Written by david on 27 Jan, 2004
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…Read More
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 is the TsuTenKaku tower, an emblem of a country emerging from the devastation of World War II (Osaka was bombed flat). Japan has no shortage of observation towers, symbolizing aspirations (and whatever else you may wish), but Osaka's TsuTenKaku and Tennoji in particular seems to have survived any further development the tower was intended to inspire, and instead preserves in an authentic way the feel of 1960s Japan. In recent years the city has made an effort to "clean up" the Tennoji area, and has built the conspicuous, family-oriented Spa World (hot-spring hotel) and Festival Gate (amusement park), though Pachinko and Mah Jong players still outnumber those soaking in the multi-themed bathhouse/hotel, and theaters still projecting pornography have the customer base to remain in business.
If you are visiting Tennoji on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon you will have the chance to see a carnivalesque array of characters (out-of-work performers, aged female impersonators, drunk semi-homeless) singing sad Japanese folk song Karaoke (Kara"empty"te"hand" - Kara"empty"Oke"short for orchestra") at outdoor stands (yes, they sell jars of Ozeki 'one cup' sake, the favorite drink of the down and out in Japan) located on the walkway straddling the zoo between JR Tennoji station and the TsuTenKaku area. This is not to be missed.
Another recommended highlight is the pedestrian walkway between the red Midosuji subway line station Doubutsuenmae station (the most convenient entrance to the area) and the Tsutenkaku Tower. Filled with cheap, local stand-up counter restaurants, GO (east-Asian board game) and Shogi (Chinese-Japanese chess) parlors, and fortune tellers. Not far inside the pedestrian street, off a side alley to the right (if you are heading away from the subway station) there is a traditional indoor archery range where men and women of all ages come to fire arrows into targets mounted on a sand wall along the far side of the room. Visitors are welcome as long as they don't break the atmosphere of concentration.
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…Read More
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, generally replaced every 20 years or so) the building has become an architectural landmark, and offers the best 360-degree views of the carpet of beige-grey concrete that the bulk of Osaka is comprised of.
After paying (¥700 adults, ¥500 junior/HS students, ¥400 elementary school students, ¥100 infants) little time is wasted anywhere without a view. The elevator by which visitors reach the 35th floor is on the exterior of the building, and with glass on three sides it gives the uncomfortable impression that you and a few strangers are standing on a small exposed platform speeding ever higher.
From the 35th floor we funnel onto an escalator situated in a glassed-in steel frame that runs diagonally from one tower to a point between the two towers on the "Floating Garden". The Floating Garden itself (weather permitting) tries its best to inspire more vertigo through "A Thousand Nozzles" that spray mist into the space directly outside the viewing platform, shrouding secure-looking structural supports in a "sea of light blue clouds".
The contracted architectural firm Takenaka (large companies are the center force in modern Japan) used a unique high-rise contruction method designed to save space surrounding the construction site. According to Takenaka's web site (featuring photos of the Umeda Sky Building construction), "The Lift-Up Method entails the construction of a permanent column (or a temporary column) beforehand, which is then used as a counterforce column to lift up large frames that have been assembled on the ground", an amazing feat considering the "Floating Garden Observatory" that bridges the two skyscrapers "in mid-air" weighs 5,000 tons. The building also features some advanced "Earthquake Resistance" and "Vibration Control", (structural engineering enthusiasts can get details here), technology that is now being implemented in some west coast buildings in the United States.
There are a number of restaurants/cafes in the building, many located in the basement, which in a movie studio-like fashion emulates the streets of Edo-era Osaka.
To get to the Umeda Sky Building from Umeda station, and to keep the journey to an easy 10 minute walk, ask one of the information kiosk attendants to point you in the right direction.
For those on a tight budget the observation floor in the Hankyu 32 Ban Gai building in Umeda station is free, though to get the best views (and these are not as good as views at the Umeda Sky Building) you must eat at one of the many restaurants (French, Italian, Japanese, cake shops/cafes). However, the ¥700 you would have spent on admittance to the Floating Garden Observatory will cover more than half the cost of lunch.
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…Read More
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 sprawling Kinokuniya bookstore as its hub. The "big man" screen, near the entrance to Hankyu Railway Umeda station, is where most people arrange to meet, and the area can get densely crowded after working hours when people of all ages meet friends to head out into the evening. The bookstore itself has a good, if expensive, English language selection. A good resource to pick up is the Kansai Time Out magazine (http://www.kto.co.jp/index.html), which has up-to-date listings of festivals, flea markets, bars (that non-Japanese and English speaking Japanese frequent), as well as articles that give unique insight into the region.
Another resource I strongly recommend is one of the ubiquitous "where to eat now in Osaka" kinds of magazines. These magazines are, however, in Japanese, though through the copious use of mouth-watering photos and cute icons (date spot, family spot, late night) coupled with the Japanese penchant for extreme detail (the magazines specializing in Ramen have specific charts plotting saltiness, firmness of noodles, etc), these magazines can give you a sense of what the restaurant is about, even if you are unable to read the description. Pick one up and see what you think. You can always ask the information kiosk girls where the places are. Popular titles include the magazine-sized Gurume Gaido (Gourmet Guide), and the pocket-book sized Tabe Aruki Osaka (Eat Walk Osaka).
