June 26, 2008

Namba at Night - Aimless Wanderings

This is Mike writing. And since I'll be manning the blog by myself for a while, I am going to dispose of the third person. (It just feels weird.)

With no real reason to go home after work, I decided to explore Osaka a bit. Although I commute to Osaka everyday to OBP, I usually hightail it back home to Rokko Island after work to have dinner with the family.

I had long been curious to check out the Doguya-Suji, an area near Namba Station that caters to the food and restaurant industry. They sell cool knives and those plastic models of food that you see all over Japan. I had missed out (we just ran out of time) at the opportunity to see the similarly themed Kappabashi area when we were in Tokyo. Why am I obsessed with the plastic food? I'm not sure. At any rate, tonight seemed like as good a night as any to check it out in Namba.

I emerged from the subway with my trusty JNTO map of Namba in hand, and set off into the neon-bathed night. And I got completely turned around and lost. Which happens all the time in Japan. (And not just to me.) But since I didn't really have anyplace to be, I was fine with aimlessly wandering. Namba is one of the two major shopping and entertainment areas in Osaka (the other being Umeda), and there were lots of people out and lots to take in.

This is the Namba Hips Building. It is gigantic, super-modern and looks coolest at night, when it is swathed with neon red. (The camera-phone picture doesn't do it justice. Here is a better one.) Oh and yes, that is a Freefall Ride down the middle of it. Of course.


The next interesting area that I came to (after walking for a while in what I originally thought was the right direction, but soon realized it wasn't) was filled with various love hotels, easily recognizable for their stick-out-like-a-sore thumb garishness (with names like Provence, Little Chapel, and - my personal favorite - Mickey Cookies) and their signs ("Please Spend Wonderful Time") advertising different prices for "rest" versus "stay." From what I have been told, these hotels sprung up out of the need for husbands and wives to get away from their too-small apartments and families and are now a Japanese institution. There are hundreds in Osaka alone. I gather that staying at one is more socially acceptable that hitting a pay-by-the-hour motel in the U.S. But what do I know?



Anyway, moving right along . . . . Namba is a cool area. Its bright and lit up along the main thoroughfares and crammed with shopping, restaurants, bars, pachinko parlors, karaoke bars, and apparently love hotels. But its also got oodles of those little non-descript alleys that are fun to wander down. These are home to the super-tiny sushi and noodle shops filled to the max with customers. Some that I came across reminded me of Greenwich Village, with loud music, out-of-place looking bars, and trendy clothes.

While lost, I came across (or rather, was drawn to like a fly to a bug zapper) the Dotombori area, a bright loud set of covered-arcades and alleys. Unfortunately, I only had the camera phone tonight, but here is a link to some terrific pictures of Dotombori.

Along the way, I also passed by the Shin Kabukiza Theater, which looked strangely out of place. Thank God, because this place actually helped me locate myself on the map.

Eventually, I got myself turned around and found the Doguya-suji. Unfortunately, I had been wandering for a while, including brief browsing detours into the Muji Store and Tower Records, and it was already 9 PM. So all the stores were closed. It was the only completely quiet place I encountered all night. Oh well. Now I know where it is for next time.

Some of the neatest eye-candy of the night were the various anime posters for up-and-coming movies and TV shows. I'll leave you with a few of these:

1 comment:

Dwayne said...

Mike,

I hope all is going well. I see you are doing the expat daddy thing now as well. I left the Stover girls back in the US so have been basically working every day the past 2 weeks. I can't wait to see them on August 1 but I am happy they get a break from the heat of Dubai and get to see their friends. Best of luck on your exploring. I am in Qatar for a week. Talk to you later, Dwayne Stover