Funny story. I ended up staying in the “shady” part of Osaka. Hell, one of the worst parts in Japan, I guess. I didn’t know ahead of time, the reviews for the place I stayed were reasonable, and there was a zoo and a tower within walking distance, and it was only a few stops away from Universal Studios, couldn’t be too bad, right?
Well, I guess had I read up about it, I would have potentially been scared off, but other than it being kind of rundown/ugly and there being homeless around, it wasn’t bad, just… very different from what I had seen elsewhere.
Well, I guess there is Wiki and this “In defense of” article, and you know, they’re totally right. Except it doesn’t even smell. The smells in… well I’ll explain later, but the smells in parts of Korea are much worse than anything I came across in Osaka. I don’t even remember anything smelling bad, but I guess maybe? More importantly, I never once felt like I wasn’t safe, no one tried to hustle, hassle, harass, nor… uh… proposition me.
There was also a part of the city to the East that was undergoing expansion with a giant new commercial building being built, basically, once you get past the zoo into the Tennoji area it cleared up. Looking at the street view from 2010, I can tell you it looks much different now that the mall was completed. That entire area is cleaner, looking more like the rest of Japan. It’s strange how different it is from a place just blocks away. The street car station still had tags all over it, but other than that…
In all honesty, I’m glad I stayed there, as if that is one of the worst places Japan has to offer… there’s really nothing to be afraid of in Japan.
To get to the hotel-hostel whatever thing I was staying at, I had to take the bullet train to Shin-Osaka, which is kind of near Osaka, but not quite Osaka, from there, I went to Osaka, Osaka, and then another train to Shin-Imamiya. While I was on the train to Shin-Imamiya, I noticed a train that was branded with Universal Studios stuff. Apparently in Japan, Disney has licensed Sesame Street and Spider Man to Universal Studios. Go figure.
Once I arrived I consulted my Kindle, and then had to flip a coin, I ended up walking down down the wrong street which was split by the train tracks, and as such had to walk all the way back around to get to the place I was staying. Oops. At least I got oriented before I walked too far, it was just about three blocks out of my way.
I eventually found my place, went up to my floor, dumped off my stuff, relaxed for a bit, and then got ready to explore.
On my way there, I noticed a shave ice and crape place just around the corner, which I was totally going to hit up the next afternoon before I left, because they had a pretty good price and also had many Pooh bears and at least the Piaaaaaank Female version of Stitch that I guess was in the TV series. That and the owner seemed really nice, seeing my interest in the Pooh bears, she smiled. I guess I’ll just get it over with now, but I was really disappointed as the place was closed Thursday, and it was even warmer that day. I don’t understand. I wanted shave ice with sugary red beans. Alas.
I decided to go check out the Tsūtenkaku tower, but not go up, because to hell with spending more money than I needed to. Yes I realize I say that after talking about wanting shave ice, and here I’m giving up a photo opportunity for only twice the price? Hey, what do you want, some sort of logic and consistency? Good luck with that.
After the tower, I decided to wonder over to the zoo, knowing full well it would be closed as it was nearly 6PM by the time I got there. What I wasn’t expecting was the park to be closed, encased in acrylic glass and topped with triangular razors. At least in this area of Osaka, it seems anything nice, anything pretty, is locked down and protected. The other goal for this direction was to reach the tall building under construction that had kind of been a point of interest in the nearby skyline since I had arrived.
On the other side of the park, there was another station for the subway system, the previous one being just East, across the street from the train station I got off of. The only picture of the station that I took and posted, other than another picture of the building, seems to be of a pair of office chairs just hanging out.
At this point I was really close to the building, I headed through the intersection, to the North, crossing over the train lines to the next intersection which was under quite a bit of construction. The pedestrian overpass was new, and incomplete, looking as though it would eventually connect directly to the new building.
On the Northern exit, the overpass had the option to walk directly to a raised walkway on the second floor of the large sprawling four floor mall, which I took, if only for the vantage. Thankfully not very crowded.
I went further up, investigated the restaurants which were all a bit too pricy, but amusing given they were mostly American or European style, leading to some interesting menu selections that didn’t quite fit. Sadly I was dumb and didn’t take pictures. I did get a few pictures of the construction though.
On the raised walk way I took some pictures of the street car station below, one of the few remnants of the graffiti covered look this area once had, and also saw the same ice cream cart woman I had seen when I was first lost on the wrong street earlier in the day. There were a few interesting buildings on the block, like this… place.