Three of the large Japanese department store chains, Hankyu, Hanshin (yes, same companies as the railways, and in fact often these companies develop new rail lines and then build department stores to draw the people out there via the new transportation) and Daimaru have branches in Umeda. These can be very good places to get Japanese tableware, as the selection and prices tend to be good and the design much better than what is generally exported. Most of the clothing in these department stores tends to be expensive Japanese (Isse Miyaki, Costume National, etc) or expensive European brands, and the prices are no better (they can be even higher) than elsewhere. Just before the New Year (Japan celebrates New Year according to the western calander) all stores, including expensive designer brands, make available as yet unsold merchandise via the "Fuku Bukuro" (Luck Bag). Each completely opaque bag (the contents of which can't be seen or pre-viewed or felt or guessed at in any way) has indicated a general idea of the net worth of the merchandise contained (eg ¥20,000 - ¥30,000) and the price (eg ¥7,500). Good luck!
One aspect of the Japanese department store that sets it aside from its western counterparts is the food floor, always located in the basement. It is the closest Japan comes to the hectic outdoor markets of southeast Asia, and it can be every bit as crowded and colorful, and is well worth exploring. There are specialty shops of every kind from sugar sweets pressed into seasonal forms (for use in the tea ceremony) to Chinese pork buns to fish eggs to Daigaku potatos ("University" potatos, pan fried potatos with honey, supposedly a common form of student sustenence). These basements are always a great place to grab a quick cheap snack, are easy to navigate, and the selection can satisfy the adventurous as well as the yearning for something more familiar (the bakeries tend to be excellent).
Umeda has a huge selection of restaurants, coffee shops, cake shops, and fast-food (Makku Donarudo Hanbaga). Again, as Umeda is a chaotic maze, the information kiosk girls will be happy to point you in the right direction if you indicate to them what kind of food you are craving. There are a number of relatively famous places to eat, but Hagakure Udon (white-flour wheat noodles) stands out in particular, and is guaranteed to be better than any udon you have had elsewhere.
Written by david on 26 Jun, 2000
The walkway which runs from Kobe's JR (Japan Raliway) Sannomiya station to JR Kobe station is one of the densest, most active areas in the city. In the past it was THE place for seamen-on-leave from Russia and S.E. Asia to buy second-hand electronics…Read More
The walkway which runs from Kobe's JR (Japan Raliway) Sannomiya station to JR Kobe station is one of the densest, most active areas in the city. In the past it was THE place for seamen-on-leave from Russia and S.E. Asia to buy second-hand electronics in bulk. More recently young fashion oriented shops have snatched up spaces near JR Sannomiya station and have turned it into one of the hottest young-peoples shopping centers in the region. The western end, near JR Kobe station, is still dominated by second-hand electronics and curio shops, many owned by Vietnamese, Chinese, and Koreans. In a city where 'grit' is little and far between, it can be a welcome change in atmosphere.
TO GET THERE: take JR to Sannomiya station and walk west beneath the railway. Alternately de-train at JR Kobe station and walk east. Hankyu Railway, Hanshin railway or the Kobe Chikatetsu (subway) may also be used. Close
Shinkaichi epitomizes 'shita-machi' (rough, older part of town) to most Kobe residents. Back in the 60's and 70's Shinkaichi was the center of Kobe, though in the eighties newer Sannomiya took precedence and Shinkaichi began a steady decline. Recently it has undergone a revival…Read More
Shinkaichi epitomizes 'shita-machi' (rough, older part of town) to most Kobe residents. Back in the 60's and 70's Shinkaichi was the center of Kobe, though in the eighties newer Sannomiya took precedence and Shinkaichi began a steady decline. Recently it has undergone a revival of sorts, partly due to the Kobe Arts Villiage Center, a state-of-the-art performance/music space, but the overall feel is still worn and seedy, and is well-worth a walk about. As in any 'shita-machi' area, most shops haven't changed since shortly after World War 2, and the locals are a colorful mix including construction workers, professional pachinko players, low-level Yakuza, and day-laborers. The best place to meet them would be in one of the ubiquitous eating/drinking places which line the main pedestrian shopping street. In exploring you may stumble across Kobe's main 'bai-shun' (literally 'selling spring'; prostitution) district, which has, as a result of the extended recession in recent years, begun to accept foreign clientele. Even if you don't plan on becoming a patron, block after block of 'Soap Land' houses and the faces of the door men amount to a more-than-interesting evening stroll.
HOW TO GET THERE: take the Hankyu Railway Kobe line to Shinkaichi station. Alternately walk from Hankyu Kobe station through the has-seen-better-days underground shopping arcade. You will pass a classic table tennis center, where serious players gather in the evenings. Never let them hear you say 'Ping Pong'. Close
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…Read More
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) elementary school music class instruments, science kits, school lunches, etc are dispensed for ¥100-¥200 depending on the complexity of the item.
