Osu is the complete package.
History, culture, shopping, and good food.
Oh, and let’s not forget the festivals.
It’s the perfect place to explore when visiting Nagoya.
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Osu has a completely different feel to its entire neighborhood. It has retained its more traditional charm and reminds us of a different time.
Osu district has a network of roofed over shopping streets which makes it very popular for some souvenir or even just window shopping.
Let’s explore the Osu shopping streets together and learn a little bit more about Nagoya’s history and modern culture.
Uncovering the History of the Osu Shopping Streets
With the construction of Nagoya Castle at the beginning of the 17th century, a city was borne that would become Nagoya.
The birth of Osu district happened during that same time when in 1612 the temple Shinfukuji was relocated to its current position on the west side of Osu district and renamed to become Osu Kannon.
After the relocation, the first businesses were founded around the temple and the area started to grow and develop gradually to what it has become today.
After the second world war, Osu developed into Nagoya’s main entertainment district with electronic and second-hand clothing stores.
And in more recent years it has become the home of many Otaku shops catering to lovers of Manga, Anime, and Cosplay.
As mentioned above the relocation of Osu Kannon is the moment Osu was borne.
And therefore Osu Kannon has to be one of the places you visit while in Osu.
The original Osu Kannon was unfortunately destroyed during World War II and the current buildings are 20th-century reconstructions. This doesn’t make the Buddhist temple any less impressive, though.
The object of worship at Osu Kannon is a wooden carving of the Buddhist goddess of mercy. If you would like to pay your respects and make a wish at the temple, walk up the steps, make an offering in the form of a single coin, put your hands together and bow your head while making your prayer.
Underneath the temple is the Shinpukuji Library with more than 15,000 Japanese and Chinese historical texts many of which are important cultural treasures including the oldest copy of the Kojiki, one of the first history books of Japan.
I could not find out whether the library is open to the public so I am assuming probably not.
Parks, Temples, and Shrines
Since the Osu district is so old there is a lot of history to be found, you just have to keep your eyes open and know where to look.
During my explorations, I found the old site of the Namikoshi park with an even older burial mound or Kofun, called Nagonoyama dating to the 6th century. It was originally a keyhole-shaped mound but today only a little round hill remains.
The English sign claimed the park opened in 1879 used to be the most popular spot to relax in the area until nearby Tsurumai park opened in 1909.
It definitely feels like a little oasis with its big trees and green little hill.
I also found a little Shinto shrine, called Fuji Sengen which dates back to 1495. It houses a spirit from Mount Fujis main shrine Asama Jinja.
One of the most astounding discoveries was the Banshoji temple.
It might just be the most modern temple I have come across so far during my explorations of Japan.
The temple features a LED light show on screen and with a rather ugly white dragon sculpture.
The entrance to the place of worship also feels more like the entrance to a movie theater rather than a shrine.
But Banshoji temple actually has a very long history dating back to 1540 when it was founded by Oda Nobunaga’s father (Oda Nobunaga is one of the three important warlords who united Japan).
The Beckoning Cat
Fureai Plaza on the east side of Osu district is the home of a gigantic beckoning cat, in Japanese called a Maneki Neko.
It is a symbol of the Osu district and a popular meeting place.
You have probably seen a couple of Maneki Neko in Japan or even Asian restaurants abroad. They are said to invite luck.
When I visited Fureai Plaza the cat was dressed up as a lion with a very cute orange mane as a promotion for the new Lion King movie.
Karakuri Puppet Shows
There are also different puppet shows in Osu district telling short histories of great warlords (like the aforementioned Oda Nobunaga).
You can find the performances at Osu Kannon, Banshoji as well as on the north-eastern corner of Osu district.
Performances are always on the hour at different times of the day. Unfortunately, I missed them during my visit.
Shopping at the Osu Shopping Street
The main reason to visit Osu is to do some shopping, and probably also a lot of eating, to be honest.
The shopping arcades in Osu span more than 1700 meters and includes more than 1200 businesses.
There are 8 main streets, all of them are color-coded with regular signposts reminding you where you are and making it really easy to find your way around.
The shops in Osu sell anything from electronics, clothing and shoes, second-hand items, sundries, and appliances.
One store worth mentioning, in particular, is Komehyo, a gigantic second-hand mall.
There are three different outlets of Komehyo in Osu. One specialized in Kimono, another selling only musical instruments and the third one specializing in all kinds of brand items.
You will get everything at discounted prices so check if you find anything to your liking.
Ameyoko Buildings 1 and 2 are gigantic buildings housing countless electronics and computer stores.
Many of the shops in Osu cater to so-called Otaku, people who love Manga, Anime, and Cosplay. There are shops selling costumes, playing cards, video games, figurines and anything else the Otaku heart desires.
Twice a month on the 18th and 28th the area around the Osu Kannon will transform into a flea market with around 60 stalls selling beautiful antiques, second-hand goods and even souvenirs to locals and tourists alike.
For more information on shopping in Nagoya in general, read this post.
The Food at the Osu Shopping Arcades
Food shops include old traditional Japanese restaurants selling popular local dishes like Ebi Furai, Kishimen, Tenmusu, Miso Nikomi Udon, and Hitsumabushi and new trendy stores that just opened recently selling rolled ice cream, cute and colorful donuts, and of course bubble tea.
You will also find the biggest concentration of international cuisine in Osu.
There is a famous Brazilian restaurant right next to a Vietnamese shop selling Pho, you will come across countless Turkish stalls selling kebab and Turkish ice cream.
And then there are Italian restaurants, a Mexican-style taco place, a Thai curry place and Indian restaurants selling delicious curries.
