Shinsekai, Osaka’s Window to the Past

Shinsekai was once built to be the most modern district in Japan. Located in the Minami Ward of Osaka, Shinsekai has a colorful 100-year history that can be felt when walking through the area. Located next to Tenshiba Park, just downtown of the city center, this spot can make for a fun night trip.

The History of Shinsekai

The district of Shinsekai is known throughout Japan for its cheap restaurants and interesting characters. The area was designated in 1912 as a modern area based on New York and Paris. A Luna Park amusement theme park operated in the district for 10 years in the 1910’s before it was shut down. The hot spring from the park is still operating today and is the last remaining part of the park still around.

After World War II, Shinsekai became a haven for the seedy underworld of Osaka. Home to legal and not-so-legal adult entertainment, the area was mainly for workers rebuilding Osaka to blow off steam in their off hours. This gave to a second rise of Shinsekai as a working man’s district filled with Japanese pubs, izakayas, hole-in-the-wall ramen restaurants, pachinko parlors and adult entertainment venues.

Overlooking Shinsekai is Tsutenkaku Tower, a large structure built in 1912. During its early years, a cable car ran above the rooftops to the tower, passing over Luna Park. In 1943, the tower sustained a large amount of fire damage and was mostly destroyed. The current tower was rebuilt in 1953 thanks to the people of Osaka lobbying the local government to restore the structure to its former glory.

Tsutenkaku Tower has an observation deck on its 4th and 5th floors at 90 meters above ground. The 5th floor has an outside rooftop with stunning unfiltered views of Osaka. The cost for the observation decks are 500 yen and is open from 10:00 AM every day, closing at 6:00 PM on weekdays and 8:00 PM on weekends and public holidays.

The Retro Aesthetic of Osaka Shinsekai

Osaka Shinsekai was once called the most dangerous district in Japan, with the Lonely Planet guidebooks warning tourists about visiting. From the 1950’s to 1980’s, the area grew rapidly thanks to the establishments inside it and its reputation as a poor man’s play area.

From the 1980’s to 2000’s, the area came to a complete, untouched, standstill, with nothing evolving or changing. This caused an influx of visitors wanting to experience Showa-era Osaka.

The low-cost eateries and more seedier establishments in Osaka Shinsekai are slowly dying out as more cosmopolitan spots have opened up. The seedy parts are still located within the area, they’re just not as widespread as they used to be. If you’d like to experience real Showa-era Osaka, don’t miss out on this chance to visit before it’s too late.

Do note that a lot of the adult entertainment establishments are only available to those who can speak Japanese, or are Japanese looking. So, if you’re looking to partake and if you’re not a local (or local-looking), you might get turned away at the door.

Accessing the Shinsekai District

The Shinsekai district is located in the downtown area of Osaka. The easiest way to get there is to take the Osaka Loop Line from Osaka Station to Shin-Imamiya Station, it only costs 180 yen and takes less than 25 minutes. As the Loop Line is run by JR, the Japan Rail Pass will work on the line, making it cheaper for you to get there.

From the stations east exit, you’ll instantly see where you need to go in the Shinsekai district by the retro looking signs that look like they’re from the film ‘Akira’. It’s about a 10-minute walk to get to the center of the district, where you’ll get to take in all the sights on the way.

Spot information

  • Spot name: Shinsekai
  • Street address: 2-1 Ebisu Higashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka 556-0002
  • Access: A 5-minute walk from Shin-Imamiya Station on the Osaka Loop Line