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Moving to Osaka

Stretching along Osaka Bay, the prefecture of Osaka lies in the heart of the Kansai area, with its borders flowing into neighbouring Hyogo, Kyoto, Nara and Wakayama. The greater Osaka area, which also includes Kobe and Kyoto, is one of Japan's most important economic centres. Expats moving to Osaka will discover a laid-back lifestyle with a high quality of life to boot. 

Living in Osaka as an expat

As Japan's primary area of business and commerce until the 20th century, Osaka, historically known as Naniwa, connected Japan with other countries such as Korea and China. Despite being the country's capital briefly, Osaka has been shaped most by its merchants. Their influence has inspired the metropolis to become a cultural centre, especially in terms of entertainment, arts and food. Known as the source of much of Japan's most delicious fresh produce, Osaka is also often referred to as the Kitchen of Japan.

As the city has always been a point of contact with the world outside of Japan, most Osakians welcome foreigners and will eagerly help whenever a foreigner gets lost. Orientation can be challenging in Osaka since the city is divided into numerical areas.

It's advisable to note a few landmarks for reference, such as hotels, supermarkets and parks, to help when asking for directions or directing a taxi. On the other hand, using Osaka's extensive public transportation system, which consists of subways, railways, buses and one tram line, is easy and convenient.

Cost of living in Osaka

While the cost of living in Osaka is noticeably cheaper than Tokyo, expats will still likely need to keep a sharp eye on their budget, particularly when it comes to accommodation and utilities. Public transport is priced reasonably, but using taxis can become expensive fast. Eating out is relatively cheap as long as one sticks to local fare, and single expats may even find this is more cost-effective than buying ingredients to cook for one person.

Families and children in Osaka

For many families, education and healthcare are a priority, and Osaka offers a good standard of both. Public schools are largely excellent, although this can come at the price of a high-pressure academic environment. Getting to grips with Japanese, the language of instruction, is another hurdle to overcome. For many families, international schools are an ideal solution to these issues, allowing children to be taught a familiar curriculum in their home language.

When it comes to family fun, parents will be pleased to know that getting bored in this thriving city is virtually impossible. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities throughout Osaka, including the thrilling rides at the Universal Studios theme park, one of only five in the world.

Climate in Osaka

Expats moving to Osaka will need to get used to the ever-present rain in the city. Downpours are most common in June – the height of summer – but rain falls regularly for most of the year. While the resulting humidity during this time can be uncomfortable, winters are more pleasantly mild.

While the city's weather can be damp, the spirit of Osaka is anything but. Expats will soon feel at home in this humming metropolis full of opportunities for career progression, new friends and an excellent quality of life.

Weather in Osaka

While Osaka's climate may not be its main draw, it typically offers mild and manageable weather throughout most of the year. Summers, specifically in July and August, can be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching highs of 95°F (35°C). The city's tsuyu or rainy season in June and sometimes into July brings consistent rainfall, making it the wettest period of the year.

Although winters from December to February are generally mild, with temperatures usually remaining above 50°F (10°C), occasional cold spells can see the mercury drop below this mark. Rainfall decreases during these winter months but begins increasing again in February. While spring and autumn offer transitional weather, these seasons are typically mild and are often considered the most comfortable times of the year to visit.


Cost of Living in Osaka

Japan is infamous for its high cost of living, especially in big cities such as Osaka and Tokyo. That said, the cost of living in the country is gradually reducing. Still, it's best to budget according to income earned in Osaka rather than continually converting to one's familiar home currency.

Depending on where expats come from, they can be overwhelmed by the cost difference, but local purchasing power is likely to be much stronger. It's important to estimate whether an expat's expected income will cover all the necessary costs and negotiate their employment contract accordingly. The city ranked 93rd out of the 227 expat destinations in Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living survey.

Cost of accommodation in Osaka

The cost of accommodation in Osaka is likely to take up a sizeable portion of an expat's income. In Osaka, the larger properties with more rooms charge higher rents, even outside the city centre. That said, expats moving to Osaka will be relieved to see significantly lower rental costs than in Tokyo.

Expats will also need to account for utilities in their monthly budget, as these are fairly pricey. They should also budget for reikin, or key money, a non-refundable payment to the landlord, as well as shikikin, the refundable security deposit.

Cost of transport in Osaka

While getting around in Osaka with public transport is efficient and affordable, expats should consider the various options before deciding on their preferences. Getting a monthly pass and public transport card lowers the cost significantly. Bicycles are also common in Osaka and are another cost-effective, not to mention healthy, way to travel.

