Written by onesundaymorning on 26 Aug, 2007
At the heart of Kansai is Osaka, one of the largest cities in Japan only surpassed by Tokyo. My trip here wasn’t about finding any historical or cultural attractions, but instead to find one of the greatest impacts that Japan has on the world: fashion.…Read More
At the heart of Kansai is Osaka, one of the largest cities in Japan only surpassed by Tokyo. My trip here wasn’t about finding any historical or cultural attractions, but instead to find one of the greatest impacts that Japan has on the world: fashion. When most people think of trendy cities London and Paris are the first to come to most minds, but where do these fashion forward cities look for their inspiration, Japan. Due to time constrictions I wasn’t able to make it to Tokyo; the fashion mecca of the world, but instead I was able to go to Osaka and find view something that I’ve waited a life time to see, Tokyo Street Fashion.
In the late nineties a new form of fashion started to appear in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. Teens began to rebel against the norms of society that was placed upon them; there method of speaking out was through their clothing. This imaginative style combines designer brands such as Louie Vuitton, with local brands like Milk and Super Lovers, with handmade items. Although Tokyo is still the main hub of Street Fashion, Osaka is the second best place to view this fashion.
I headed off to Amerkia-Maura (American Village), where I was told by some locals the best shopping was to be found. Although it is meant to be a place where kids can live out the "American myth" there is nothing American about this place. Everywhere I looked trendy shops sold the most unusual, but very Street Fashion looking clothing. If you plan on shopping here an unlimited budget is the best. One girl tried to sell me a hoodie for $900.
Although there were many people in just jeans and T-shirts I did spot several teens clothed in Lolita style clothing (very doll like), and others in a mishmash of clothing that in any other place would have looked like someone had just fallen out of their closet but somehow here it made sense.
Tokyo Street Fashion has a rich history that is often ignored by the average traveler, but this unique blend of fashion captures the Japanese spirit in every sense. It shows an undeniable sense of independence and an "I’ll do it my way" attitude mixed with influences of the past, but modernized to reflect the progressive spirit of today. It leaves the viewer to walk away with the sense that they just saw something uniquely Japanese. This isn’t Gwen Stefani’s version of Harajuku.
Written by Composthp on 06 Jun, 2003
Singaporeans are vorocious shoppers and foodies, and Osaka is food/shopping heaven for us! Coupled with a travelling companion who needs two hourly, small feedings (no, she does not have ulcers, just a small stomach and a fast metabolic rate), we were perpetually looking for food…Read More
Singaporeans are vorocious shoppers and foodies, and Osaka is food/shopping heaven for us! Coupled with a travelling companion who needs two hourly, small feedings (no, she does not have ulcers, just a small stomach and a fast metabolic rate), we were perpetually looking for food everywhere we went.
The JR train stations are the best places for food. Practically every major JR train station we went has at least one supermarket and lots of little counters selling everything from bentos (takeaway lunch boxes and sushi) to mochi (rice-cakes filled usually with red bean paste) and other local delights.
At Namba station (Osaka), it was Takashimaya, a well-established retailer in Japan and S.E. Asia. The basement, located just near exits 5 - 10 is a boon for budget travellers like us. We bought our breakfasts from the bakaries and pick our dinners from the many counters selling freshly deep-fried assorted tempura,grilled yakitori (skewered meat) salads, sushi (Tokyo style and Kansai style), sashimi, bento sets (rice-box sets with assorted dishes), etc. The variety is just mouth-watering and eye-boggling. We managed to sample quite a variety of food without burning a hole in our wallets. If you come after 6 pm, food will be sold at a discounted rate as many prepare to close for the day!
The strangest thing was that my friend was constantly being asked to sample the food (it pays to blend in after all) without purchasing so we were snacking away while trying to decide on our dinner for the day.
The cheapest meal we had was the 220 yen (US$2) udon at a little cubby hole in one of the shopping lanes next to Namba bus station. Patrons are required to pay by selecting the desired dish from the vending machines placed near the entrances/exits. The receipt is then given to the cooks who will then serve the dish. The "restaurant" is basic, water is free but self-service and after observing local patrons, I think patrons are also expected to wipe down the counter after finishing the food with a dish-cloth conveniently placed at the counter every two to three seats.
Namba has endless streets of pachinko parlours (little silver balls that spins and spins...an addictive favorite Japanese pastime), restaurants and retail shops. The Den Den town (located just behind the Namba station) is a must visit for those interested in the latest electronic gadgets. Somehow, these streets are linked, we soon found ourselves passing Dotombori (look out for famed Giant crab sign-board seen commonly in postcards) and in Shinsaibashi, another shopping haven one subway station away.
