When I mentioned to my local colleagues that I plan to visit Osaka, I was told one thing- “there’s nothing to see, it’s just like Tokyo”. For others, maybe this comment will have them dropped their plans immediately but for me it triggers my curiosity even more. So, I decided to spend a day and checkout what’s cooking in Osaka.
There are two things that made significant impression on me about this city and the one that arguably differentiate it from Tokyo- food and billboards.
If you are standing in the middle of the bridge connecting to Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade and just try to look on all four directions, you will be in the middle of the billboard jungle, with the famous Glico Running Man sign heading the batch. The mix of the usual fashion houses signs together with several food – beverage advertisements are hypnotizing enough that will surely make you stop for a picture taking session and will somehow make you feel that you are unquestionably not in Shibuya.
Continue your walk along the Dotonburi area and you are in the real deal food mecca.
I guess anything that can be cooked and can make a great billboard advertisement is available here- crabs, sushi, octopus, and beef. The fact that you don’t speak or read Japanese is no excuse to make a petty mistake of thinking that the street food that you are about to try is shrimp, when right in front is huge octopus replica glaring at you.
The Dotonburi Street is not like Shinjuku’s Piss Alley. People don’t go here just to dine and dash to the nearest Yodobashi shop. Walking and eating at Dotonburi is an experience itself that needs to be savour even if you need to fall in line for that red crab. Feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu and somehow have seen these exact billboards before; well you are right you had- most probably on all travel guidebooks out there describing Osaka or the area Minami (Namba) to be exact.
Another place to visit for a day journey is the Osaka Castle. To reach this place is quite easy, just ask the helpful folks at the train station. The outer area of the castle is a park which is good for a walk and photography session particularly now the autumn colors were starting to show. For me the best way to view the castle is from the outside- with the high stone wall, turret and the bridge creating a majestic frame. The castle can be entered for a price of 600 Yen, since they converted it into an 8 floors museum with the topmost as the observation deck. The museum can be a bit crowded but still I will recommend anyone to pay a visit. I like the miniature warriors display and the people trying on the helmet and surcoat for a photo souvenir.
There is one famous dish in this town but I never got a chance to try- Tecchiri. It’s a blow fish hot pot where only license restaurants and chefs are allowed to serve. The preparation of the fish requires mastery because they are highly poisonous. According to statistics, Osaka is responsible for 60% total consumption of blow fish in Japan. Well, that’s one why of looking how Osaka differs to Tokyo.