Although they are popular and convenient, taxis and ride-hailing services are costly and largely an unsustainable way to travel daily. The cost of owning a car in Japan is substantial. Besides the car's purchase price, owners must factor in mandatory bi-annual inspections (shaken), car tax, insurance, parking and fuel costs.

Cost of groceries in Osaka

In Osaka, eating out may sometimes be cheaper than buying groceries, but this depends on the quality of food and the cuisine that expats prefer. While vegetables and fruit might seem rather expensive at first, expats should bear in mind that they are always top quality, super fresh and usually locally grown. Seafood can be found at reasonable prices, and many supermarkets offer evening discounts to get rid of the day's stock.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Osaka

Renowned for its culinary scene and vibrant nightlife, Osaka offers expats a range of entertainment options. However, the cost of these can vary considerably based on the type of activity and location. Expats keen on exploring the city's attractions will find that many of them, such as Osaka Castle or Sumiyoshi Taisha, are reasonably priced or even free. Festivals and annual events in Osaka also offer excellent entertainment opportunities at varying costs.

From classy bars to hole-in-the-wall whiskey spots, Osaka has something to suit all nightlife lovers. Revellers will find that drink prices and cover charges at bars and clubs can accumulate quickly, requiring careful budgeting.

Osaka, known as the 'Kitchen of Japan', offers diverse dining from affordable street food like takoyaki to pricey upscale restaurants, particularly in districts such as Dotonbori and Namba. Eating out can be comparable in cost to groceries, depending on the cuisine and place.

Cost of education in Osaka

Education in Osaka, like in much of Japan, is known for its high standards but also for its substantial costs, especially for international schools. Expats enrolling their children in local schools will find prices relatively lower, but the language could be a significant barrier.

While offering a more familiar curriculum and language of instruction, international schools in Osaka are a costlier option. There may also be additional costs for enrolment, uniforms and extracurricular activities. Expat parents need to budget for this significant expense and consider it when negotiating their employment contracts.

Cost of healthcare in Osaka

The cost of healthcare in Osaka can be somewhat steep, especially for non-residents. Japan has a national health insurance system that generally covers 70 percent of healthcare costs, but expats may need to consider additional private health insurance to cover all their healthcare needs.

The cost of private health insurance will depend on various factors, including age and health status. Expats should also factor in the cost of prescription medication, which can vary widely and typically has a 30 percent copay.

Cost of living in Osaka chart

Note that prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows the average prices for Osaka in July 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

JPY 169,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

JPY 105,000

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

JPY 77,000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

JPY 49,000

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

JPY 300

Milk (1 litre)

JPY 189

Rice (1kg)

JPY 500

Loaf of white bread

JPY 191

Chicken breasts (1kg)

JPY 420

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

JPY 470

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

JPY 5,900

Big Mac meal

JPY 710

Coca-Cola (330ml)

JPY 178


JPY 430

Bottle of beer (local)

JPY 240


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

JPY 57

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

JPY 3,800

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

JPY 15,000


Taxi rate/km

JPY 460

City-centre public transport fare

JPY 220

Gasoline (per litre)

JPY 147

Accommodation in Osaka

Osaka is Japan's third-most populous city after Tokyo and Yokohama, and space comes at a premium. Expats looking for accommodation in Osaka will need to have a clear idea of their needs and wants. Proximity to work and schools, transport links and budget are a few of the main aspects to consider when renting in Osaka.

Areas and suburbs in Osaka

Osaka is divided into several distinct areas and suburbs, each with its own unique appeal. The bustling central area, known as Chuo Ward, is a hub for business and entertainment. This area is home to the famous Dotombori Street and is where most expats working in the city will find themselves.

Kita Ward, often referred to as Umeda, is another key business district with numerous shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. For families, the areas of Tennoji and Sumiyoshi are popular due to their family-friendly amenities, including parks and schools.

Minato Ward, located near Osaka's port, offers a slower pace of life. It's popular among expats due to its convenient access to the city centre and relative affordability. Lastly, those seeking a more traditional Japanese experience might consider the historic district of Osaka Castle Park, located in Chuo Ward.

See Areas and Suburbs in Osaka for more about the city's neighbourhoods.

Types of accommodation in Osaka

In Osaka, apartments are the most easily found type of accommodation and are a common choice among expats. Generally, the closer apartments are to public transport and the city centre, the more expensive they become. Newer housing is also pricier than older builds.

