Osaka: A Walk Around Town

When traveling in the Kansai region, most people will focus their trip on Kyoto. There's a good reason for that - it's where all the temples and culture is. But Osaka is a 30-minute train ride away and has plenty to see and do itself. It also serves as a good hub for those with an extended trip to the area, because it provides good access to Nara, Himeji, and Kobe in addition to Kyoto.

Accomodations are cheaper in Osaka. I stayed at a hostel with a good sized bright private room (shared showers) for about $15/night. And there's lots for people to see just by walking around town.
 The Organic Building is a great stop for those interested in architecture, though it's a little ways from other tourist stops. In a nation where urban greenery is reserved for parks, it's a departure from the glass-fronted skyscrapers. There are restaurants, stores, and offices inside, but the outside has planters filled with local plants and trees.
 Osaka's nightlife and shopping is centered around Namba Station, in Minami (South).
 It is Namba where you'll find the electric signs that Japan seems to be known for, plus restaurants, stores, and bars as far as you can see. There's another shopping area around Umeda Station in the Kita (North) area, which includes a Ferris wheel.
 Shinsekai is another nightlife-filled portion of town, known for Tsutenkaku Tower and my favorite food in Japan, kushikatsu.
 Many of the restaurants are open 24 hours, but this area is most popular in the late evening. You'll see these Billiken statues all over the place. The restaurants are heavily decorated in the front, too, with lots of strange statues and other things on the facades.

 One of the pachinko parlors in the area had this fan wall for the Hanshin Tigers, and specifically George Arias, who played for the Tigers 2002-2004.
 At the far (southern) end of Shinsekai, there's an old streetcar. The area was developed about 100 years ago, based partly on Paris (northern half) and partly on Coney Island (southern half). The tower you saw above, in the middle of the area, was built in 1912, scrapped during WW2, and rebuilt soon after.
 Just south of the nightlife core is Spa World, a bathing complex with several themed pools that use natural hot spring water. There are also some water slides and such for children; the hot spring pools are naked and gender-segregated, while the family area is naturally mixed and requires bathing suits.
 Wandering around Osaka, you can find other signs of modern development and interesting architecture, including a building that looks similar to the Organic Building, and some interestingly designed chimneys which must be vents for the underground train system.
 Tokyo has Akihabara, the mecca for gaming, comics, and other things "geeky" but I think Osaka has the second best otaku neighborhood. Den Den Town has electronics stores in an area that's probably about 1/4 to 1/2 as large as Akihabara, plus several game, comic book, and anime retailers (look out for the large number of adult video stores) and cosplay and maid cafes.
 Sometimes prices here are better than in Akihabara, and you might be able to find things here that have long since disappeared from Akiba's shelves. Or things that never appeared! One "store" was just a promotional gallery for whatever it is you see in the photo above.
I have heard about some of the cafes being "traps" with exorbitant charges just for entry, or overpriced drinks or food, or other scams of that sort. You should be aware of this and ask questions before going into any cosplay or maid cafe, especially if you are "escorted" there by a girl on the street. Many cosplay cafes charge small entry fees (about 500 yen or so) and food is generally overpriced. But I read stories of 2000-3000 yen cover charges. Do your research before you go!

Osaka was cool. I'm very happy in Tokyo - there's just so much here. But if I had to, I could "get by" in Osaka.

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