Osaka day 1: Namba

Thursday, November 22, 2012

 Early Sunday morning. I got up at 4 am to get my 9 o'clock flight to Osaka. On the bus to the airport I told the driver I wanted to pay in cash and he just looked at me. I waited. He still wouldn't say anything. The man behind me helped me though, to put the money in the box next to the door. Oh. Korea is still puzzling, sometimes.
 The early hours of the airport is just as quiet as in town.
 In Osaka! On the way to the JR line into Osaka city from the Kansai airport building, I heard drum beats and shouts. Following the noise, I was lucky to catch a bit of this traditional Japanese performance. Then off I went to town, about an hour from the airport by JR line.
 My hostel was called Guesthouse Tennoji, a five minute walk from Tennoji station. I found the place online, and reserved via emails. The guy who runs the place gave prompt replies, and the directions to get to the hostel on the website were clear and simple to follow. It's in a quiet area of Osaka, and the guests are mostly Korean girls. The place is very clean and the owner very friendly. There are several room options, of which I chose a four bed mixed room. The first two nights I shared with a mum and daughter pair, and the third I had the whole room to myself.
 Just dumping the bag at the hostel, the first place I headed out to Namba station. This is like Myeongdong in Seoul - the shopping mecca, with tonnes of people along the long streets full of shops. It was probably more crowded than usual because it was a Sunday, but wow, it sure did overwhelm me at first. This was what I have been trying to avoid! But actually, it wasn't too bad.
 Off the main roads, it wasn't as bad.
 The Namba area is famous for Dotombori, a famous street along the Dotomborigawa river that is renowned for its food restaurants - takoyaki, okonomiyaki, udon... The crab and octopus signs are everywhere.
 Osaka Shochikuza Theater is a beautiful modern building at the Western mouth of Dotombori.
 One of the famous sights in Osaka is the huge running man of Glica, which is actually a sign of a snack. Exactly why it's famous no one could tell me, but foreigners and Japanese alike were taking pictures of it, on Ebisubashi bridge.
 A filming going on on the bridge...
 The Southern start of Shinsaibashi-suji shopping street, packed with weekend shoppers. I also joined them many times during my Osaka stay.
 The traditional part of Osaka had to wait until tomorrow for me to see it.
 Ladies underwear shops were everywhere. These Batman merchandise caught my eye thinking of D, but there were also many Ms. Santas about. Christmas sure does start earlier and earlier each year, I think, worldwide.
 Octopus! Octupus means takoyaki, most probably.
 Takoyaki was my first meal in Osaka, Japan. Hot little balls of octopus meat.
 I opted for the original version over others. This trip was going to be about traditional Japanese food.
 Another shopping street, Sennichimae, where I was going to explore more, later.
 Near Dotombori is Hozenji-Yokocho Alley with cobbled stone pathways full of traditional eateries. I could not for the life of me locate it, try as I may. I wandered the Namba area around and over but I was only going in circles. I tried to ask for help, but, alas, I realised how little English the Japanese speak. I tried the young, the old, the strangers in the streets, the sales people in the shops. Despite Dotombori being a very touristy place, no one could tell me where to go. They were all very friendly, but did not help me much on my way...
 I did find interesting things, though. There are little shrines in places.
 Japanese washbasin. Soap squirts from the left, wash soap off with water from the centre, dry wet hands to the right. Automatic.
 Tired and lost, a little frustrated at my failed attempts in the dimming daylight, I got a soy latte from dear old Starbucks while planning my next move. On the left two girls and their mum were admiring their MUJI purchases. MUJI! I thought to myself. I have to find MUJI! And I did, on the third day. To my right sat another lone shopper, a Japanese lady. I asked her about Japanese food, and engaged in a short Q & A session with broken English and hand gestures.
 The alleyways in the evening.
 ...Scary baby?!
 Bikes everywhere.
 The subway line I took the most was the red Midosuji line which runs up and down Osaka.
 There are women only sections during the busy times, which I thought was nice.
 Inside the adverts hang along the roof,
 and on the strap part of the handles.
 The lights were of different shapes in the stations, which I thought was pretty cool.
 Dinner near the hostel, after failing to find a food court was at a small noodle house. It was my first encounter with the ticket machine for food that are usually placed outside restaurants. You put your money in, select what you want, take the ticket and walk in the restaurant. The waiter will take your ticket and give you the meal when ready. I guess it takes the hassle of money dealing problems and order taking mistakes, especially when busy.
Dinner on the menu: kitsune udon - udon with fried tofu topping.
Luckily Osaka was still autumn warm, as opposed to wintry Seoul I left behind. Back at the hostel I fell in a deep slumber, despite the cold I got just days before leaving. Yes, sleep as much as I want!

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