Osaka Journals

Osaka, a city firmly rooted in Japan

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A December 2003 trip to Osaka by david

Suntory Museum Tempozan Photo, Osaka, Japan More Photos
Quote: Osaka, Japan's second largest city, has long been the culinary and cultural rival of much larger Tokyo. While it isn't quite as vast a spectacle as Tokyo, it is certainly less cosmopolitan, in some ways it is more rooted in its culture of business, food, and Kansai dialect/humor.

Osaka, a city firmly rooted in Japan

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Overview

Tennoji Street Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
The best thing to do in Osaka is try to get a sense of the culture those in Kansai (Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe area) are so proud of. This means eating a lot, perhaps drinking too much, spending a bit of time watching the local TV, maybe checking out a Hanshin Tigers baseball game, and taking a break from the days of sightseeing you have probably just or will soon do in nearby Kyoto. Three central areas that offer a good introduction to Osaka are Umeda (the hub of rail transportation in Osaka with hundreds of restaurants and great shopping), Shinsaibashi/Namba (shopping by day, drinking and eating by night, with a lively youthful culture), and Tennoji (time capsule of 1960s Japan, run down working class area...Read More

L'Arc-en-Ciel

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Restaurant

L'Arc-en-Ciel Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
L'Arc-en-Ciel (there is also a very popular boy band of the same name) is one of the more popular cafes located in the depths of Umeda Station, and can be a good place to rest with some coffee and a piece of cake (¥800) or sweet waffle (there is currently a bit of a waffle boom in Japan). Coffee shops have long been an important part of urban Japanese culture, however there is a big stylistic difference between the coffee shops frequented by middle-aged businessmen (known as 'kissaten'), and those popluar with young people ('kafei'). Kissaten are populated by housewives and retired people during the day, and, depending on the neighborhood, businessmen and hostess girls looking for extra gifts/cash...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 27, 2004

L'Arc-en-Ciel
Umeda Station
Osaka, Japan

Umehatchi

Restaurant

Umehatchi Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Umehatchi, along with all the good restaurants in Japan, is a 'senmon-ten' (specialty shop), where the customers, chefs, and waitresses all know what the order is going to be, and generally if this is not the case, the food will suffer. The sushi chef does not make soba, and the soba chef does not make takoyaki (bits of octopus cooked in balls of dough). Umehachi makes tonkatsu (breaded fried pork), and it's pretty damn good. Okay, there is a bit of variety in how you may eat the pork, either on rice or straight with a side of shredded cabbage (there is always shredded cabbage served with tonkatsu, and science has determined there is a beneficial chemical reaction that occurs with the c...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 27, 2004

Umehatchi
ShinHankyu Building, basement level, Umeda Station
Osaka, Japan
(06) 6345-4310

Hatsuki

Restaurant

Quote:
Donburi, or 'rice bowl', can be one of the most satisfying meals in a country where portions are not super-sized (just like the people!). Hatsuki is a Donburi senmon ten (specialty shop), and while most donburi shops offer a variety of fried meat or tenpura to top off the hefty bowl of rich Japanese rice (rice grown domestically in Japan is heavy, high in calories, and about five times the price we pay for rice in the US), Hatsuki further limits the choices to the most classic of donburi options, Oyako (parent-child), and Don (pieces of chicken and delicious soft-cooked egg on rice). This is the best place to eat Oyako Don in Osaka, and is worth the trip, though, not unlike pizza, bad donburi is o...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 27, 2004

Hatsuki
5 minute walk from JR Kita Shin Chi Station
Osaka, Japan
+81 06-6348-0310

Nihon Ryori Kagaman

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Restaurant

Nihon Ryori Kagaman Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Kaiseki ryori is the highest form of Japanese food, and the most expensive. It is creative, delicate, subtle food like no other, and has been the inspiration for the Nouvelle cuisine of France. It is perhaps the only kind of food in the world where you feel it was worth the $150 (without drinks). Generally a meal consists of dish after dish after dish of food you have never seen or heard of before, appearing at just the right pace across an evening. Sake is the best drink to accompany any kaiseki meal, and it's generally dry and served cold. Kyoto probably has the best kaiseki culture in Japan, though many of the best restaurants do not take walk-in customers (you must know the owner), and would set ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 27, 2004

Nihon Ryori Kagaman
5 minute walk from JR KitaShinChi Station
Osaka, Japan
+81 06-6341-2381

Suntory Museum Tempozan

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Attraction | "The Suntory Museum"

Suntory Museum Tempozan Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Located across from the Osaka Aquarium and along the same subway line that takes visitors out to Universal Studios Japan, The Suntory Musuem's primary attraction is the building itself, completed in 1994 by Tadao Ando, a native of Osaka one of Japan's most famous and influential architects. Without any formal architectural training, Ando developed a signature style using plain reinforced concrete, relating to traditional wood/plaster Japanese architecture in its elegant simplicity and respect for the qualities of the material. He was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize (architecture's highest award) in 1995. The building houses an art/design bookstore, a museum with changing exhibit...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 27, 2004

Suntory Museum Tempozan
1-5-10 Kaigandori
Osaka, Japan
+81 (0)6 6577 0001

Umeda, Osaka's transportation hub.