Most apartments fall into one of two categories: apato and manshon. Older buildings, usually no higher than two storeys and made of wood or light steel, are known as apato. Although cheaper, they are less comfortable than manshon, newer builds are made of more sturdy materials, such as concrete.

Some expats, especially young ones on a budget, opt to live in a gaikokujin house. This is a large house shared by several inhabitants, often foreigners. Setups can differ from house to house but typically comprise small individual flatlets or large rooms with shared common areas.

Finding accommodation in Osaka

As is the case throughout Japan, the rental market in Osaka is competitive. Doing research beforehand on the local housing market, including typical costs and desirable areas, can help expats to get a jump-start on the process before moving. Online property portals and expat forums can be useful sources of information.

When the time comes to begin the search, expats should go through a real-estate agent, as landlords are often hesitant to rent to foreigners. In addition, good agents can usually speak both English and Japanese well and have comprehensive knowledge of the local areas.

Renting accommodation in Osaka

Making an application

When making an application for an apartment, expats will need to fill out an application form provided by the real estate agency. This usually includes providing information about employment status and income. Expats should also prepare for a credit check. In some cases, a personal interview with the landlord may also be necessary.

It's important to note that expats may be required to provide a guarantor – a Japanese resident who agrees to cover the rent if the tenant fails to do so. Some companies offer guarantor services to foreigners for a fee if they do not have someone who can take on this role.

Leases, costs and fees

Rental leases in Osaka are usually for two years. While there's no legal limit on the deposit, it's typically equivalent to one to three months' rent. Another unique aspect of renting in Japan is the 'key money' or reikin, a non-refundable payment to the landlord which can be equivalent to one to two months' rent. This isn't always charged, but it's common in Osaka.

The rent doesn't usually include utilities or maintenance fees (for communal areas such as gardens and lifts). Tenants will need to pay these separately. In addition, real-estate agencies charge a commission fee, usually equivalent to one month's rent.

Lastly, tenants should be aware that when renewing a lease, it's common to pay a renewal fee. This is usually equivalent to one month's rent but can vary.

See Accommodation in Japan for detailed information on the rental process in the country.

Utilities in Osaka

Usually, utilities are a separate cost on top of rent. However, in some cases, the landlord might arrange utilities and include them in the rental price. It's therefore essential to carefully read the terms of the lease to see what is and isn't included.


Electricity in Osaka is usually billed monthly based on usage. When moving in, tenants can set up an account with the local electricity provider, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO). Costs can vary depending on the season, with usage typically higher in summer and winter due to heating and cooling needs.


Gas is used for cooking and heating water in most Osaka homes. Like electricity, it is billed monthly based on usage. Osaka Gas is the major supplier in the region. When moving in, tenants need to call the gas company to have the gas turned on and the meter read.


The drinking water in Osaka comes from the Yodo River and the water supply is reliable and safe to drink from the tap. It is billed every two months based on usage. To set up a water account, tenants need to contact the Osaka City Waterworks Bureau.

Waste disposal

Osaka follows a strict rubbish sorting and disposal system, with different types of waste collected on designated days. Waste in Japan is typically separated into burnable and non-burnable rubbish, and as such, most households will have two distinct bins.

Burnable waste is usually collected two to three times per week while non-burnable waste is collected only once. Tenants are responsible for disposing of their waste following local guidelines. Failure to comply can result in fines.

Internet and telephone

There are many providers offering internet and telephone services in Osaka. Major providers include NTT, KDDI and Softbank. Packages can vary significantly in terms of price and speed, so it's important to compare options. Some providers may require a minimum contract term, usually 24 months, and early termination fees may apply.

Useful links

Areas and suburbs in Osaka

The best places to live in Osaka

With two major city centres, Osaka's unusual layout lends the city an interesting structure. Progressively quieter areas fan out from these vibrant centres. Thanks to Osaka's excellent transport system, it isn't necessary to live right on the doorstep of major employment sectors to get to work within a reasonable commute time.

Expats searching for a new place to call home will find plenty of fantastic areas and suburbs in Osaka, each with a unique personality and quirks.

City living: vibrant and dynamic


These areas in Osaka are perfect for individuals and couples who love the energy and convenience of city living. These districts offer easy access to entertainment, shopping, dining venues and exceptional transport links to the rest of Osaka.

Umeda and Namba

Umeda and Namba, Osaka's two city centres, are nine to 15 minutes apart by subway, and both are high-energy business and entertainment. Most accommodation in both areas is in the form of high-rise apartments, resulting in these areas being especially popular with young professionals or couples. Shopping and dining opportunities abound. Umeda and Namba are both major transport hubs, making travelling around the rest of Osaka a breeze.


