So, the Osaka trip… The occasion to go over was that I got a ticket to an event of traditional entertainment from the Tokugawa era, like shamisen, the traditional flute, singing, dancing and rakugo. One of our teachers is playing the shamisen, and she gave away tickets (the event was free btw, you just had to get a ticket). Since I wouldn’t be able to get a taste of these things otherwise (especially not at the same time) I took this opportunity and while I was there I thought I could check out other things too.
I planned the trip quite well: I looked up which subway to take from and to, what discounts they have for public transport, where to go and when, where to eat lunch and so on. I had a very tight schedule, and of course not everything fit in in the end. I didn’t have a map for Osaka, so I got an offline map application on my tablet where I marked all my destinations, which was very useful later.
I left home at 8:30, a bit later than planned. I got to Demachiyanagi, where I could take the Keihan line directly to Osaka. A one-way-trip costs 460 yen, so it’s not even that expensive. We left for Osaka shortly before 9:00 and the trip took an hour approximately. I saw some greenery on the way, but after that it was one town after another, you can’t even tell where one ends and the other starts – same with Osaka, the agglomeration is huge. We got to Osaka shortly before 10:00 and just stepping out of the station you could already see the difference. Osaka is a big, metropolitan city, while Kyoto is much smaller. After arriving my first destination was the Osaka Museum of History, because there was an exhibition about Japanese ghosts and demons I was interested in. I was walking along the Osaka Castle while eating some cookies, and got to the museum in 20 minutes, but only because I was walking slowly while taking photos here and there.
The museum is actually huge and I was thinking about if I should get a ticket to see the general exhibition as well, but I thought it would take too much time, and I was right. I just went to see the special exhibition and I was in for one and half hours. They were displaying a lot of materials and it was very interesting. I especially liked the onryou section and was glad to recognize some famous stories like Yotsuya Kaidan, and then the separate sections for the animal youkais. While many of the drawings were quite creepy (not in the scary, more in the disgusting way), there were actually some which were quite cute XD There was a huge crowd, so it wasn’t easy to get through. I guess I can be grateful for being a bit taller than the average Japanese ^^;
I got out around half past 11, and had to decide what to do. Originally I was planning to go to the Osaka Castle as well, but the event was starting at 14:00 and I still had to get lunch, so I decided I should go for that, because who knows how long things would take – and it was a good decision. As for lunch, being a vegetarian needs extra organizing, so part of the preparation was spent with looking for vegetarian restaurants in Osaka. Thankfully the Happy Cow site has a good section for Osaka as well, so I marked quite some on my map. Location- and timewise there were only two or three in the final choice, and I decided to try the Indian restaurant Shama at the Yotsuhashi-suji. I decided beforehand to mainly use the subway for moving around because it’s faster than the bus – despite the backside of not being able to see anything from the city. For the public transport I got an Eco Card, with which you can use on most of the vehicles unlimited times for a day. It’s very useful and on weekends it costs 600 yen only!
But first I had to find the subway, which took like 15 minutes with me looking in the wrong direction when it was right in front of the museum XD; I got onto the Chuo Line till Honmachi and transferred to the Yotsubashi Line till the Yotsubashi station. The restaurant isn’t far from that, but the subway stations are huge in Osaka and I must have gotten out at the wrong end, because another long looking around awaited me ^^; First I had to realize where I was and with the mostly absent street names in Japan it’s not that easy. At this point I didn’t realize I could use the GPS in my tablet to identify my location, but well, it also started to rain like the weather report promised, and it’s not that great to use a tablet in the rain. Actually I asked in a conbini once if they had a map, but they didn’t, so I need to get one at a tourist center the next time. So after identifying where I was I started looking for the restaurant. I wasn’t sure if it was really next to the road, so I went to a lot of alleys as well, but I should have just trusted the map ^^;
Actually I almost went past the restaurant, so you need to look very closely since there are so many things there. In the end I got there half past 12, and was very happy to be able to eat something. Shama is a vegetarian restaurant, so they use eggs and dairy products, which is okay for me. It’s actually run by Indian people, which is a good point, though on the other hand at first it wasn’t sure how we would communicate XD We started out with Japanese and then switched to English, so the place is safe for non-Japanese-speaking vegetarian foreigners as well. I ordered a lunch set, which contained pumpkin cream soup (yay!), salad, curry, another similar thing with mushrooms (both very hot), nan, rice and some kind of a veggie meat (was is the soya tikka perhaps?) and I picked lassi for drink. I have to say it was all very delicious and filling – I would go back there any time. Actually the boss(?) is quite chatty, I guess it’s the Indian way of caring for the guests.
