OSAKA (ATT.JAPAN ISSUE 55)
Osaka is located on the coastal side of the Kansai region. Following the completion of Osaka Castle in the 16th century, the infrastructure of the city began to be developed including river projects and the construction of many moats. The mid-Edo era began the fl ourishing of the city as the center of economy and trade for merchants. Major tourist spots, historical sites, and the downtown area are concentrated in the Kita and Minami areas of Osaka. Recently, there are many new hot spots in Osaka. Th is spring, why not take a trip to the ‘new’ Osaka.
Kita (Osaka Station, Umeda Station and the surrounding area)
In the Kita area, a transportation hub including JR Osaka Station and the Umeda stations of Hankyu railway, Hanshin railway, and subway lines, there are many big department stores such as Hankyu, Hanshin, and Daimaru. There are also many electrical appliance stores and fashion boutiques in this area. The web of underground shopping malls is convenient in all weather.
JR Osaka Station is in the process of being redeveloped. Above the platform of Osaka Station is a huge dome-shaped structure measuring 180 meters from east to west and 100 meters from north to south. Th is will be Osaka’s latest new hot spot and will include JR Osaka Mitsukoshi Isetan department store and Lucua shopping mall. Acty Osaka, on the south side of the station, will be renamed South Gate Building. And the fl oor space of Daimaru department store will be 60% greater. Pokemon Center Osaka, an offi cial store of the popular video game Pokemon, recently opened. In December 2010, Maruzen & Junkudo Umeda bookstore opened in the large commercial complex Chaska Chayamachi, designed by architect Tadao Ando, and is one of the largest bookstores in Japan with 2 million books for sale. From the Floating Garden at the top of Umeda Sky Building, there is a beautiful city view of Osaka. And you can ride on the large red Ferris wheel at Hep Five, another major commercial and entertainment complex.
Looking around this area you can see that Osaka truly is a city of waterways. Dotted around this area you will fi nd The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, historic buildings and bridges built during the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, art galleries and antique shops. The roses in the rose garden of the Nakanoshima Park are magnifi cent. In Nakanoshima Banks, the Nakanoshima design museum “de sign de >” will open in April 2011.
Osaka Castle was constructed in 1583 by the feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Th e current and third generation castle keep was built in 1931. Th e view of the cherry blossoms from a waterbus is beautiful.
Minami Senba / Horie
The Minami Senba and Horie areas, formerly crowded with textile retailers and furniture stores, has become one of the hottest areas for young people to gather. There are many stylish shops with select goods, cafes, hair salons, and places to fi nd original Osaka brands. In the Horie area, there are also shops that deal with imported interior goods and other, smaller products.
The area that goes from Shinsaibashi to Dotonbori and around Namba is called the Minami area. The gourmet street Dotonbori and food alley Hozenji-yokocho Street both have excellent food shops and cafes. Kuromonichiba market has about 160 shops that sell fresh foods and groceries. Sennichimae-doguya-suji Street is especially known for the shops for professional chefs or food experts to buy cooking tools and other kitchen items. Daimaru Shinsaibashi department store faces the lovely tree-lined Mido-suji Street and sells almost anything you might need. The stately Namba building houses Takashimaya, a department store known worldwide for its excellent selection of goods. The commercial complex Namba Parks, directly connected to Nankai Namba train station, is one of the most exciting places in Osaka for shopping and eating. The Nipponbashi district, a.k.a. Nipponbashi Den-Den Town, just east of Namba Station, has the largest number of electronics stores and shops selling anime character goods in the Kansai region. Recently, the number of maid cafes has been increasing.
Mt. Koya, a world heritage site, is about 90 minutes away by express train from Nankai Namba Station. Also, the old city of Nara, another world heritage and with various other cultural assets, is just 40 minutes from Kintetsu Osaka Namba Station. When you visit Osaka, take advantage and visit the other great places to see in the Kansai region.
