We didn’t have long in Osaka. Only two full days. Two days spent anywhere isn’t very long at all, and thus we had to do our best to cram in as much as we could to our short time in this vast, electrifying city. In the event, we did rather well, and certainly didn’t leave feeling we’d missed out. Below is just a small snapshot outlining some the more memorable things we did…
Weird Little Amerika-Mura: Tucked away behind the streets south west of Shinsaibashi underground station is the zany, wacky, **insert further ‘crazy’ synonym here** district of Amerika-Mura. The narrow streets are a refreshing difference from the blast of the vast Osakan boulevards nearby, and pleasant independent cafes and small restaurants flank shops selling everything from the brazen to the bizarre.
A particularly interesting half hour was spent mooching around Village Vanguard, a cavernous boutique specializing in manga comics, novelty items, and some things which can only come under the category of ‘weird stuff’ – for example, a bin full of naked baby dolls. Oh, Japan…
Umeda Sky Building: At 40 stories high, the Umeda Sky Building isn’t a particularly tall building. It’s also hardly a piece of architectural beauty, with its design looking rather like something a disinterested 5 year old would make out of Lego bricks on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
And yet, the view from the roof-top observatory which rings the two buildings is little short of spectacular, and thus makes the potentially steep 800 yen admission fee worth absolutely every penny. My advice is to go after dark in order to really appreciate just how vast Osaka is.
Dotonbori: Head north east out of Namba underground station to find the hip-hop-happening Dotonbori. I cannot believe I just wrote ‘hip-hop-happening’ in an actual blog post, and I will from now on remain suitably ashamed for the rest of my blogging life.
Dotonbori is Osaka’s ‘strip’. Its where the streets throb with neon lights, where crowds gather before street food stalls, and where Osaka’s least inhibited residents venture outside. I spent most of my time here wandering around agog – the mixture of neon lights, the music and the chatter, the irresistible stench of Asian streetfood and the plain, simple weirdness of a section of the Osakan population assaulting senses in dizzying fashion. You won’t want to blink because you won’t want to miss anything…
Osaka Castle: Let’s face it, being a traveller in Osaka, you’re probably going to visit Osaka castle. Its worth a few hours, I suppose, although I’m sure you’ve detected already that I am lukewarm about this particular attraction. Osaka Castle was first built in the late 1500’s. It was subsequently attacked, burned down or otherwise destroyed several times since, being rebuilt each time with the latest rebuild having taken place as recently as 1931.
Call me old fashioned, but when you describe something to me as a ‘castle’, I want to see something at least as old as the Queen Mother, God rest her soul. This for me was thus little more than a large and only mildly fascinating 1930s house.
The view from the 8th a highest floor observatory across a clear, sunny Osaka was quite remarkable, however, and made the previous 7 floors of only marginally interesting history house in the building’s museum worthwhile.
I did rather enjoy Osaka. It seemed like a suitable place to begin six weeks in Japan. A sort of living, working ‘introduction to Japan’ if you will, with all of the craziness you sort of come to Japan expecting, but also with the other quirks and obsessive cleanliness Japan is famous for. You could spend longer than a few days here and happily not get bored. Then again, with the rest of Japan within such easy striking distance, why would you want to stand still?