There are Gacha Gacha for all tastes and persuasions, from the predictable Pokemon and Dragonball Z to food like sushi or Chinese, to more specific interests like dogs or hospital equipment, so you should have no trouble filling all your gift requirements (seriously, these are bizarre little things, and there is a secondary market for them amongst Japan-o-philes in the US) for just a few thousand yen.
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…Read More
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 believe in Jurassic Park) there is the milder world of Snoopy Studios.
Admission: Over 12 years old: 1 day pass ¥5,500; 2 day pass ¥9,800; Under 12 years old: 1 day pass ¥3,700; 2 day pass #165;6,700.
The Universal Studios Japan website (http://www.usj.co.jp/e_top.html) is in English, is up-to-date, and the best resource on this popular Osaka attraction. Close
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…Read More
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 encouraged to take your time in the presence of these elegant creatures. While the whale shark, partially because of its size, gets the most attention, the vivid collection of jellyfish and martian-bizarre giant spider crabs (which live in total darkness at depths of 200-400 meters) are just as spectacular.
To get to Osaka Aquarium, take the green Chuo subway line to Osakako station. From there the five minute walk is clearly marked.
Written by Kun-chan on 10 May, 2001
Reaching the Kansai International Airport, my sister and I left the cool of the plane into the humid sweat bath of a Japanese summer night. It was about 10pm and it was over 30°C!
Well, leaving the air-conditioned airport was worse.
At least we only had a…Read More
Reaching the Kansai International Airport, my sister and I left the cool of the plane into the humid sweat bath of a Japanese summer night. It was about 10pm and it was over 30°C!
Well, leaving the air-conditioned airport was worse.
At least we only had a bridge to cross before we were at our hotel, the Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport.
It was a high class hotel, and it even had bell boys in their little hats, which I thought was a nice touch. I don't stay at too many hotels like that!
Anyway, the room was small but comfortable, but well appointed. Air conditioning, tea and coffee, television, a bathroom with a bath/shower... and a little device so you can listen to the television from inside the bathroom!!
They even provided little bathroom slippers for you to wear. ^_^
Well, my sister and I left and met up with my ex, Yasu, and we all went to dinner together. There was a number of places to eat, but only a few of them were open. The Japanese-style eating establishments were mostly closed, except for ones more focused on drinking. So we went and had Italian instead - I had pizza!
The service was wonderful, though. I accidentally knocked a fork off of the table, and the waiter rushed to pick it up and brought me a new one straight away! Wow... most places in Australia would leave you to pick it up, and continue using it. ;p
The next morning it was a hot and sunny day, still very humid. I only had some long pants, so we met my pen pan, Hiroe, and we headed to the shops in the Aeroplaza to find some shorts for me to wear. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.
At least I got a few sweets and gifts.
The next stop was the little Japanese video arcade at the Aeroplaza. That was where I first saw (and played) Street Fighter vs X-Men! ^_^
We also did the thing where the machine takes a photo of you all, and prints it out on little stickers. Four people in one photo didn''t make it a great shot, but we all got some stickers each!!
An odd thing (to me) about the arcade was that some of the games were gambling games... like the horse racing game they had. Wow... they seem pretty free with alcohol and gambling games where kids might turn up in Japan!
Maybe their youngsters are just more mature.
Anyway, next was Rinku Park, one station away from the airport. The trains were clean and tidy with no graffiti.
That was the thing about Japan - everything was so clean!!
While waiting for our train (I think a return cost 400 yen), we saw one of the reasons why the trains were so clean - the cleaning ladies went on another train and started work with their little trolley!
Anyway, our train came and it, too, was nice and clean. There was no graffiti on the posters. The train seats weren''t torn. It was really nice. The windows were even clean! And the train seats were really cool - if you didn't like facing one way, you could pull the seat backrest, and get it to swing across, so you can face the other way! ^_^
An odd thing, though, was that I saw next to no animal life. The stations had the sound of birds singing over speakers while you''re waiting at the stations... but I only saw one sparrow.
The other animal life I found while at Rinku Town Station. We went to have some lunch (I got a terriyaki burger!) and we sat down in the little eating area. There was a fly buzzing around at the window, trying to get out.
Other than that, I didn't see any animals at all. Not even insects!
Anyway, too soon it was time to say goodbye to both Hiroe and Yasu, and get on our flight to LA... too bad our time in Japan wasn''t any longer.
One day, I'll go again!
Written by cathy1955 on 10 Dec, 2006
My beautiful Caucasian daughter went to Spa World and once undressed and her Japanese tat (kanji for imagine) was discovered, she was told to leave. She was very upset, but didn't argue. Not her way, I think she's an egg. Anyhow, the woman who called…Read More
My beautiful Caucasian daughter went to Spa World and once undressed and her Japanese tat (kanji for imagine) was discovered, she was told to leave. She was very upset, but didn't argue. Not her way, I think she's an egg. Anyhow, the woman who called her out came over with a large bandaid and applied it over the tat "our little secret." Apparently it's to keep the gangsters out without having to actually say it to their faces. Once again, the inherent courtesy and kindness of the Japanese comes shining through. Close