sometimes seem eerily still for a city that’s rumoured to be constantly partying. Never fear, the city is hopping — it might just be hopping a few floors up from where you are. Here is a list of a few of the clubs and bars where a night in Osaka can be assuredly well spent:
- Sam & Dave’s. This club tends to have a higher cover charge, but once you’re inside the cocktails are large and generous. Filled with English speakers from England to India to the United States, it also has plenty of English-speaking locals who are interesting to interact with.
- Zerro. This club does not charge a cover fee, and except for Saturday nights, it tends to be a little on the tame side. If you’re travelling with a companion and would like to enjoy a night out that still includes conversation, this is the place for you.
- G2. A club that’s packed on the weekends and on Tuesdays, G2 has plenty of locals looking for a good time and gajins hoping to experience Osaka. The nightclub charges a cover, but it’s open until 5 a.m. There’s also a gentleman on a balcony who occasionally rains $15 dollar bills down on the club.
- Blarney Stone. An actual expatriate Irish bar, the Blarney Stone has plenty of beer and reasonably priced cocktails. They also have live music if you’re hoping to hear some U2 covers.
If you want to explore Osaka by night, the districts of Namba and Umeda are chock full of bars and clubs that cater to the visiting traveller. While the details of the scene can frequently change, the good times are available no matter where you end up. Whether you’re looking to dance the night away at a nightclub or take in some music at an Irish pub, you can party until almost dawn with people from all over the world.