In most travel guides, Osaka starts with the Glico figure. And if I am really honest, what pulled me there was…
But the city itself is a lot of fun. To me, it was a kinder, friendlier Tokyo. And that is what most of the Kansai region is known for, the friendly folks and food. Being a vegetarian, I couldn’t delve into the cusine much. But the people.. right from our host to random people I met on the streets, they were wonderful. And made the trip all the more fun.
So I like wandering on streets. Walking actually lets you explore a city like roaming around in buses and metro cannot. And in areas like Dotonburi and Namba, the streets are so colorful that it’s fascinating. I chose to live near the Dobutsuen-mae station so these areas were at a walk-able distance. And boy, did I walk.
The first day on the way to Dotonburi, I stumbled upon an Animate! My first Animate! Animate is a chain of stores in Japan dedicated to anime and manga. They are huge stores with entire floors dedicated to manga (Japanese comics), cosplay items, figurines and other merchandise. Animate stays open later than the other local shops, and I was walking really late. I had gone to Nara for a day trip and came back late at night, but I was so excited about getting to know Osaka that I decided to take an after dinner walk.
Now I am an anime (and manga buff). And the street leading to Animate also had a few local anime shops and of course I spent time in those as well. The figurines they were selling were really cheap now that I look back to it. But since it was my first city trip in Japan, I didn’t realize they were (and so missed the opportunity).
I just bought one tiny Luffy.
(Still proud of him)
Other kinds of places that were open then were eateries and book shops. More like.. porn shops? Okay hear me out. Japan has a very different (weird?) culture about these. It is usual to find such magazines in convenience stores (konbini) so I had just learned to avoid those sections. And they don’t just have books lying around.. no. That would have been relatively normal. It is very common to find middle aged men standing near these stands reading those books. I kid you not. Maybe I should have taken my lesson from the konbini, but I can’t resist myself when I see a book store. So it took me entering half a dozen stores and finding a number of mostly nude (animated) girls staring back at me to decide that I’m not stepping into any other local bookstore in Osaka. Ever. So consider yourself informed (to whatever end).
The second day I took a day trip to *drumrolls* Universal…! (I should just say Hogwarts). And the third day to Mount Koya (more about that here). All the time getting to see Osaka only at night. But the fourth day.. that was when me and Osaka finally had time alone together. And I packed my bags with my meager vegetarian snacks and headed off to… where else? Dotonburi!
I did find some odd snacks here and there. Okay. I just found one. Never thought I’d spent 200 yens on a chocolate sprinkly banana which looked more than a little weird. Oh well.
While walking around I also stumbled upon this beautiful and quiet shrine in the middle of nowhere. A few locals came to worship here while I was standing there, and it felt completely serene standing just a few meters away from the busiest street in Osaka.
Trinkets like these are what make walking around worth it.
I also bought some clothes from local stores, and somehow stopped myself from getting a really expensive (but cool) hat (phew). For the next day I went to see the puppet show at the National Bunraku Theatre and roamed around in that area (it is a great experience for any theatre lover).
Osaka is a city easy to fall in love with – be it because of the strangers on the street who’ll give you a high five just because you seem a bit down or the beautiful shrines that will peep at you from some corner of the street, or maybe some other secret you might uncover on your trip. If I had stayed for more days, I’m sure I would have found other lovely corners in the streets.