This is Dōtonbori in Osaka, the centre of Osaka nightlife for the foreigner and many Japanese people.

Osaka nightlife
A look at the Osaka nightlife, looking down the Dotonbori river.

The first stop in experiencing Osaka nightlife

Hunt down an Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki bar somewhere around Dotonbori. Just ask around, ask someone “okonomiyaki wa doko desu ka?”. These places are usually very small, but very friendly. When you find one, order an okonomiyaki and if you like, “nama” or “biru” (beer in Japanese).

Inside an Osaka Okonomiyaki/Takoyaki bar
Inside an Osaka Okonomiyaki/Takoyaki bar in Dotonbori

After you have had your meal, head out and find some local bars or clubs in Dotonbori.

See the sights of Osaka

Within a short stroll from Dotonbori is Namba, and the iconic Namba Hips building…

Namba Hips
The Namba Hips building is a landmark of the Osaka nightlife

All around Namba and Dotonbori are many bars, you can usually find them by their streets signs or the building directory, or just by simply seeing it from the street. Just be careful, if the sign says something about girls then it is probably a hostess bar. A hostess bar is a place where girls that work at the bar are very flirty and usually very cute. However whenever you buy a drink, they are also paid for that drink so effectively you are paying double. Plus there is usually an entry fee of around 3000 Yen.

Bar Nine, Osaka Hostess Bar street sign
Street sign for one of the many Japanese hostess bars in Osaka

Bar Nine’s website.

Walk along the Dotonbori river, and head towards the bright lights. You will see a massive Glico man sign illuminated. Around the bridge here, there is always something happening, many restaurants and bars and always lots of fun.

Within 5 minutes from Dotonbori is the suburb of Shinsaibashi, during the day there is lots of shopping and a night there

Find a gaijin (foreigner) bar

Something really fun to do is find a gaijin bar, where there is usually a few Japanese locals who are really keen to try out their English. If you don’t speak much Japanese, and want to experience some fun Osaka nightlife, make friends with some Japanese locals who are friendly and speak a little English. Challenge them to a game of darts…

Electronic dart board game at Coolabah in Osaka
Electronic dart board games are really popular in Japan, and a great way to meet locals.

Dotonbori gaijin bar

The best gaijin bar I visited in Osaka is called Coolabah, it has darts, regular events and usually a few friendly locals. Even if you’re not an Aussie or a Kiwi, check it out it’s a great place. As far as Dotonbori gaijin bars go, this was one of the friendliest.

Dotonbori gaijin bar for Osaka nightlife
This gaijin (foreigner) bar, Coolabah, is a great Australian themed and owned bar in Dotonbori, Osaka.

Visit the Coolabah’s website for more information and directions.

For accommodation, see my post about The Best Capsule Hotel in Osaka.

Getting to Osaka

From outside Japan: Flights to Osaka

If you’re outside Japan (and most of you are!) you can book flights to Osaka direct. My first trip to Japan was actually from Gold Coast, Australia to Osaka.

From inside Japan: Domestic travel

Being the second biggest city/metro area in Japan, and connected to Tokyo by the most travelled shinkansen (bullet train) route in the country, if you are already in Japan a great way to get there (and make the most of your time) is to take the bullet train.

You can check shinkansen timetables and costs and then buy a ticket from most JR stations and many travel agents.

Willer Express is one of the few bus companies offering a booking system in English. I’ve travelled with them a few times and they are really cheap.