Nishinari is a ramshackle slum filled with ragtag vagrants and dangerous criminals — at least, that’s what the Osaka locals will have you think. Tourists, on the other hand, view it as a backpacker’s paradise packed with cheap hotels and Airbnbs conveniently positioned near tourist attractions like the Shinsekai area.
The reality is something else — a rundown but bustling district with heaps of character and a complicated history. Welcome to one of Osaka’s most fascinating, yet controversial, neighborhoods.
Nishinari is one of Osaka’s 24 wards. It’s located just south of Namba, a glitzy nightlife and shopping district geared towards tourism. Nishinari is essentially the opposite, characterized by an aging male population, faded storefronts, and dingy karaoke and pachinko joints. Day laborers, unable or unwilling to find steady work in the suit-and-tie world, have congregated in the area since 1898, seeking shelter in doya (cheap and often minimalist inns).
The front and back streets are still packed with doya, as well as lively local haunts and covered shopping arcades. Everything is ridiculously cheap with izakayas, grocery stores and even vending machines advertising prices much lower than Namba and the surrounding areas.
Restaurants serving filling meals for around ¥400 to ¥500 line the streets, and local supermarket Super Tamade offers boxed lunches for around ¥200. The supermarket also has a wacky system where select items are only ¥1 after you spend ¥1,000. Some hotels are even as cheap as ¥850 a night!
As such, Nishinari has become a sought after spot for tourists both trying to save money and looking for a glimpse into Osaka’s rougher and more authentic side. It’s an exciting place to simply wander, that is if you feel safe enough to do so.
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