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Orientation

Despite its size, Osaka is easier for English speakers to get around than other large Japanese cities because there are lots of English-language signs and information. The exception is Osaka Station, used for JR trains, and its adjoining Umeda Station, used by subway lines and private railway lines Hankyu and Hanshin. Underground passages and shopping arcades complicate navigation; there's no escaping -- you will get lost. When exploring by foot, it helps to know that most roads running east and west end in "dori," while roads running north and south end in "suji," which means "avenue."

Getting Around

Transportation Passes -- If you think you'll be traveling a lot by subway on a given day, consider purchasing a 1-Day Pass (Ichinichi-Joshaken) for ¥850, which allows unlimited rides on subways and buses all day. On the 20th of each month (or on the following day if the 20th falls on a Sun or holiday) and every Friday, this pass (nicknamed No-My-Car-Day) costs just ¥600 and offers slight discounts to several attractions.

For sightseeing, there's the Osaka Unlimited 1-Day Pass, which costs ¥2,000 and allows unlimited rides on subways, city buses, and private railways in Osaka plus free entrance to 25 attractions, including Osaka Castle, Floating Garden Observatory, Shitennoji Temple, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, and Osaka International Peace Center.

If you're a visitor to Japan, you're also entitled to the Osaka Unlimited 2-Day Pass for ¥2,700, valid for travel on subways and buses and providing the same free admission as the 1-Day pass but for 2 days; for this you must show your passport. Passes are available at the Osaka Visitors' Information Centers and at the Osaka Municipal Transportation Access office in Namba.

For trips outside Osaka, the Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai; www.surutto.com) allows foreigners (you must show your passport) to ride subways, private railways (no JR trains), and buses throughout Kansai, including Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, and Mount Koya, with a 2-day pass costing ¥3,800 and a 3-day pass costing ¥5,000. It's available at the KIX Travel Desk (first floor international arrivals) or at the Visitor Information Centers in Osaka, but you'd have to do quite a bit of traveling to make this worthwhile.

By Subway

Osaka's user-friendly subway network is easy to use because all lines are color-coded and the station names are in English (even English-language announcements are on many lines). Lines run from about 5am to midnight. The red Midosuji Line is the most important one for visitors; it passes through Shin-Osaka Station and on to Umeda (the subway station next to Osaka Station), Shinsaibashi, Namba, and Tennoji. Fares begin at ¥200 and increase according to the distance traveled; or, purchase a prepaid Rainbow Card for ¥500 to ¥3,000 to prevent having to buy an individual ticket each time. For more information, stop by the Osaka Municipal Transportation Access office at Namba Station (tel. 06/6211-9503), open Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm and weekends and holidays 10am to 7pm, or check the website www.kotsu.city.osaka.jp.

By JR Train

A Japan Railways train called the Osaka Kanjo Line, or JR Loop Line, passes through Osaka Station and makes a loop around the central part of the city (similar to the Yamanote Line in Tokyo); take it to visit Osaka Castle. Fares begin at ¥120.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.