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Story/Tip

Big Man Screen Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Most visitors to Osaka de-train at Umeda station (JR Osaka station) and are immediately thrown into the multi-level subterranean complex. This is challenging to navigate, not least because of the intense barrage of people from all directions. Fortunately near the main exits of JR Osaka station there are clearly labeled information kiosks with English-speaking staff equipped with maps, phone books, pamphlets, and a detailed knowledge of nearly every shop and restaurant in the vicinity. They can also provide you with useful accommodation and attraction information for the city as a whole. Take advantage of them while you can. Much of the activity in and around Umeda station has the sprawl...Read More
The Floating Garden from Below Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Located a 10 minute walk to the west of Umeda station, the 40-story Umeda Sky Building http://www.skybldg.co.jp/ichiban_e.html is (according to the website) "the world's only pair of skyscrapers connected in midair". It tends to satisfy the image many have of a wealthy, ultra high-tech, super-modern Japan. Completed in 1993 with the last trickle of Bubble Economy cash, financed by the Sekisui House corporation (the largest of western Japan's pre-fab housing companies where land owners can choose the model of home from catalogs and model-home viewing parks, the final selection delivered in factory-made pieces and assembled, general...Read More

Osaka Aquarium

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Story/Tip

Jellyfish Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
The Osaka Aquarium's central organizing theme is the relationship between the "Ring of Fire", (the seismic/volcanic belt that surrounds the Pacific) and the "Ring of Life" that exists along this belt. Visitors to this very popular, family-friendly attraction move along past aquariums that simulate various regions along this Ring of Life, spiraling down and eventually encircling the mammoth central aquarium, home to a number of large animals including a whale shark (deservedly the poster-fish of the aquarium), bluefin tuna, and beautiful eagle rays. Benches are available in prime locations, and given the rather steep (¥2000 per adult, ¥900 children 7-15, ¥400 ages four to six) entrance fee, you are ...Read More

Tennoji District, Osaka

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Story/Tip

Movie Theater Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Tennoji is the center of "Minami" (south) Osaka, and is the best place to experience the true working class, hard-drinking, pachinko-playing spirit that persists in this die-hard "local" city. It is the fabled land of Yakuza, love hotels, vice, and hard lives that is popularized in the Japanese psyche through Manga series Minami and Naniwa (the old name for Osaka), and through 1970s Yakuza movies. While high-ranking Yakuza are smart enough to avoid conspicuous neighborhoods like Tennoji, street level Yakuza are in abundance, and though they pose little danger to the visitor, it is best to be careful when taking photos of people in this area. The central focus and a true icon of Osaka ...Read More

Spa World and Festival Gate

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Story/Tip

Sign describing the Zones Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
The Onsen (hot spring) has a special place in Japanese culture. There are books, magazines, and package tours centered around Onsen, and it is the premiere way to relax in a society where words like "gaman" (endure/bear) and "ganbaru" (strive your hardest) are heard almost daily by everyone in the society from the time they enter preschool until the time they retire. Relax, like Enjoy and Work, are state-of-mind verbs in Japan, meaning they are to a certain degree decided upon states of being, often aided by props (the tie around the neck during Work, the tie around the head for afterwork Play. While numerous cheap (¥300) public baths pepper lower-income neighborhoods in Osaka (in the p...Read More

Universal Studios Japan

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Story/Tip

Jaws Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Universal Studios Japan attracts mainly Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Chinese tourists. Many westerners--especially North Americans--give it a miss, however it can be used as bait/reward for your child's quiet endurance while visiting temple after temple in Kyoto. Be warned that it is extremely popular (all of Asia no longer has to go as far as LA), and lines for attractions can be very long. The attractions are movie-themed rides, 3-D movies, and studio sets organized into themes (eg "New York", The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man™-The Ride), and can be a lot of fun, even for adults. The emphasis is definitely on the thrill, but for extra imaginitive young kids (who tend to believ...Read More

Vending Machines

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Story/Tip

Medicinal Stamina Power Drinks Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Japan uses vending machines for everything from train tickets (they accept ¥10,000 notes, hard to imagine paying for a NYC subway token with $100), beer, pre-cooked spaghetti, and manga to a high school girl's old underwear [ The Daily Yomiuri. "Dealers of Used Female Underwear Charged." 21 September 1993 (p. 2); Mainichi Daily News. "'Bura-Sera' Vending Machines Stir Local Concern." - Buru (blue) Sera (sailor - refering to the style of the high-school uniform) 12 September 1993. ] (this is rare). The degree to which vending machines replace human interaction (underwear aside) is evident in the substantial percentage of foreign expats who, despite years of living in Japan, do not w...Read More

Convenience Stores

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Story/Tip

Lawson Station Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Convenience stores are a good measure of the general cross-cut interests of a society/people. In Taiwan they smell of medicinal tea eggs. In the United states it's hot dogs and nachos. India doesn't really have them yet, but convenience (konbeni) stores have been fully integrated into Japanese society to a degree not seen anywhere else in the world. It is common for young people, especially students and single males, to say they live a 'convenience-store lifestyle' (konbeni seikatsu), meaning they basically get most of their nourishment from the 7-11s of Japan. Lawon Station, with the nostalgic milk jug logo (blue and white) is the largest chain, though Family Mart (sun and moon logo) and Circle-K ...Read More

Gacha Gacha - great souvenirs

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Story/Tip

Gacha Gacha Photo, Osaka, Japan
Quote:
Gacha Gacha is the name (reflecting the sound of the turning handle and dropping toy) given to the kind of coin-driven, toy dispense we usually encounter near the entrances to supermarkets in the United States. Over the past year or so there has been a Gacha Gacha 'boomu' in Japan, and nearly every shopping area or department store will have a room filled with dozens of machines. Many are geared towards children, but the recent excitement is surrounding toys for grown-ups (as distinguished from adult toys). Some of the most popular themes are 'My Elementary School', 'Nostaligic Candy' or 'Chinese Food', where well-crafted miniature models of standard (everybody had the identical desk, bag, etc...Read More