Another interesting place to shop and people-watch is America-Mura (American village). Shops here sell mainly imported American goods (including used or otherwise). There is one shop that sells only Christmas decor, needless to say, the name of the shop is Santa claus shop (or is it Christmas shop), another sells stuff like playmobile toys, that will remind you of your childhood days (it certainly reminded me).
If you are tired of shopping, people-watching is just as interesting. Teenagers and young adults flock this area dressed in the most interesting gab. Besides the usual multi-colored hair, there are those who dressed in multi-layers. Imagine 2-3 layers of tops in contrasting/clashing colors with frilly see-through skirts and jeans. Imagine Victorian-styled dresses (in layers and usually black) with lacy caps that the ladies of yore wore only to bed. Most interesting ne? Best time to visit? Afternoons and particularly on weekends but beware of your wallets.
To get to Namba, um...(we stayed there actually but..) hop onto the subway and head for Namba station.
To get to America-mura, hop onto the subway and get off at Shinsaibashi station. Look out for signs for further directions. It's about a three minute walk.
For more information on Osaka, go here.
Written by david on 07 Jul, 2000
It is a regular practice of the Japanese retired to form a morning hiking group to daily ascend a nearby mountain. Takatori mountain is a particularly popular spot as the surrounding neighborhoods are traditional and local, and perched at the summit is a centuries…Read More
It is a regular practice of the Japanese retired to form a morning hiking group to daily ascend a nearby mountain. Takatori mountain is a particularly popular spot as the surrounding neighborhoods are traditional and local, and perched at the summit is a centuries old shrine looking out over Kobe city. Every morning the hiker will be greeted by dozens of Ohayo!s, bleated with particular gusto on Saturdays and Sundays. A special treat 2/3 of the way up are two eating/drinking places where members of the older generation gather to drink beer and play Shogi (chess) from the morning. The beer is carried up and down by a man in his 70's and his wife in special shoulderbags designed to hold a dozen or so of the large bottles. A visitor would be hard-pressed to find a more local watering hole, and entering can feel like walking into a saloon in a small town in the west, but once inside the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Hanshin Railway to Kosoku Nagata station or the Kobe Chikatetsu (subway) to Nagata station. Follow the signs to Nagata Jinja (shrine), a famous destination in itself, and from there head toward the highest mountain visible behind. If you keep heading up (the hill), you are bound to run into the footpath which continues to the summit and beyond. Close
Nestled in a valley just over the Rokko Mountains, Arima Onsen makes a wonderful day-trip from Kobe or Osaka. Busses run (in both directions) from Hankyu Ashiya and JR Ashiyagawa stations, and the Kobe Dentetsu (railway) terminates there, but a hike over the Rokko Mountain…Read More
Nestled in a valley just over the Rokko Mountains, Arima Onsen makes a wonderful day-trip from Kobe or Osaka. Busses run (in both directions) from Hankyu Ashiya and JR Ashiyagawa stations, and the Kobe Dentetsu (railway) terminates there, but a hike over the Rokko Mountain front range makes a soak all that more rewarding. The hike is fairly steep initially, but Japanese octogenarians do it regularly. There are views over the dense industrial paradise of Amagasaki and Osaka bay, and clear days bring into focus the islands and high mountains of Wakayama. At the top of Rokko mountain there is a very average curry-rice/udon shop for the hungry and lunch-less. Once in Arima a dip costs between 350 yen at the public bath to 1500 at a top-end resort. Meals are availabe for a variety of prices, as is accommodation. While an overnight stay at an Onsen can be an extremely rewarding experience, Arima, with it's close proximity to Kobe and Osaka, can be crowded. If the price is going to be paid (and Arima tends to be more expensive than other more Onsens), there are far more ideal locations along the Japan Sea (north Hyogo, Tottori prefectures) and on Shikoku.