Tennoji / Shinsekai
Tennoji has train terminals for subways, the JR line and the Kintetsu railway. In the center of this area is Tsutenkaku tower, surrounded by a zoo, a botanical garden and art museums. The area is being gentrifi ed into a fashionable place to go. In the spring of 2014, construction of Abenobashi Terminal Building Tower (a tentative name) above Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station will be completed and will be one of the biggest department stores in Japan. In the Shinsekai area, there is a playhouse for Japanese theatrical performances, kushikatsu (Japanesestyle deep-fried kebob) restaurants, Jan-janyokocho Street, and Kizu Market, a major food store for Osakans.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is the place to see a Rhincodon typus, the world’s largest fish, and sea otters. Last year the aquarium celebrated its 20th anniversary of opening. As part of the plan to enhance its exhibits, a special exhibition of “Chiisana Umi no Ikimonotachi, Kawaii! Collection” (Collection of small sea creatures ? How cute!) will open on March 9. At Tenpozan Market Place, there is a good shopping facility and also the sightseeing boat Santa Maria that tours around Osaka Bay departs from the dock there.
Many cosplay fans gather at the Asia & Pacific Trade Center (ATC) commercial complex in the Nanko Cosmo Square district on weekends. Universal Studios JapanR is a theme park where everyone from children to adults can enjoy world class entertainment including exciting rides themed after Hollywood blockbuster fi lms with performances by popular characters. Various events will be held under the latest theme, entitled the “Happy Surprises on the Greatest Scale in History of the Park,” to celebrate its 10th anniversary, starting March 3, 2011, and continuing until April 8, 2012. To commemorate the 10th anniversary, they will open with a special called “Dreams are Universal” and will continue with a cooling summer event, an exciting Halloween event in September, and a Christmas event starting in November.
At the Universal Citywalk Osaka? attraction near Universal Studios JapanR there are unique shops in an American-style town.
Kansai International Airport is the gateway to the Kansai region with many airplanes flying to and arriving from various countries. At the airport shops, you will fi nd souvenirs such as local sweets, cosmetics, and convenience goods. Foreign top brand products at duty-free shops and specialties from various regions of Japan are also available. Before departing Japan, shopping at the airport is your last chance to get great souvenirs and those things you wish you had bought while sightseeing.
Access to various sightseeing spots from the airport is very convenient. Not only are there trains and busses but also a high-speed ferry to Kobe. Various discount tickets that allow unlimited ride on trains or other public transportation are available if you are planning to tour around the Kansai region.
Rinku Town, a commercial development area near Kansai International Airport, includes Rinku Gate Tower Building with a hotel and restaurants and Rinku Premium OutletsR, an outlet shopping center with about 150 shops specializing in top brand products. There is a shuttle bus service (100 yen) from the airport to the shopping center. A special spring sale will be held from March 18 to 27 and a great chance to find good items at great prices. Another sale is held in June. Please check their website for details. (www.premiumoutlets.co.jp)
Aeon Mall Rinku Sen-nan houses Aeon super market and about 170 other retail shops.
The Instant Ramen Museum
Instant Ramen noodles were invented in Osaka in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Foods. Th e workshop “My Cup Noodle Factory” is very popular because you can make your own original cup of Cup Noodle with noodles, soup, and your choice of toppings. Reservations are not required. (Cost: 300 yen per cup. Instructions are given in Japanese. The operation may be shut down before closing time if there are too many visitors to service. It’s best to get there early on weekends, holidays, and other busy days.)
Speaking of tasty Osaka cuisine, okonomiyaki (thin and fl at pancake cooked on a hot plate with bits of meat, seafood and chopped cabbages), takoyaki (octopus dumplings), and other dishes using wheat are in general called “konamono.” Tecchiri (blowfi sh pot), kitsune udon (noodles with fried tofu), and kushikatsu (skewered cutlets) are also delicious.
See Osakan’s Life!
A 3-minute ride on JR Kanjo line railway, one stop from Osaka Station, gets you to Tenma Station. From the station, Japan’s longest shopping street, Tenjinbashi-suji, extends north to south with a line-up of about 600 shops selling all kinds goods for ordinary Osakans. In the 1-chome district of this street is the venerable Osaka Tenmangu Shrine and a rakugo (Japanese traditional story telling performance art) theater. In the 6-chome district of this street are game centers and drug stores. In the square just south of JR Tenma Station, there is a fresh produce market, from which restaurants and bars purchase fresh food at reasonable prices and thus can off er lower-price meals than in the Umeda area. In the 5-chome and surrounding area, there are many sushi bars with excellent sushi starting at 100 yen per piece.
