OSAKA / MINAMI (ATT.JAPAN ISSUE 11)
Strange but delicious, we guide you yhrough the heart of the king of all mercantile cities – Osaka’s Minami district
Osaka – king of Japan’s mercantile cities.
Minami sticks out as Osaka’s bustling shopping and entertainment district. An overflowing power and straightforward air of excitement make up Minami’s charm and allure. To awaken ourselves to this Osakan reality, we start by taking to our feet through Minami first-hand.
Shinsaibashi Suji shopping area
People joyously walk the maze of shops lining the street, under their eaves- a spectrum of dazzling colors. The feeling of elegance in the air that goes along with Shinsaibashi Suji brings to mind that of a European village. So related is the American Village in the west side of town. Saturated with a free, pop culture atmosphere, the power of youth emanates all over.
The city that indulges in extravagant food – Minami
Minami is studded with and brings to you a multitude of delicacies full of the mood and human touch that made them. This truly is the city of indulgence in extravagant food, Osaka. No doubt Minami has the most delicious yet inexpensive eats to be encountered: okonomiyaki (has thousands of variations, but basically contains cabbage and other vegetables, pork or other slices or bits of meat, and is mixed in a batter and fried on a skillet and topped with special sauces and condiments to resemble a pancake), takoyaki (chopped octopus and vegetables fried into balls with the use of semi-spherically impressed, specially shaped skillets), udon (thick wheat noodles served in a variety of soup bases), tetchiri (known in the Tokyo area as fuguchiri; fugu is the dreaded poison blowfish nicknamed te’ (or tetsu) which is short for teppo, meaning pistol. Chiri basically means nabe, a soup served in a big pot. The reason this is called pistol soup has to do with the poison found in the blowfish. If it is not removed completely by a trained expert, you may as well shoot yourself dead with a pistol), kushikatsu (kushi includes some type of meat on a skewer, and this is prepared as a katsu, meaning it is dipped in bread crumbs and deep fried), and kanisuki (kani is crab and suki is short for sukiyaki), looking at all these shops laid out before you comes the realization that there could be more kinds of food than there are stars in the sky. Heading down south from Shinsaibashisuji will bring you to the Dotonbori vicinity. Gaudy billboards and signs leap out at you. Colorful and innovative design and character of 3-D signs have an extraordinary impact. Neither do the Dotonbori and Soemon-cho area put shame to Minami’s title “city of indulgence in extravagant food,” which in a crude, more literal translation could also be interpreted as “the city to pork out till you drop.”
South from Dotonbori is Hozenjiyoko-cho. Packed side by side along narrow stone paved alleys are long-established restaurants and shops for your sweet tooth, in Naniwa the air is charged with a feeling of being cozy and snug.
Experience Naniwa culture. Minami – the origin of Naniwa culture
In Dotonburi, Shibaigoya a remnant theater of the Edo era (an era lasting from 1603 to 1867) is still in place as it has been for centuries. The National Theater of Bunraku, a traditional entertainment of the Kyoto/Osaka area is also located in Minami. Other types of entertainment the town is famed for are Kabuki, and popular dramas. Namba’s Shinkabuki and its Momoyama form of Kenraku is located in a luxurious building in front of Takashimaya that is worth a thousand words just to look at. Don’t pass it up. In Namba is Yoshimoto Kogyo, who continues the tradition of comedy. At NGK (Namba Grand Kagetsu) talents affiliated with Yoshimoto Kogyo make their appearances, performing their stand-up comedy and Rakugo (comic storytelling), fluently communicating their skill to the laughing crowd.
Walking the streets of Minami, Osaka Nipponbashi Denden Town
This is the Osaka equivalent to Akihabara Electric Town in Tokyo. The cradle for epicurean, food loving Osaka is this “Kitchen of Minami, Kuromon Ichiba.” Just watching the scenery of fresh fish is a diversion in itself- a feast for the eyes. Going to Doguya Suji (“Utensil shop-district”) the streets are a cluster of cookware and gadgetry specialty shops. Mosey on by, you will never get bored. Enjoy the stroll through Minami, you’ll probably come across a bargain. Then connect with the locals by calling out a line they always like to say and hear: “Maido!” (sounds like “my ” (with vowels as short as you can), and is a said after dealing with customers or merchants to reinforce a feeling of patronage with them, it is short for ‘maido arigato gozaimasu,’ meaning “thank you for your patronage”). With all this, you too can get a taste for the Kansai state of being.