Monday, August 07, 2017

Osaka, City of Kuidaore

Unlike its neighbors, Kyoto and Nara, Osaka has few historical landmarks to show. This third largest city in Japan makes up for the shortfall with its thriving entertainment and food scene. 

Dotonbori Street

Dotonbori is referred to as the Times Square of Osaka. I think of it as an amusement park with shopping, restaurants, theaters, night clubs and crazy billboards all lit up at night. This place is all about fun, food and whimsical appearances.

Restaurant signboard
Osaka has been christened the city of kuidaore which means, "eat until you drop". Nowhere is food more visible than in Dotonbori where cartoon signs come alive in the evening, beckoning patrons to dinner. The restaurant shown above is on Dotonbori Street and from the looks of things, the favorite of Spiderman. There are also food stalls on the street selling two popular street food, okonomiyaki (grilled pancake with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage and meat) and takoyaki (octopus dumplings). Check out the recipes here: 

Not to be missed are the noodle stands. They are always crowded with customers. And to hear the contented slurps leave no doubt that the udon or ramen is well worth it.

Fudo Myoo


This moss covered image of Fudo Myoo is at Hozenji Temple in Shennichimae, a short walk from Dotonbori Street. Fudo Myoo is one of the five Wisdom Kings who are the guardians of Buddhism. The reason these statues are trimmed in green is due to visitors sprinkling water on Fudo Myoo as part of a prayer ritual for the granting of a wish.


This is one of my favorite alleys in Osaka. It's right behind Hozenji Temple. The red lamps, greenery, and wooden structures create a charming tableau. Unfortunately, the cable and electrical wires dangling across this corridor effectively dampen the old world ambiance.

Art Park, Namba Station
You don't have to go the museums in Chicago or Paris to see the masterpieces of Impressionist and Post Impressionist artists. Here at the Art Park are porcelain panel reproductions of their paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. Just step off the metro train and there they are. It's art reaching out to the masses! Lots to learn at Osaka Namba Station.

Namba Shopping
On a particularly hot day in late May, it was a relief to walk underground at Namba Station which boasts over 200 shops and restaurants. It's a convenient stop after getting off the train for some shopping or a sit down meal at one of its many restaurants. Hats off to Namba Walk.

Osaka Castle
The original castle was completed in 1597 during the reign of Toyotomi Hideyoshi who is known as the unifier of Japan. The main castle tower has been reconstructed twice; between 1620-1629 under the Tokugawa Shogunate and in 1931 from funds contributed by citizens of Osaka. Major renovations were undertaken in 1997. Osaka Castle sparkles once again as the symbol of Osaka.

Dotonbori-gawa Canal
Osaka is also dubbed the Venice of Japan for its waterways. Naniwa (original name of Osaka) was an important port city since 645 when it was the capital of Japan and again during the Edo Period. Osaka had a network of canals to facilitate the flow of goods and people around the city. Many of these canals have since been filled but there are still a few hundred waterways that the city maintains. The Dotonbori Canal is one of them and it is a magnet for visitors who enjoy sitting by the riverside to watch the neon lights from one of the cool bars.

Glico Man
The Glico Man has drawn visitors to Ebisubashi Bridge since 1935. The owner of the ad is a confectionary manufacturer who makes the famous Pocky chocolate sticks. I love to eat Pocky sticks and so do millions of others who buy 500 million boxes of Pocky annually in 30 countries worldwide. That should keep the Glico man running for years to come. And by the way, Ebisubashi is a good area for people watching with tourists trying to imitate the Glico Man stance for posting on social media.

Where to stay:
Hotel 88
On the street running parallel to Dotonbori. It is a couple minutes on foot to Namba Station. 

How to get around:
Explore Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi shopping gallery on foot. Take the metro when going to Osaka Castle or Umeda from Namba Station. Instructions to purchase metro tickets from machine dispensers are in English. Best to bring change for the ticket machine. 

An airport bus serves central Osaka from Itami Airport. Private car service to Itami is approximately $60.00. Double that price to Kansai Airport from Dotonbori. Frequent rapid and express trains run between Kansai Airport and Namba and Umeda stations in Osaka. 

To go to nearby Nara, Kyoto or Kobe, take the JR train or private trains (like Kintetsu Railway that serves Nara) which often stop close to historic sites.

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie 


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