Sitting on a sheltered bay, Osaka flourished as a commercial center during the Edo period (1603–1868) and still hosts the headquarters of many of Japan’s digital companies. It’s no surprise the country’s first robot (and the selfie stick) originated here.
Curious? Here the experts at Conrad Osaka deliver a locals-only guide that brings you the best of the switched-on city.
The zippy neighborhood of Nipponbashi Den Den Town is full of stores where you’ll find the latest gadgets as well as electrical equipment and computer parts.
The downtown Umeda district, anchored by the robot-esque Umeda Sky Building (1-1 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward), is home to many of Japan’s flagship department stores such as Hankyu and Daimaru, as well as Yodobashi Umeda (1-1 Ofukacho, Kita Ward), a 13-storey mall of which six stories are dedicated to camera equipment.
Other Osakan shopping highlights include Amerikamura, the meeting point of Japanese and American culture. This shopping district is full of tiny vintage fashion stores, vinyl record shops and even a mini Statue of Liberty. Or there’s Kuromon Market (2 Chome-3-2 Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward), testament to Osaka’s heritage as the “nation’s kitchen,” with stalls flogging homewares, wholesale fish and toys. It’s best for a stroll first thing in the morning, stopping to feast on fresh sushi at the tiny market shacks.
Osaka’s freewheeling spirit is encapsulated in its spectacular green-and- white tiered castle (osakacastle.net). Built by regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583 (although the current iteration was rebuilt in 1928), the landmark is set within a groomed park, which come fall is flush with gorgeous leaves.
A 10-minute walk from the Conrad Osaka is the National Museum of Art (4-2-55 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku). This underground gallery, flanked by a metal crown, is dedicated to prints and Japanese paintings. Nearby is the Osaka Science Museum (4-2-1 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku), with an Imax-wide planetarium.
Osaka’s new Festival City area, where the Conrad Osaka opened in summer 2017, has turned the former sandbar of Nakanoshima into an art hub. The refurbished Festival Hall and newly opened Kosetsu Museum of Art are joined by smart cafés and restaurants in the Festival Plaza area (2 Chome-3-28 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku).
As the sun sets, Osaka’s tech crowd avoids the busy Dotonbori shopping strip (though they might stop across the river to snap the iconic Glico Man sign—made with more than 140,000 LEDs). Instead, they’re heading to the Ura Namba neighborhood. This late, late-night zone behind Namba Station is a warren of tiny bars and “izakayas,” ideal for a Kirin beer-fueled bar hop.
For a nightcap, there’s the Conrad Osaka’s swaggering lobby bar, 40 Sky Bar & Lounge, which does possibly the most Osakan drink: Takoyaki in the Sky. A gin and blue curaçao cocktail that’s finished with a takoyaki ball (a local street snack made with octopus) balanced delicately on top.
Conrad Osaka is best described with adjectives like “slick” and “cosmopolitan.” The lobby has the city’s best views across the skyscrapers of downtown, and there’s a heavy focus on art: check out the white bubbles of Kyoto artist Kohei Nawa as you walk to check-in, as well as Matsuo Takahiro’s shimmering curtain of crystal shards. With a subtle nod to Osaka’s past, the hotel’s 154 rooms blend traditional Japanese design elements with a contemporary aesthetic; its urban edge undeniably connected with the bustling city below.