Matchamachi is known as the town of toys. In this district, there used to be many diff erent toy manufacturers and wholesalers. But, as time has passed, they have been replaced by shops dealing with traditional seasonal Japanese toys such as hina dolls for Girls’ Day from February to March, gogatsu ningyo (armor and samurai dolls) for Boys’ Day from March to May, fireworks from June to August, and Christmas decorations from October to December. Just walking around this district and looking at the shops’ displays is fun. On the south of Nagahori-dori Street is Karahori Shotengai Street, extending eastward. Th is is a small alley but has such a variety of shops that it is worth checking out. On the back streets, there are old pre-WWII wooden houses that had escaped damage and make great photo subjects.
Fukushima is a casual area, just 20 minutes on foot from the Osaka or Umeda area. On the south side of Route 2, there are many old historic wooden houses, a drastic change from the busy streets of Umeda with its many high rise buildings. Recently, new restaurants, cafes and stylish shops have opened one after another in these remodeled old houses. There are Italian restaurants, Spanish tapa bars, okonomiyaki restaurants, yakitori bars, Korean nabe (one-pot dishes cooked at the table) restaurants, and others of many genres. The space under the elevated railway tracks of JR line is jam-packed with unique drinking bars and restaurants that specialize in seafood, vegetables, and even bio wine (natural wine) at reasonable prices. A little further north is Fukushima Shoten-dori Shopping Street, also full of shops and restaurants. Here, all kinds of food, from fast food to luxurious foodstuffs, are available.
Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine is a major shrine in Osaka and said to be beneficial for success in business as well as success in romance, beauty and health, and entertainment and art activities. Many women visit this shrine to receive these benefi cial powers. On Taian (auspicious) days, having a traditional Japanese style wedding there is very popular for couples. It is said that, if you pass through the torii gate located on the east side of Nankai Sumiyoshi Taisha Station and cross the Taiko Bridge that leads to the main hall of the shrine, you will be freed of evil spirits. On the opposite side of the station from Sumiyoshi Taisha, the western side of the station, is Kohama Shotengai shopping street where you can catch a glimpse of the daily life of an average Osakan. Th ere are about 120 shops including ones selling vegetables and fruit, meat, tofu (soybean curd) and other goods full of local shoppers. Th is area has many casual eating and drinking places. Area guides are available at the station in English, Korean or Chinese so tourists from many places will enjoy walking around the area.
Excursions in Kansai
The Kansai region, ten prefectures including Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, is located in the near middle of the Japanese archipelago. Th is region was home of the capital of Japan (in, at diff erent times, Osaka, Nara and Kyoto) for more than 1,000 years from ancient times and the region has fl ourished as a center of politics, economy and culture. Many cultural properties remain in Kansai with about 60 percent of the national treasures and fi ve world heritage sites.
Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki, the three major theatrical art forms, and the typical Japanese traditional cultures of tea ceremony and ikebana (flower arrangement) originated in Kansai. The region is also rich with modern cityscapes, pop culture, beautiful nature, and gourmet restaurants.
Getting there is easy and convenient because the sightseeing areas in the Kansai region are close and public transportation is extensive. Take a little side trip to some of the other interesting areas in Kansai from Osaka!
Kyoto, the capital for over 1,000 years, was built at the end of the 8th century. Th e aristocratic culture personifi ed the aesthetic consciousness of the Japanese people and can still be found in many of the historic buildings including shrines and temples, gardens, artworks and traditional festivals. Th e cherry blossoms in spring and the colorful leaves in autumn attract many tourists.
In Kyoto, cherry blossoms are at their best from late March through early April. Maruyama Park, Gion Shirakawa, along the Kamo River, Tetsugaku no Michi (Path of Philosophy), Heian Jingu Shrine in eastern Kyoto, Ninnaji Temple and Arashiyama in western Kyoto, and other popular viewing places are crowded with visitors viewing the lovely cherry blossoms. Illuminated cherry blossoms also are a fascinating sight in the evening.
Kobe is famous for being a romantic port-town. Kobe Port is one of the three most beautiful ports in Japan and for its so-called “ten-milliondollar night view,” one of the three best night views in Japan. Kobe was open to foreign trade earlier than other places in Japan and the longstanding international feeling remains. As you stroll around the sophisticated town, you will find a variety of gourmet spots from authentic Kobe beef restaurants to sweet shops and bakeries. Kobe beef, known worldwide to be premium beef because of its tenderness, sweetness and lingering taste, will satisfy any gourmet.
Kobe has hot springs and Arima Onsen, about 60 minutes by train or bus from Osaka, is the oldest hot spring spa in Japan. Soaking in a hot spring bath is a great way to relieve the fatigue from a hard day of sightseeing.