At the Airport -- The Kansai Tourist Information Center (tel. 072/456-6025; daily 9am-9pm Nov-Mar, 8:30am-8:30pm Apr-Oct) counters are near both the south and north end of the International Arrivals Lobby. The multilingual staff can help with general travel information about Japan, book hotels, and provide brochures and maps of the larger Kansai area, including Kyoto and Kobe.
In Town -- At Osaka Station, the Visitors Information Center Umeda (tel. 06/6345-2189; daily 8am-8pm) is at the east (Midosuji) exit of JR Osaka Station in a kiosk; the English-speaking staff gives out good maps of the city and can assist in securing a hotel room. Another center is located in Shin-Osaka Station on the third floor (tel. 06/6305-3311; daily 9am-6pm). Note that if you're arriving by Shinkansen, you'll be up on the fourth floor, so simply go down one flight to the tourist office. At JR Namba Station, you'll find the Visitors Information Center Namba (tel. 06/6631-9100; daily 9am-8pm) in the Nankai Namba Station across from Takashimaya Department Store. Another Tourist Information Center is in JR Tennoji Station (tel. 06/6774-3077; daily 9am-6pm).
To find out what's going on in Osaka, Kansai Scene (www.kansaiscene.com) is a free bilingual monthly magazine with articles, reviews, listings, and information on the Kansai area. Meet Osaka, a quarterly pamphlet available free at tourist offices and many hotels, has maps and information on sightseeing, bunraku, festivals, concerts, and special exhibits and events. Look, too, for the free Osaka Guide, published every 2 months by the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau with information on special events, museum exhibitions, concert information, and even which nearby beaches are open in summer.
Finally, information on Osaka city is available on the Web at www.osaka-info.jp, and www.kansai.gr.jp gives information on the Kansai region.
Consulates -- Several embassies maintain consulates in Osaka, including Australia (tel. 06/6941-9448); Great Britain (tel. 06/6120-5600); New Zealand (tel. 06/6373-4583); and the United States (tel. 06/6315-5900).
Internet Access -- Near the Midosuji exit of Osaka Station is an area called Float Court, where you'll find New Square (tel. 06/6341-7870), open daily 8am to 10pm and charging ¥262 for 30 minutes of computer use.
Mail -- The Central Post Office, or Osaka Chuo Yubinkyoku, is in the Osaka Ekimae No. 1 Building, 1-3-1 Umeda, Kita-ku (tel. 06/6347-8112), a 5-minute walk south of Osaka Station. It's open for mail Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm; its ATM service for international credit cards is available 24 hours Monday to Saturday and from 12:05am to 8pm Sunday and holidays.
Osaka is divided into various wards, or ku, the most important of which for visitors are Kita-ku (North Ward), which encompasses the area around Osaka Station; and Chuo-ku (Central Ward), where you'll find Osaka Castle and Namba, the heart of the city. Some city maps divide Osaka by location: Kita (North), around Osaka Station; Minami (South), around Namba and Shinsaibashi; Higashi (East), around Osaka Castle; and Nishi (West) which is Osaska's bay area. Shin-Osaka Station, three subway stations north of Osaka (Umeda) Station, is a tourist wasteland with a few hotels.
Around Osaka Station -- Kita-ku embraces the area around Osaka and Umeda stations and includes many of the city's top hotels, the city's tallest buildings, lots of restaurants, and several shopping complexes, mostly underground.
Around Osaka Castle -- Osaka Castle, which lies to the east, is the historic center of the city. It's in Chuo-ku, which stretches through the city center.
Minami/Namba -- Four subway stops south of Umeda Station is Namba (also referred to as Minami, or South Osaka), with a cluster of stations serving subways, JR trains, and Kintetsu and Nankai lines, all of which are connected to one another via underground passageways. This is the heart of the city, bustling with the spirit of old Osaka, where you'll find more hotels, Osaka's liveliest eating and entertainment district centered on a narrow street called Dotombori (also written Dotonbori), and major shopping areas such as the enclosed pedestrian streets Shinsaibashi-Suji and America-Mura with imported goods from America. Farther south is Den Den Town, Osaka's electronics district; and Dogayasuji, famous for cooking supplies. Connecting Kita-ku with Namba is Osaka's main street, Midosuji Dori, a wide boulevard lined with gingko trees and name-brand shops.
Around Tennoji Park -- At the south end of the JR Loop Line is Tennoji-ku, which was once a thriving temple town with Shitennoji Temple at its center. In addition to a park with a zoo, it boasts Spa World, one of Japan's biggest and most luxurious public bathhouses.
Osaka Bay & Port -- West of the city around Osaka Bay is where you will find Universal Studios Japan and Universal CityWalk shopping and dining complex; Tempozan Harbour Village with its first-class aquarium, shopping complex, and Suntory Museum; and domestic and international ferry terminals.
A Note on Directions -- For all the attractions, accommodations, and restaurants, I've included the nearest subway or JR station followed by the walking time to the establishment once you reach the indicated station (in parentheses).
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.