Shinsaibashi is a bustling shopping district in the heart of Osaka, characterised by its covered shopping street, the Shinsaibashi-Suji. The area is also home to a variety of restaurants, offering everything from native Osaka delicacies to international cuisine. Nearby, the vibrant neighbourhood of Amerikamura, often likened to Tokyo's Harajuku, is a hub of youth culture and fashion.

For expats, Shinsaibashi offers high-rise apartments with quick access to both work and play. Its central location and excellent transport links make commuting a breeze. While it can be busy, the convenience and vibrant nightlife make Shinsaibashi a popular choice for young, single expats and couples. It's an area that genuinely captures the energetic spirit of Osaka.


Tennoji is an up-and-coming district in Osaka that boasts a mix of modern urban amenities and rich historical and cultural attractions. Recently, it's become known as Osaka's third major downtown hub. It's home to some of Osaka's most iconic structures, including the Tsutenkaku Tower and Tennoji Zoo. Abeno Harukas, the tallest skyscraper in Japan, is also located in Tennoji, housing a department store, art museum, hotel and an observatory with panoramic views of Osaka.

Accommodation options in Tennoji range from high-rise apartments to more traditional houses in quiet, residential streets. Its central location and excellent public transportation make it a convenient place for working professionals and families alike. Tennoji has a sense of energy and regeneration, making it an exciting place for expats to call home.

Family-friendly suburbs: comfortable and convenient

Entrance to Minoh Falls

For expats with families, these suburban areas provide a balance of convenience and quality of life. They offer a variety of housing options and access to international schools, and they are known for their welcoming communities and scenic surroundings.


Close to the airport and conveniently located just a short train trip away from Umeda, Toyonaka is often referred to as the 'gate to Osaka'. High-quality accommodation in the form of houses and apartments, along with plenty of amenities like shopping malls, make this a popular choice among expats. Toyonaka has a higher proportion of foreign residents than most parts of Osaka.

Home to Toyonaka International Center, this area is an excellent place for expats to begin their journey as new arrivals in Osaka. Here, numerous resources are available to meet the needs of foreigners. This includes adult Japanese classes, multilingual consultation services and child-centred programmes for all age groups that teach Japanese in a fun and social setting.


While technically not part of Osaka City, Ashiya City is indeed a part of the larger Osaka Metropolitan area and is largely considered an upscale residential area for those working in both Osaka and Kobe. Ashiya is a wealthy area known for its stunning view over Osaka Bay. For those who can afford it, this is a lovely place to settle down and has been home to numerous big names over the years, from Nobel Prize winners to revered writers.

Wide, tree-lined streets, hillside homes and large properties with amenities such as tennis courts and swimming pools create a sense of luxury. Expat families, in particular, favour Ashiya for its location midway between Osaka and Kobe, both of which have prestigious international schools easily reachable by bus.


Just a stone's throw from the city centre, Minoh offers a perfect blend of city convenience and natural beauty. This suburban city is nestled among the hills to the north of Osaka and is known for the scenic Minoh Park. This stunning national park features a breathtaking waterfall, hiking trails and a large population of wild monkeys.

The neighbourhood is home to several international schools, which makes it a popular choice for expat families. The community here is diverse and welcoming, and English is commonly spoken, making the transition easier for newcomers. Properties range from modern apartments to larger houses, offering something for everyone.

Healthcare in Osaka

Healthcare in Japan, and particularly in Osaka, is of an exceptionally high standard. Everyone living in Japan, including foreigners, is required to enrol in a public health insurance system. Contributions to these systems are mandatory and are calculated according to income level.

Expats usually fall under one of two nationalised healthcare schemes: the Employees Health Insurance (EHI) or the National Health Insurance (NHI). Those employed in Japan have coverage under the EHI, while the NHI caters to those who don't qualify for the EHI, such as the self-employed and the unemployed.

Both schemes fund 70 percent of medical expenses, with the patient covering the remaining costs. Some individuals choose to purchase private health insurance to handle this balance and any procedures not covered by public insurance.

Below is a list of notable hospitals in Osaka known for their excellent medical services and support for non-Japanese-speaking patients.

Hospitals in Osaka

NHO Osaka National Hospital

Address: 2 Chome-1-14 Hoenzaka, Chuo Ward, Osaka 540-0006

Osaka Central Hospital

Address: 3 Chome-3-30 Umeda, Kita Ward, Osaka 530-0001

Osaka University Hospital

Address: 2-15 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871

Rinku General Medical Center

Address: 2 Chome-23 Rinkumachi, Izumisano, Osaka 598-8577

Education and schools in Osaka

The standard of education and schools in Osaka is high. Most expats find the language of instruction an impractical option unless they plan on staying in Japan for the long term or if their children are young enough to pick up the language quickly.