Originally I was planning to check out the big Mandarake near the restaurant after lunch, but by the time I got out it was already past 13. Since Creo East, the place for the event was far and I had to walk a lot as well, I decided to skip Mandarake and maybe go back in the evening. I looked for the Shinsaibashi station and with the Nagahori Line I went to the Osaka Business Park. Actually this like was the first where I saw the bars at the stations that only open when the train is there. So, from there was a 15 minutes walk from the station in the rain, and while it wasn’t nearly as hot as now (if I had known…), for me it was already very mushi-mushi. Anyway, I got there in time, and the event of all the traditional entertainment started. It was very interesting and I didn’t regret going, and otherwise I probably wouldn’t be able to see such things. The only backside was the length: it lasted nearly three-hours-long ^^; There were many people who left, and I could somehow understand that despite it being very rude. So yeah, the length kinda messed up my plans, since I still wanted to check out many manga and DJ-related shops, but now it was clear I wouldn’t have time for everything and that I will be late for home.
Since Meikido was the most important for me, I decided to go to that area, and took the Sakaisuji Line till Naghahoribashi and transferred to the Nagahori Tsurumi Line which brought me to Nipponbashi. I arrived around 17:40, and started to look for Meikido, and it was no easy task. This part of Osaka turned out to be a big shopping district with tons of shops on the most different scale, though nowhere near as pretty as the Shijou shopping district here in Kyoto. I market the places on the map, but I wasn’t sure how exact it would be (it was pretty exact actually), and with all the small alleys and shops I just couldn’t find it.
This time I started using the GPS as well, because I had no idea how far I was from my goal and I couldn’t guess the distances. While I was going here and there I realized this was the mecca for the otaku, as there were tons of specialty and related shops, gamer arcades and such – I even spotted Toranoana already, that I wanted to visit later. I was wandering around for at least 45 minutes, and I almost gave up finding Meikido, when I decided to not just look into the small streets looking for the ads, signs and the name of the shop, but actually go in there. Well yeah, that did the trick of course, although I almost missed Meikido, because well, apart from the illustration on the door and a small one on the side there is absolutely no sign of what kind shop it is – or that there actually is a shop at all! With all the big ads for other shops it was a big surprise, so no wonder I couldn’t see it – but otherwise it was in the exact spot my map said ^^;
The shop itself is indeed like a hidden place for girls, and the employees are all girls as well. On the other hand shopping for secondhand DJs in not easy, because you need to pull a huge batch to get through them, which takes time and it tiring – especially after a long day. Not to mention there are a lot of things I’m interested in, and along the way I discovered even more treasures – like the original DJ section with stuff I have never seen in the online shop. While I was shopping the song for the customers to leave the shop was played, and I desperately tried to get through my fave artists, and just threw the things into my basket. Still, I left there quite some unique stuff and I regret that, but maybe next time. I discovered the Terra e… section at the last second, so I didn’t have much time for that, but still found some missing things. I left the shop as the last customer in the last minute at 19:30, but I left there a lot of money, so I hope they didn’t mind it that much ^^
It was late and I was tired, still I wanted to check out at least the location of the other shops like Animate, Toranoana, so I walked there. That street is just the heart of the otaku mecca I guess, and even beside these shops there are a lot of similar and second-hand ones, so I have to come back here for sure. I quickly made a round at the Animate, but it was late for me, so I decided to go home for the day. While I was walking to the station I saw the first homeless people in Japan – and one of them was actually reading manga. Since then I saw some in Kyoto as well, but they live under the bridges in small houses, so generally you don’t meet them on the streets. So I got to the Nanba station/shopping center complex, and it was another huge task to find out where the subway was, and it took more than 30 minutes orz In the end I took the Midosuji Line from the Nanba station to Yodoyabashi, where we left with the Keihan for Kyoto around 21:00. I was totally spent, and happy to get home after 22:00 – and I was sure I would skip the morning class on Monday, because I needed sleep.
It was a great day, but with a tight schedule (and I planned even more) and with a lot of wandering around. Oh well, it will go better next time. All in all I have to say I’m pretty glad I landed in Kyoto and not in Osaka or another bigger city for the matter. Sure, I thought it was a pity that Kyoto doesn’t have all the shops I need, but Osaka is huge, busy and dirty – reminded me a lot of Budapest, but of course, Osaka is much bigger with taller buildings. Kyoto is on a smaller scale and much better and easier to live in. Sure, I will be back to Osaka for sightseeing and shopping, but that will be enough for me. Anyway, I had a great and tiring trip to Osaka.