There are also many stalls selling snacks you can eat on the spot around every corner.
If you love Japanese sweets you will find lots of shops in the Osu shopping streets selling all kinds of flavored soft-serve ice cream, cakes, cookies, waffles, donuts, Japanese buns filled with red bean paste, and of course Nagoya’s own Uiro.
I had an Ogura toast for breakfast at Coffee Shop Bolsa and it was delicious.
Many maid cafes can be found in Osu and it is said that the whole phenomenon started out from Osu and then spread across the country.
If you want to experience a maid cafe in Japan, Osu is the best place to do it.
And if you want to book your maid cafe experience in advance you can do that on klook.com. Check it out!
Nagoya Food Tour
I am in the process of creating a food and walking tour of Osu. This tour will take you to all the famous and not so famous spots in Osu. Give you lots of additional information on the area and introduce you to the best sweets you can find in the shopping streets.
I will offer this as a standard tour but you can also book a private tour with me which is 100% customizable.
Festivals in Osu
There are four big festivals held every year in the streets of Osu. The Setsubun Festival at Osu Kannon, the Osu Spring Festival, the Osu Summer Festival, and the Osu Street Performers Festival.
Setsubun Festival at Osu Kannon
Setsubun is a festival held every year on the 3rd of February all over the country. It marks the changing of the season from winter to spring.
The day after Setsubun is called Risshun at it symbolizes the first day of spring.
At Setsubun evil in the form of Oni, Japanese demons or devils, are being driven out by throwing beans.
You can participate in this bean throwing event at Osu Kannon from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. while shouting ‘Fuku wa Uchi’ meaning ‘luck comes in’.
There are also lively parades with music and treasure ships of the God of Happiness, and the God of Good Luck.
Osu Spring Festival
The Osu Spring Festival is held every year around late March to early April.
I was having trouble finding out more about the spring festival.
I will participate next year and report back here what exactly the Osu Spring Festival entails.
Osu Summer Festival
The Osu Summer Festival takes place each year in late July or early August, in 2019 it was on August 3rd and 4th.
During the festival period, many parades make their way through the streets of Osu. There is a cosplay parade with more than a thousand participants, a samba parade that reminds me strongly of the carnival in Brazil, and more traditional Japanese parades such as Awa-dancing and Bon-dancing parades.
There is a big stage in the center of the festivities with different performances during the two days.
At night the place around Osu Kannon turns into a Bon dance area where anyone can dance and have fun learning traditional Bon dance moves. Don’t worry it is easier than it sounds.
The festival comes to a grand finale with an amazing hand-held fireworks display by performers.
Osu Street Performers Festival
While street performers festivals have become popular all over Japan it is said that the birthplace of such festivals was in the streets of Osu.
Street performers festivals are so popular because it is possible to get up close to performers like jugglers, dancers, mimes and other artists as they perform in the streets.
One of the highlights ins the Oiran procession.
Oiran are the courtesans of the Edo period (1603-1868) who used to populate Osu when it was still the red-light district and entertainment center of Nagoya.
In commemoration of the history of Osu, women selected in open audition wear beautiful Oiran garb and proceed through the streets of Osu.
The annual Osu Street Performers Festival is held on the 19th and 20th of October in 2019. For other autumn events, festivals and things to do check out this post.
World Cosplay Summit
The yearly World Cosplay Summit is held in Osu each year in late July or early August since 2003 which sees cosplayers from all over the world flock to the streets of Osu.
How to Get to the Osu Shopping District
From Sakae district, you can either walk to Osu, which takes about 20 minutes, take a bus which takes about 6 minutes and costs 210 yen or take the subway Meijo line from Sakae station to Kamimaezu station. This option takes just 3 minutes and costs 200 yen.
To get from Nagoya station to the west side of Osu where the Osu Kannon is located take the Higashiyama line to Fushimi station and then change to the Tsurumai line to Osu Kannon station. The ride will cost 200 yen in total and take about 9 minutes.
The Meguru Sightseeing Bus does not pass by Osu district. You would need to get off at Hirokoji-Fushimi and change to the Tsurumai subway line from there or walk for about 20 minutes.
I always suggest checking Google Maps for the most accurate information. All stations and even bus stops in Nagoya provide free WIFI which will make it easy to check.
Where to Stay in Osu
Even though Osu is a favorite tourist destination in Nagoya, there are not many hotels located here. To be exact, there are only two available on booking.com or Agoda.
A better location to stay might be around Nagoya station. Here you will find hotels for every budget. If you are looking for luxury hotels check out this post and if you are looking for hostels in particular click here.
Abest Osu Kannon Ekimae Hane no Yu
Abest Osu Kannon Ekimae is a 3-star hotel just a couple of meters from Osu Kannon and the closest subway station also called Osu Kannon station.
They offer simple rooms with typical amenities such as free toiletries and a hairdryer in the bathroom, a refrigerator, TV and electric kettle.
The highlight of this hotel is the public bath available to all guests. It also features a sauna.
Trip & Sleep Hostel
Trip & Sleep Hostel is very popular and modern accommodation in the center of Osu district.
They have dormitory-style rooms as well as private rooms with shared bathrooms. You can even book a Japanese style room with Tatami mats and Futon beds.
Guests can hang out in the shared lounge to make new friends and use the kitchen to prepare meals.
Final Thoughts on Osu
Shopping and food, culture and history. You can find all of these things in the streets of Osu. Even if it is just for a couple of hours, Osu is a great destination to explore in Nagoya, so don’t miss it.
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You might also be interested in one of the following posts:
- Things to do in Nagoya
- 1 day in Nagoya itinerary
- Exploring Atsuta Jingu the most sacred place in Nagoya
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.