For more on the national education system, see Education and Schools in Japan.

Public and private schools in Osaka

In Osaka, language support programmes are often provided in public schools, aimed at assisting non-Japanese-speaking students in adapting to the new environment. This can be critical for expat parents considering enrolling their children in local schools.

Public elementary and junior high schools in Osaka are assigned according to the family's address. Compulsory schooling lasts nine years, from the beginning of elementary school to the last year of junior high. During this period, education is free of charge for locals and foreigners alike, apart from contributions for teaching aids and the cost of school lunches.

Due to the high standard of public schools, most Japanese children attend them up to the end of junior high. When the time comes for making high school applications, there are generally more students than places available at the best public schools. Private schools typically have the space to accommodate students who aren't accepted to their public high school of choice.

International schools in Osaka

Most expat families in Osaka opt to send their children to one of the city's international schools. These schools teach a foreign curriculum in the language of the school's country of origin. Most commonly, these schools offer the US, UK or International Baccalaureate curriculum and teach in English, but there are also schools catering to other nationalities. For instance, the Deutsche Schule Kobe in nearby Kobe caters to German and European expatriates.

The best schools can quickly become oversubscribed, so it's always best to start applications as far in advance as possible. Fees at international schools worldwide have a reputation for being high, and Osaka is no exception. Tuition alone can be pricey, but there are often extra fees, some of which are compulsory, including fees for building maintenance, technology, bus service, lunches and extracurriculars.

Learn more about International Schools in Osaka.

Homeschooling in Osaka

Some expat families in Osaka opt for homeschooling. Expat communities in Osaka often organise homeschooling cooperatives or shared learning environments, providing social interaction and collective learning experiences. This can be a beneficial resource for parents considering homeschooling their child in Osaka.

Until the end of junior high, families must request permission from their assigned public school to homeschool. In most cases, schools are understanding and supportive, especially in cases where English support is limited at the school.

Special-needs education in Osaka

Osaka has several resources dedicated to special-needs students. Public schools in the city have special-needs support teams, and dedicated institutions like Osaka City Special Needs Education School specialise in providing high-quality education for children with specific needs.

Children with special educational needs usually attend public schools alongside the general student body wherever possible. Depending on the nature and severity of the child's disabilities, extra support is offered, whether in the form of attending special resource rooms a few times a week or attending special-needs classes within the school.

In the case of acute disabilities, children may attend a dedicated special-needs school. The curriculum at these schools is the same as that taught in public schools, with added activities that teach day-to-day living skills.

International schools often have support programmes for certain conditions or disabilities, though some offer more comprehensive assistance than others. This usually comes at an extra fee.

Tutors in Osaka

Tutoring services in Osaka often offer special programmes for preparing students for local high schools' and universities' entrance examinations and international standardised tests such as the SAT and ACT. These can benefit expat students navigating the Japanese education system or planning to study abroad.

Several prominent tutoring centres in Osaka, such as Kumon and Juku schools, offer personalised tutoring services. These centres have local and foreign educators adept at teaching as per the Japanese curriculum and international standards. Not all tutoring services provide equally good service, so it's best to do thorough research before deciding on a particular company. Recommendations from schools and fellow expats are usually the best place to start.

International schools in Osaka

For many expats moving to Japan, the choice of a good international school is an essential part of relocation. It allows their children to learn a curriculum they are familiar with, often in their native language, reducing the potential cultural and academic shock. Although Tokyo hosts a greater selection, Osaka, the country's second-largest metropolis, offers a commendable selection of international schools that cater to diverse educational systems.

International schools in Osaka provide curricula originating from the UK and the US, along with the globally respected International Baccalaureate (IB) system, among others. Schools following the British or American curriculum typically maintain strong connections to their home country's educational departments, ensuring a comparable quality of education to schools in the UK or the US.

The IB curriculum, renowned for its rigorous, holistic approach to education, is also available in several schools in Osaka, offering a transferable educational pathway recognised worldwide.

Osaka's multicultural community sees various international schools reflecting other countries' educational systems, including those from Germany, France and India. These schools typically offer dual-language instruction, facilitating a rich bilingual environment. The educational institutions in the greater Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe area reflect Japan's commitment to multiculturalism, diversity and international collaboration in education.

Below is a list of recommended international schools for expat families in Osaka.