HOW TO GET TO THE HIKE: Take the Hankyu Osaka/Kobe line to Hankyu Ashiyagawa station. From there follow the signs to Rokko Mountain and the Rock Garden. For those interested, along the way you will pass a Zen temple with open meditation sessions (for Japanese and Foreigners) on posted days. The path is clear all the way to the top, and from there, follow the signs to Arima. A few minutes into Arima you will pass a well from which bubbles up the famous mineral-laden water. The natural carbonation gives it a kick, but visitors are warned not to drink over a liter a day, as certain minerals in larger quantities can run through a person quicker than expected. The hike can be done in 3-4 hours at a reasonable pace. Close
While Tokyo has (and even Kansai people will admit) superior Soba, you will never get a bowl of Udon which compares to that rolled out at Hagakure. The narrow, ever-busy shop is located in the lower level of the DaiSan building in Osaka's central…Read More
While Tokyo has (and even Kansai people will admit) superior Soba, you will never get a bowl of Udon which compares to that rolled out at Hagakure. The narrow, ever-busy shop is located in the lower level of the DaiSan building in Osaka's central Umeda area in a maze of corridors, so you may have to ask your way once you feel warm. The shop is open for lunch, closed for a couple hours before dinner, and there is always a string of people waiting to get in (but it is WELL worth it). THE dish to order is 'KiJouYu Udon', which in its simplicity allows you to fully appreciate the Udon itself. The prices are very reasonable, and ordering plus 50% ('ichi-ten-go') or double ('daburu') portions costs no more (but must be eaten). All first-time visitors are instructed as to how to dress and consume their hand-made noodles for optimum flavor, and once the initial pass is through, left on their own to slurp in peaceful reverie.
HOW TO GET THERE: take either the Hankyu, Hanshin or JR railway to Osaka's Umeda station. From there, remain underground and follow the signs to the Daisan 3 building. Close
Written by david on 26 Jun, 2000
Walk 5 min. south of Hankyu Railway Kasuganomichi station and you will find a large, thriving ShoTenGai (pedestrian shopping street) dominated by Korean food markets and clothing stores. For the resident the vegetables are cheaper and fresher than most supermarkets, and rarer treats like large…Read More
Walk 5 min. south of Hankyu Railway Kasuganomichi station and you will find a large, thriving ShoTenGai (pedestrian shopping street) dominated by Korean food markets and clothing stores. For the resident the vegetables are cheaper and fresher than most supermarkets, and rarer treats like large zucchini can be found at reasonable prices. A walk around the area will likely lead to local Korean restaurants, ChiJiMi or Paejon (korean pan-cake) food-stalls, Kim-chi specialists, and very, very local 'snack' bars. The Yakiniku (grilled beef) shop at the east end of the ShoTenGai is a favorite local spot, and the menu (on the wall) is in Korean; always a good indication of authenticity. Stay late enough and you will undoubtedly end up at your neighbors table trying to count the small green bottles of Jinro (the local poison of choice).
HOW TO GET THERE: take the Hankyu Railway to Kasuganomichi (one stop East of Sannomiya), exit and walk south 2-3 minutes. Alternately, if you are somewhat familiar with the area, the walk from Sannomiya (the center of Kobe) is around 15 minutes. Close
An escape from the shopping-oriented crowds of Sannomiya and Motomachi (the center of Kobe) quiet Meriken Park, in effect a large pier jutting out into Osaka bay, is just a short walk directly south of JR (Japan Railway) Motomachi Station. The pier was…Read More
An escape from the shopping-oriented crowds of Sannomiya and Motomachi (the center of Kobe) quiet Meriken Park, in effect a large pier jutting out into Osaka bay, is just a short walk directly south of JR (Japan Railway) Motomachi Station. The pier was toppled in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, and in its reconstruction parts of the destroyed pier have been left as they are in a fascinating, tasteful display. By day or night the view of the the Rokko Mountain range is impressive, and the fresh sea air and calm waves more Zen than most temples these days. Chances are you'll be joined by young couples or old fishermen, and respite is the word of the day.
HOW TO GET THERE: take JR Kobe line to Motomachi station and walk south. Hanshin Railway or the Kobe Chikatetsu (subway) may also be used. Close
Written by david on 27 Jan, 2004
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…Read More
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 are also common.
Convenience stores are primarily good for two things--easy food/beverages and magazine/Manga browsing. For quick snacks the 'Onigiri' are often the best bet. These are 'triangles' of rice compacted around salmon or picked plum, chicken, konbu, etc and wrapped in nori (seaweed). Once purchased (¥100) don't just rip the wrapper like you might do in America, but carefully note how the nori is kept separate (thereby crisp and dry) from the rice, and how if unwrapped properly (meaning following steps one, two, and three) the nori is suddenly found magicaly surrounding the rice. It's amazing, but can take a try or two to get it right.
The beverage choices are vast, including numerous kinds of hot and cold tea or coffee, a Gatorade-like sports drink called Pocari Sweat, and a fizzy sweet yogurt drink Calpis soda. The magazine/manga rack can give you intersting insight into popular culture reading interests, and feature Manga for all strata of Japanese society. The mens and ladies fashion magazines are also worth checking out, and (as is true in bookstores) the management doesn't mind.
