Stephen: Here we are in Osakaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
We can’t quite remember who said this (but Al says he will take the credit), but compared to Tokyo, Osaka has less of the big city sharp and proper ness, and more grittiness, but arguably more soul underneath; not dis-similar to how many of us feel about Edinburgh vs. Glasgow. Upon our arrival here (after a ludicrously short train journey from Kyoto), it seemed like that sentiment was pretty apparent from the get go.
With obvious clear differences mind you…
Looking at our list of things to do and see on this trip, the entries for Osaka were pretty limited – but not in a bad way. We just wanted to be here, and didn’t have anything in particular down to see. It’s definitely a city for eating and drinking rather than sightseeing. As Weegies (two native, one adopted), this is something we are more than prepared for, especially after a couple of days feeling like we were branded tourists in Kyoto.
We witnessed some more crazy J-Pop style culture quirks on the banks of the Dotonbori canal, where there was some kind of all-girl troupe performing songs to a crowd of largely older men who seemed to know all of the words, which was very strange. There was a bunch of younger guys who were way too into it, screaming in between the breaks – something that I can say with the utmost conviction would never happen in Glasgow.
Our AirBnB is what we have been affectionately calling ‘The Bateman Place’, due to its American Psycho style decor. With just the LED mirror lights on, the room takes on a strange blue hue in pictures reminiscent of some kind of dystopian sci-fi film. It’s awesome.
Given that Osaka is apparently a city for getting pished in, that makes up a fair part of what we did. Everything looked amazing as usual – keeping in line with the rest of Japan – so we made a conscious effort to have some drinks and take pictures in one of the main areas of Dotonbori – just down from our AirBnB.
We ended up brass necking it, and by being a bit more Gallus, it meant that we got some of the best street pictures from the whole trip – for me at least. People here don’t seem to mind having their picture taken as much as other places I’ve visited. If and when somebody caught me, I’d just smile warmly back and give a nod to say thank you, and they would (generally) reciprocate in the same manner.
After stalking about for a bit, we headed for what is allegedly ‘the best burger in Japan’. Rather than being in some fast food style joint, or a hipster cafe, it was actually in an unassuming, tiny Brazilian bar. We topped off the night playing some SNES games on the street before heading home.
Al: Osaka was a welcome injection of energy after the laid back Kyoto – a neon injection of energy, with an ‘anything goes’ feel to it. Like Stephen says above, it feels a lot like (a significantly larger) Glasgow – not necessarily the prettiest place in the world, but a great deal of atmosphere & party spirit. If you’re travelling to Japan for a party, I’d suggest here’s the place to do it.
As I mentioned above, the city isn’t really a looker, but the Dotonbori is a real eye-opener – it’s the Japan of Akira fame, all neon & noise, an incessant energy almost weighing you down. There’s a real need to pick up the pace of the city, lest it squashes you under its almost oppressive caffeine high – it took an hour to to acclimatise. If you don’t like busy, I’d avoid the place – I can imagine some people finding it all too much
As interesting as the area itself, are the people – it has a really easy vibe, and the locals seem incredibly tolerant of us tourists;
As mentioned above, it might just be too much for some…
There were more sights away from Dotonbori – as mentioned, the city isn’t a particular looker, but it’s a great place to just wonder about in – there’s something happening everywhere you look;
We got to plenty of bars, including Stephen performing as his Chip Tune alias ‘Unexpected Bowtie’ – gigging in Osaka looks good on the CV. Along side that was some ‘street’ Mario Kart, and a whole lot of drinking
There was plenty of the (now customary) J-Pop free public performances (usually attended by their most vociferous fans, middle aged men);
There was us indulging in the art of getting onto public screens;
In the next Osaka update, I’ll cover off the harbour area & the tallest building in Japan (TV Transmitters aside). In the interim, this picture of Stephen gives you an idea of how one feels after a day in Osaka;
Grace: I think once we leave here, I’ll still be going back and forth about which place I liked better: Tokyo or Osaka. It’s a tie for now, as they both offer great things. But if you like gigantic crabs, people, fish, etc., on the side of buildings – then get yourself to Osaka.
Our Airbnb was just a street away from the Dotonbori area, which allowed for tons of people-watching and street food tasting. I didn’t get around to the octopus balls (takoyaki) sadly. I was too distracted by lots of other food. Stephen had them though, so I tasted one of his. Not a total loss! Also, just like Tokyo, the neon lights are aplenty.
It’s clearly a pastime here for people in coordinated costumes to perform in public. To me, the most interesting part about it is watching the locals reactions to it. They absolutely love it. They sing along, and know all the words. They even join in with the dance moves, even if it’s from across a canal!
There are tons of bars, and every local we encountered was extremely nice, a very pleasant, ongoing theme here in Japan. Since we like to drink, these particular Osaka traits made us very happy, and some days, very hungover…
There’s nothing better to do here than simply wander around. There’s so much to see, and it’s so lively all the time. And the colors!! They never fail to amaze me.
As we’ve pretty much been repeating throughout previous entries: Osaka is a must-visit part of Japan. There hasn’t been a single disappointment with any of the places we’ve traveled to here.