International schools in Osaka

Chandra Sekhar Academy International School

Chandra Sekhar Academy International School (CSAIS) in Kyoto utilises the Indian-style, English-language CBSE curriculum, well-regarded globally for its emphasis on mathematics, sciences and IT. Uniquely, CSAIS integrates studies of the Japanese language, culture and manners into this curriculum. This promotes a holistic learning approach that encourages children to engage with the city and people around them, fostering a love for Japan and a broader global citizenship.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Indian (CBSE)
Ages: 4 to 11

Deutsche Schule Kobe International

DSK International (DSKI) is a German school abroad and an IB World School, catering to children between the ages of two and eleven. DSKI fosters lifelong learners who are internationally minded, can think critically, respect diversity and act with compassion. The school uniquely offers trilingual education, where students are immersed in English, German and Japanese within their curriculum and co-curricular activities, aimed at developing multilingual global citizens passionate about learning and making a difference in the world.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 11

Lycée Français International de Kyoto

Situated in the heart of Kyoto, the Lycée Français International de Kyoto (LFIK) is a thriving school community of French-speaking families. Recognised by the French Ministry of National Education and affiliated with the Agency for French Education Abroad, the school has been committed to fostering mastery of both French and Japanese languages and cultural exchange for over two decades. Today, LFIK continues to grow, bringing together a community of dedicated parents and teachers working towards making the school a vibrant, interactive space for learning, exchange and development for its 170 students.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18

Marist Brothers International School

Marist Brothers International School (MBIS) is a private, college-preparatory institution offering a holistic approach to education from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Established in 1951, MBIS became an IB World School in 2017, committed to fostering inquisitive, knowledgeable and compassionate individuals. MBIS stands out for its emphasis on character and community, which it deems integral to the Marist 'difference', ensuring its students not only achieve academic excellence but are also well-prepared for success in their future endeavours.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Montessori, American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Osaka International School

Osaka International School (OIS) has been catering to the international community of the Kansai region since 1991. Alongside its sister school, Senri International School, OIS offers a unique dual-language learning environment, with shared classes in PE, art, music and more. The school boasts an impressive music programme and a competitive sports scheme. With approximately 270 students of 35 nationalities, OIS encourages its students to become informed, caring, creative contributors to the global community.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18

Lifestyle in Osaka

The lifestyle in Osaka is lively and built on a rich history and thriving innovation. There's something for everyone to enjoy in this vast metropolis, with shopping, eating out, entertainment and outdoor activities galore.

Shopping in Osaka

Historically a merchant city, it's no stretch to say that Osaka is packed with some of Japan's best shopping opportunities. There are two main shopping areas: Namba (Minami) in the south and Umeda (also known as Kita) in the north.

Osaka is also dotted with speciality shopping areas, from the electronics-and-gaming hub Den-Den Town to Doguya-suji, which sells all manner of kitchen and cooking goods for amateur cooks and pro chefs alike.

For a unique experience, Namba Parks Shopping Complex is not to be missed. The complex is designed to bring an outside feel to the urban shopping experience. Hanging gardens, waterfalls and rock formations can be found throughout all eight floors of the complex, culminating in a sprawling open-air rooftop garden. A canyon-like structure carves its way through the centre of the building, giving those on the rooftop a breathtaking view right down to ground level.

Eating out in Osaka

Osaka is nicknamed 'the kitchen of Japan' for good reason, and it won't take expats long to find out why. The city is bursting with fine-dining restaurants, cheap-as-chips street food and everything in between. Be sure to try the wide variety of authentic Japanese food on offer, like sushi and ramen, not to mention takoyaki, Osaka's trademark dish of batter balls stuffed with octopus.

Nightlife in Osaka

Shinsaibashi and Namba are Osaka's nightlife hotspots, home to all forms of entertainment. These easily walkable areas are perfect for bar hopping. Expect to find swish cocktail bars, down-to-earth Irish pubs and izakaya – casual Japanese bars that serve drinks and snacks. 'All-you-can-eat' and 'all-you-can-drink' specials are common in izakaya, making them an excellent budget option.

Outdoor activities in Osaka

Nature-loving expats will be spoilt for choice in Osaka, with plenty of green spaces and parks in which to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Tennoji Park is a lovely place to picnic, take a stroll or enjoy a bike ride. The park is especially beautiful in spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. Hikers will surely enjoy Minoo Park and its well-known trails, such as Takimichi. Just a short way into the park is a beautiful waterfall, while Ryuanji Temple can be found further along the route.