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…Read More
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 want or need to speak the local language. For the casual visitor with no specific agenda, the drink machines prove the most useful.
Always note the beer and sake machines in the vicinity of your hotel, as they can come in handy after dinner if you feel like relaxing in your room in front of some first-rate Osaka TV, always a good way to get a bit of insight into a culture. Contrary to North American Suburbia, where youths spend hours waiting around the side of a 7-11 for someone kind enough to buy them beer, and stories of alcohol vending machines in the Far East were laughed off as a near-physical impossibility, the alcohol vending machines are not used/abused by thirsty youth, who associate alcohol with the stumbling, uncool, drunken 'salarymen' (their fathers). The prices of beer and tobacco in Japan are the same in all stores and vending machines nationwide, though alcohol vending machines stop vending at 11pm.
Eight hours later you may be thinking more about the canned coffee, which comes in all combinations, and in winter either hot or cold (the hot cans make good hand-warmers too, and make you wonder why we can't do this back home). Canned creamed corn soup is probably the overall favorite vending machine food, though spaghetti is not uncommon (not sure how this is dispensed).
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…Read More
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 past apartments came equipped with toilets but no bathrooms), Spa World (Japanese language web site - http://www.spaworld.co.jp) sets itself apart with deep, well-accessed natural hot spring water and fantastic themed settings. The hot springs themselves are divided into two main "zones", Asia (including Islamic, Persian, Chinese, Japanese Hinoki wood bath, Indian, Japanese outdoor bath, and a "Japanese Rest" area), and Europe (including Roman, French, Greek, Finnish, Spanish, German, and "Grotta Azzurra" blue cave bath). The themed baths are well done in a kind of Vegas style with landscape murals on the walls or starry nights painted on the ceilings in the "outdoor" settings, all of which adds to the fun. If giving the subtle sensation that you are sitting in an exhibit at the Natural History Museum (non-Asian foreigners can get stared at a bit in Japanese public baths and traditional onsen, but thematically speaking they should fit right in the Islamic or European "Zones" here).
There is also an excellent gym/fitness facility available and a kid-oriented swimming pool with waterslides and fountains. Note: the 'Rules' at Spa World say "No Tattoos", though this is a common roundabout way of reserving the right to refuse service to Yakuza. It is much easier to say "sorry kind sir, no tattoos allowed" than "sorry no gangsters here". Foreigners with tattoos, as long as they don't resemble the large traditional Japanese tattoos, will not be asked to leave.
Spa World is a bit of a splurge. Bathing with a three hour time limit is ¥2,400 adult/weekdays ¥2,700 adult/weekends and children under 12 are ¥1,300/1,500 respectively. Spa World does offer accommodation and can be a good option for a night or two, as the prices include use of all baths and recreation facilities. The rates range from ¥16,000/night up to ¥54,000 per night, though the scale is complex depending on the number of people, weekday, weekend, Japese-style room, and Western-style room. A good family option could be the Japanese-style room, sleeping four people for ¥20,000.
Festival Gate (Japanese language web site http://www.festivalgate.co.jp) is, along with Spa World, one of the new developments in the rejuvination effort of the long-neglected Tennoji neighborhood. It's a family-friendly, clean amusement park surrounded by what is otherwise one of the few "rough" neighborhoods Osaka has to offer (it isn't dangerous by American standards). There is enough here to keep both kids and adults entertained, and Spa World is just across the way if you need to chill afterwards.
Festival Gate is clean and compact compared with the sprawling amusement parks found in places like southern California, all squeezed into eight floors of fun. Highlights include Sega World (video games you won't see outside Japan for a few years), Delphin Arena (a local Osaka pro-wrestling arena where matches are held on the weekends--call 06-6635-1100 for details), Bridge (a non-commercial alternative music space--call 06-6634-0080 for details), Dios Fall (a 45 meter free fall ride, ¥500), and Delpis The Coaster (roller coaster,¥ 700).
There are also a number of restaurants in the complex, including Italian (where you can get the Japanese favorite spaghetti with salmon roe), gelato, various cafes, donburi (usually called "rice bowls" in English), and the Japanese fast food hamburger chain Mos Burger (see menu here, view diagram of Mos Cheese Burger here), far superior to its American counterparts, my favorite eating place at Festival Gate, and a must-try for any visitor to Japan (a country-wide chain, don't make a special trip to Festival Gate).
Spa World and Festival Gate are a five minute walk from the Doubutsuenmai station on the red Midosuji subway line, or a 10 minute walk from JR Osaka Loop Line Tennoji station.