The spider web like system of subway and railway lines in Kansai converge at Osaka’s Umeda district, making it a potential headache for first time and repeat visitors alike. However JR Osaka Station makes an exception. It is easy to access the train platforms and the close-by shopping malls using its clearly posted signs and map guide in Japanese and English, making it a little easier to transfer amongst the various transit systems, whether you are heading to the JR, Hankyu, Hanshin Railway lines, the city subway or the local, intercity buses or taxis.
In Japan there has been a historical association between railway stations and department stores, as they are often owned by the same company, allowing commuters and late working office workers to pick up something before they head home. Osaka’s Umeda is similar to Kyoto, Ikebukuro or Shinjuku in this regard. JR Osaka has direct and covered access to its surrounding shopping areas, such as Eki Marche Osaka in the Umekita district, on the former site of GARE Osaka. It has everything you need, being a dining, entertainment, shopping and basic banking area. If you have a foreign sourced ATM card, make your way to Southern side of the station where the Central Post Office (open 9am to 7pm daily) or to a branch of the Citibank as most Japanese bank ATMs do not work with foreign cards.
Adjacent to Midosuji exit, Osaka Station City with more than 10-floor Lucua shopping malls gives you even more choices of local Japanese and international brands, like Beams, Journal Standard and Loft. Grand Front Osaka is only 5-minute walk away from the South exit and Daimaru Department Store is also right next to the South exit.
JR Osaka is biggest station in Kansai, and with over 2 million passengers using the Railway and Subway stations in the Umeda/ Osaka complex, it is also one of the busiest stations in the world. So if you are meeting someone here, be really clear where you want to meet, in case either of you get lost. The café at the lobby of the Hilton Hotel might be a better bet, as you can sit down and relax with a drink while you wait. Or you can try cafe X5 (Phone 06-6348-4611) in the Osaka Ekimae No 4 Forum Building, a five minute walk to the south.
JR Osaka is also only one station away from Shin-Osaka - a Shinkansen or bullet train station. It means that you can travel anywhere from Hokkaido to Kagoshima easily through Osaka.
Shin-Osaka is one of the stations valid for JR West Wide Pass, so you only have to take one station from JR Osaka station to Shin-Osaka in order to travel with the ultra-speed bullet trains. The JR West Wide Pass gives you free access to Okayama, while JR Rail Pass holders can take direct trains to Kagoshima in the South west, or Tokyo in the East.
If you are going to Kyoto, however, it is more convenient getting a direct train from Osaka rather than changing for a bullet train in Shin-Osaka. For example, if you are on Platforms 7 and 8 at 1 pm, you can catch a train to Shin Osaka, walk a long way to the bullet train gates, wait 13 minutes for the bullet train, and then arrive in Kyoto (non-stop) at 1:29. Or you can wait for the 1:02 pm Special Rapid service, arriving in Kyoto also at 1:29. The Special Rapid service departs at least once every 15 minutes, and if you don’t mind standing up with the locals, it will get you there just as quickly. You may do a double take when you get off at Kyoto station, as the steel and glass cathedral like structure is similar to that of Osaka.
Heading dead south from Osaka is the Midosuji local subway line, taking you to the Dontobori and Minami nightlife and entertainment district at Shinsaibashi. At Namba station you can connect with the Kintetsu Osaka Line, a privately owned railway line connecting Osaka and Mie Prefecture via Nara Prefecture, giving you an opportunity to explore a quieter side of Kansai.
Information about these sightseeing opportunities is available at the tourist information centre at the JR Station complex. The ticket machines and ticket information office are available from 5am to midnight for the easy purchase of tickets in Japanese or English.