See and do in Osaka

From breathtaking historical sites to thrilling theme parks, there's plenty to see and do in Osaka. Families, culture vultures, foodies and adrenaline junkies are all well catered for.

Here are some of our favourite things to see and do in Osaka while getting to know the city.

Kuroman Market

For the city's best street food, head to Kuroman Market. Fondly known as 'Osaka's Kitchen', this bustling market is bursting with fresh produce and top-grade meat from all over Japan and is popular among both locals and tourists. After stocking up, be sure to indulge in the mouthwatering seafood dishes and traditional sweet treats that can be found throughout the market.

Osaka Castle

Originally completed in 1586, this iconic castle has a fascinating history. Its construction was ordered by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a lauded Japanese warrior and politician. When it was built, Osaka Castle was the largest castle in Japan. Over the centuries, this stunning castle has been destroyed and rebuilt twice, enduring the test of time, and is well worth a visit. The museum on site is a great way to learn more about this historical building.

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

For a spectacular view over Osaka, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel is a must. The 17-minute ride over the bay is especially dazzling at night as the wheel brings riders up to 368 feet (112m) above the sparkling city. The wheel is lit up at night in different colours according to the weather forecast: yellow for sunny, green for cloudy and blue for rainy.

Universal Studios Japan

For a memorable day out, Universal Studios Japan is hard to beat. One of the latest additions is Super Nintendo World, featuring beloved characters from the infamous Mario video games. Another highlight is undoubtedly The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here, visitors can enjoy Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, an exhilarating 360-degree rollercoaster that engages all the senses, including temperature changes ranging from the Dementor's chill to the heat of dragon breath.

What's on in Osaka

From mouthwatering food festivals to centuries-old traditional celebrations, Osaka's annual events' calendar is packed to the brim. There always seems to be something to look forward to in this buzzing city, which expats often find an easy way to bond with locals and settle into the community.

Here are some recommended annual events in Osaka.

Osaka Sumo Spring Basho (March)

In March, the city comes alive with the Osaka Sumo Spring Basho. One of the six major sumo tournaments held in Japan, this event attracts enthusiasts from all over the world. Spectators get the chance to watch sumo wrestlers, or rikishi, from the topmost makuuchi division, battle it out at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. It's not just about the matches - the ceremonial rituals that go along with the sport are equally fascinating.

Sakura Blossom Viewing (April)

Osaka's cherry blossoms are a sight to behold. Throughout April, locals and tourists alike flock to Osaka Castle Park, Expo '70 Commemorative Park, and other green spaces around the city to appreciate the fleeting beauty of these pink blooms. Hanami parties, or cherry blossom viewing parties, are a common sight. Pack a picnic and join the revelry under the blooming cherry blossom trees.

Nipponbashi Street Festa (March)

Every March, Osaka's Nipponbashi district, known for its vibrant pop culture, transforms into an open-air celebration. Cosplayers from all walks of life parade through the streets in elaborate costumes representing characters from anime, manga, and video games. Street performances and food stalls add to the festive atmosphere, making it a colorful and fun event to witness.

Aizen Festival (June)

The Aizen Festival, celebrated annually in early June, is one of Osaka's three major festivals. The festival dates back to the Heian period. The festival is best known for its colorful parade featuring local residents dressed in traditional Heian-era court costumes. The high point of the festival is the 'Yukata Beauty Contest', a competition for the most stylishly dressed woman in a yukata, a casual summer kimono.

Tenjin Festival (July)

This beloved summer festival is over a thousand years old, first taking place at Tenmangu Shrine in the year 951. The festival honours Sugawara Michizane, the god of learning. Portable shrines are carried through the city to the Okawa River and loaded onto boats. As the boats travel down the river, they are brightly illuminated, some even lit up by bonfires. There are also floating stages where traditional noh and bunraku plays are performed. The celebration is capped off with a grand fireworks show.

Halloween Horror Nights (September–November)

Held yearly by Universal Studios Japan, this fun-filled celebration of all things that go bump in the night is a real treat. Haunted houses, horror mazes and murder mystery parties open up after dark, while zombies can be found wandering the streets. At the Zombie de Dance event, monsters and zombies perform a step-by-step dance routine. Attendees are welcome to join the dance or can merely remain amused spectators.

Osaka Ramen Expo (December)

Each December, ramen restaurants from all over the country descend on the Expo '70 Commemorative Park for the Osaka Ramen Expo. Ten of Japan's finest ramen purveyors set up shop each week, offering every permutation of ramen one could possibly wish for. Every week brings a new set of ramen vendors, so there's a good excuse to indulge throughout the month.

