Home > Urban Development > Umeda Kita Yard Redevelopment Project

Umeda Kita Yard Redevelopment Project

Firstly, I would like to thank all my readers and fellow bloggers for supporting Osaka Insider. This is officially my 50th post, and while Osaka Insider is a still a new face on the Internet, the increasing readership and lovely comments have encouraged me to keep going. Thank you!

Construction started in March 2010 in Umeda’s Kita Yard (北ヤード), an area located directly next to JR Osaka Station that has been used as a freight terminal throughout its history until now. The area has always been an eyesore in the upscale district, and the redevelopment of this area will essentially “complete” the Umeda area. According to the development project’s website, phase one is scheduled to be complete in March 2013. According to various sources, the entire redevelopment will be complete between 2020 and 2025.

Phase one consists of a series of buildings forming a district known as the “Knowledge-Capital” (inappropriate hyphen placement is their English, not mine). It will supposedly be a multi-purpose commercial-residential-research district, focusing on an international gathering of minds combined with cutting-edge technology. Cutting through all the flowery descriptions, the reality will be a mixed office-shopping-residential district, along with facilities for conferences, conventions, research, and knowledge-workers. There will also be green space modeled after Osaka’s current overarching development theme, the “city of water.”

The above is my summary of what the planners envision, but now I’d like to share my personal thoughts. The Kita Yard is a giant eyesore in Umeda, especially when going to the Umeda Sky Building or Yodobashi Camera, and it also acts as an unwelcome reminder of Osaka’s dirty, industrial past. The land in question is probably the most expensive property in Osaka, and I have high hopes that they will redevelop it in such a way as to add more originality and fun to the Umeda district.

I think the idea of a “Knowledge-Capital” will flop, and the new area will essentially be an expansion of Umeda as a shopping district, with new and extremely expensive housing added in. About a third of the area is dedicated to housing and hotel space, another third to offices, and another third to commercial facilities with a smattering of “Knowledge-Capital” commercial zoning. Throughout Japan’s modern urban development history, there have been many attempts to make technology-based districts or districts revolving around vague concepts such as knowledge or internationalization, and all of them have simply turned into upscale commercial districts in the end–I have almost no doubt that this time will be no different.

In other words, this new part of Umeda will simply be an expansion of the current upscale shopping and central business district. What is needed is some originality, something to make Umeda stand out. This cannot be accomplished by simply throwing in a few department stores, overpriced restaurants and brand-name department stores for gold-diggers and himo. Umeda is a fun place, but it has always felt a bit like a Kansai version of Tokyo’s Shinjuku rather than something uniquely Osakan, as places like Namba, Tsuruhashi and Shin-Sekai are.

Furthermore, areas in the central city north of Osaka Castle Park and Utusbo Park are severely lacking in quality parks and pleasant green space (I’m not counting the drab Yodogawa riverfront), so quality parks and open areas rather than a few sad-looking shrubs are sorely needed in Umeda. These would likely raise property values in the area even further (which must be of some interest to developers there). Osaka has some of the most well-planned parks I’ve encountered in Japan, and a new one in Umeda would be a definite plus for residents.

Finally, this development plan coincides with transportation network expansion projects, namely by JR and the Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau (public operator of subways and buses in Osaka). JR has long been considering a namboku (“north-south”–name TBD) line going underground from a new Kita-Osaka Station in Umeda, through to the existing JR Namba Station and continuing from there on current tracks to Tennoji Station. This would not only provide an alternative route for regular trains and tokkyu special express trains going north-south (they currently use the loop line), it would provide an alternative route for JR freight traffic, as well as new public transportation along Naniwa-suji (boulevard). Osaka City is considering extending its Yotsubashi Line to connect with Kita-Umeda and continue north through Juso to Shin-Osaka Station (where the shinkansen stops). Although they are still in the discussion phases, these moves could greatly improve the Osaka City and Kansai area rail networks and improve ease of movement around the city.

I have mostly commented on phase one of the plan, because that is the only one where details are clear. Only time will tell what the new Umeda will look like, but I have very high expectations that the positive direction Osaka city planning has taken will continue to pick up momentum with this project.

Take a look at the development project’s website if you are interested in learning more.

Photos by Wikimedia Commons.
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  1. christian oliff
    April 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm | #1

    Interesting article. Thanks for continuing to blog! I am pleased to see you are still posting. Long live Osaka Insider! :-)

  2. Andy
    April 22, 2010 at 8:09 am | #2

    Hey, thanks for keeping it up. I just found the site and appreciate the info.

  3. April 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm | #3

    The “knowledge capital” theme is important for Osaka as there has been a noticeable brain drain of talent to Tokyo over the past twenty years. This is attributable to several factors, one being less quality educational institutions. While the Osaka government doesn’t have a history of success in real estate developments (see FestivalGate), the consortium behind the Umeda Kita Yard development is extremely strong. Of special note is Mitsubishi Estate – which only puts its name on high-quality projects, and NTT Urban Development, which brings the highest technical specs to its projects.

    Your comment that Umeda is like Shinjuku is spot-on, but this is not negative. Umeda serves Shinjuku’s function for Osaka, acting as the gateway into the city, and naturally big retailers, offices, hotels, etc. clamor for space.

    The big picture is that this development is instrumental for re-invigorating Osaka – creating more real estate next to a hub station allows easier access, and indirectly increases business, educational and tourism opportunities. Looking at residential real estate, Osaka has not traditionally had a high-end residential neighborhood – everyone with money lives in Kyoto, Ashiya, etc. Providing high-end housing will bring in high net-worth customers and their spending yen.

  4. Yosi
    April 30, 2010 at 8:58 am | #4

    very informative, I’ve always wondered what they were doing over there.

  5. Ferdi
    September 8, 2011 at 9:58 am | #5

    I actually visited a business networking event where the concept was described in much detail. It was very interesting while I fear the cost for an appartment there will be exorbitant. They did include more greenery in the project than in most other large complexes you see in metropolitan areas in Japan, but still not sufficient from a European’s point of view obviously. But I don’t want to be judgemental since property price is just so high so a planted tree is worth so much money here.

    I would rather be interested to hear opinions on nice residential areas for young families. We live in downtown Kyoto which, despite all the cultural offerings / sightseeing spots, etc. , has little to offer for kids. I am German, my wife Japanese, our children (2 boys of 10 months and 5 years) are raised bilingual and English is to follow, of course. We would seek an open-minded, friendly, tolerant place for us to settle, find friends and mingle.

    I guess Kyoto as the cultural capital of Japan is likewise one of the most closed and conservative places which makes it difficult to truly integrate being a foreigner. I once was in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo and that was great! It reminded me so much of my student time in Karlsruhe, Germany, and I long for this free, fresh, young feeling. Where can I find such place which, at the same time, is safe and comfy for a family to live?

  1. April 29, 2010 at 6:40 am | #1

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