Osaka Festival of Lights (December)

The annual Festival of Lights is made up of two beautiful light displays taking place in Osaka throughout December. Attracting millions each year, the main event is Midosuji Illumination, which sees hundreds of trees lit up along 2.5 miles (4km) of Midosuji Avenue. Also, not to be missed is Osaka Hikari-Renaissance, where local landmarks throughout the Nakanoshima area are lit up in a beautiful display. Breathtaking light shows are projected onto historical buildings like the Central Public Hall and Nakanoshima Library.

Getting around in Osaka

Thanks to plenty of options, getting around in Osaka is fairly straightforward, despite the city's large size. Trains and subways are the best and most comprehensive forms of public transport, though the sheer number of routes available can be dizzying. While taxis are fast and reliable, they are expensive. Learn more about general transport in Osaka on the Osaka Info Guide.

Public transport in Osaka

Public transport in Osaka uses a smart card system known as ICOCA. This prepaid card allows travellers to easily pay for subway, train and bus rides. ICOCA cards can be purchased and recharged at railway stations.

Apart from using ICOCA for commuting, expats can also use it for certain vending machines and coin-operated lockers at stations. This might come in handy at times. Also, for those staying short-term in Osaka, it's possible to return the ICOCA card at the end of their stay for a 500 yen refund, minus a handling fee.

Learn more about the smart card system on the West Japan Railway ICOCA page.


Nine colour-coded lines make up the subway system in Osaka. Each station has a name as well as an alphanumeric code. This can significantly ease pronunciation issues. It's easy to see that 'M14', for example, is much less of a tongue-twister than 'Nishinakajimaminamigata'.

The subway runs from 5am to midnight every day of the week. Taking the subway at peak travel times can be chaotic due to overcrowding. Expats should note that it's a common courtesy in Japan to avoid speaking loudly or making phone calls on the subway. This helps maintain a peaceful environment for all commuters.

Check the subway route maps and other details on the official Osaka Metro website.


There are nine train lines in use in Osaka, including a shinkansen (bullet train) line. These connect Osaka to surrounding regions and are an excellent way to travel around the greater Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. Expats should note that some train cars are designated as 'women-only' during peak hours. This measure is designed to prevent harassment and provide a safe space during the rush.

Visit the West Japan Railway Company for more information.


The bus service in Osaka is comprehensive and convenient. Many bus stops are adjacent to railway stations, making transferring easy. The bus is boarded in the rear or centre, and passengers exit through the front of the bus, paying the fare as they leave. Each trip is charged at a flat rate. While English is not widely spoken among bus drivers, expats might find it helpful to have a few key Japanese phrases on hand or to have their destination written down in Japanese.

More details about the bus system can be found on the Kintetsu Corporation website.

Taxis in Osaka

All taxis in Osaka are regulated and use meters with standardised pricing. Though expensive, taxis are a valuable option to have, especially when the subway is closed for the night or if one's destination isn't close to a train station or bus stop. Taxis can be found in taxi ranks around the city or can be hailed from the street. An occupied taxi will display a red light on the windscreen.

Expats should keep in mind that not all taxi drivers may be fluent in English. Therefore, having the destination address written in Japanese is a good idea. Another cultural note; taxis in Japan are equipped with automatic doors, which the driver controls – no need for travellers to open or close the door themselves.

Expats should remember that in Japan, driving is on the left side of the road. And for those considering driving in the city centre, bear in mind that parking can be quite expensive and scarce.

Ride-hailing apps like Uber are available in Osaka and are a valuable alternative to regular taxis.

Useful links

Driving in Osaka

Expats wanting to drive in Osaka will initially need an international driver's permit. This allows them to start driving on arrival in Japan. To get a local licence, residents must first have their licence from home officially translated into Japanese. After making an appointment at the nearest Japanese Driving Centre, the licence translation is submitted along with several other documents, including proof of residence. Once these documents have been processed, expats from certain countries will be granted a local licence immediately. Others must first pass written and practical tests before their licence is issued.

Cycling and walking in Osaka

Though Osaka is large, the landscape is generally flat, making walking and cycling a pleasant way to get around within specific areas. Both are popular pursuits among locals. Alternative modes of transport like the subway or bus are recommended for longer distances.

If expats are planning to cycle, it should be noted that bicycles must be registered with the police in Japan – an easy but necessary process. Also, as pedestrians, they should be aware that jaywalking is generally frowned upon, and it's common practice to wait for the light, even if there's no traffic.

Useful links