I ended up walking down to the first floor, actually took a look at one of the stores for slacks, and almost purchased replacements for my damaged black pair, but thought better of it. I would promise to at least hold out until I got to Korea where I was sure they would be a bit cheaper, though the price was actually pretty fair. After leaving, something caught my eye, I headed down to the basement, and discovered an Ito-Yokado, the “I” part of 7&I Holdings. I ran into a supermarket! Awesome. The time was right, I grabbed my discount food and went on my way.
As I went up, it was now fully dark, and I saw a strange light show on the street, lots and lots of blinking red lights skittering around. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on so I used my camera to get a better look. Strings of red lights in multiple shapes, I couldn’t begin to imagine having to drive down that street with them blinking, it was distracting as a pedestrian, and the street obviously didn’t have many street lights.
The next morning, I packed up, left my bags at the front desk and I decided to head off in a Westward direction. This route would prove to be far more interesting. While over a few blocks to the East it seemed to be doing quite well (apparently some of the first economic revival for the area in decades), the West showed something closer to reality, almost explaining the acrylic and razor.
I’m not going to post every bit of it, because there was a huge amount, but it was the first time I had seen en-mass, graffiti in Japan. For kilometers during my walk there was almost – constant – graffiti. Construction was old in the area, but that isn’t all that different, parts of Kyoto are quite old and proud of it, however they usually showed some kind of care and upkeep. It was less common to see such here. Eventually I came across a sign (or a rare street map, I don’t remember) pointing out a park. It was fairly warm that day so I was looking forward to some shade, flowers, and lush greens.
I eventually started heading North and ran across the side of a raised highway bit that had dozens of small murals painted by young students. I got pictures of all of them, but only close ups of a few I thought stood out for one reason or another.
As I was walking by there though, I came across a bunch of stickers on the back of some sort of utility or mail dealiemabob. It seemed a little… out of place.
There was a way to cross back Eastward after the mural ended, though there were a few paintings in the underpass as well. I figured I had gone far enough and started heading in a cardinal direction towards my hotel thing where my bags were waiting. I didn’t want to be too late, as I was going to Hiroshima next and knew I wanted to spend a bit time there.
Well, I thought it was East anyway. I hadn’t noticed that the streets had gone diagonal, and I was actually heading roughly North once again… I wouldn’t notice this for a while until I started to realize I didn’t recognize the skyline at all.
Oddly enough along this route, I continued on seeing fairly old, poorly kept buildings, graffiti, litter, things indicating it wasn’t economically healthy and then all of a sudden… that’s a nice car. Wait, there’s four of them in here. Hell there are some luxury cars on the street? What?
Oh look, luxury car dealerships… and a Benz training academy. Ohhhkay. For another block or two it would continue being kind of slummy outside of the luxury car dealerships, but shortly thereafter there was an interesting building that I am unsure about. People had ID cards on lanyards that they used on a pad near the door and doorman to get in, so I presume it wasn’t a secure apartment complex. I opted not to take pictures of the people, nor the doors as they were open, just in case it was something I didn’t want to be doing that with.
A few blocks later it seemed to be picking up, stores were looking nicer, and around the time I was crossing a bridge, while not looking like downtown Tokyo, it was looking more like a completed version of the area to the East of my “hotel”, rather than the destitute ignored areas I had been in previously. While nice, I was realizing something was wrong about now. Since I hadn’t crossed a bridge heading West, clearly something was off.
Still the area looked kind of neat (though I guess theft occurs), having bits of charm here and there, so I wondered a little more, hoping I might see the building that was being constructed somewhere on the skyline, or at least a street map so I could get oriented. I really needed to bring a compass.
Eventually I found a map and discovered what had happened. With my Kindle I figured out where I needed to go, and about how late I was going to be, I only lost about an hour, not too bad. I ended up walking through an area that was quite the place to be for younger people with money to burn. Even the street lights were interesting here.
I ended up walking down an area that was an open air market, but fairly well built out like most in Japan they’re not just stands, cloth and tarps, they even had electronic signs on the roof giving general directions and approximate walk times to key areas which was nice, as I didn’t have to pull out my Kindle to check.
I eventually made it back to where I recognized, grabbed my bags and hobbled to the train station just getting a few passing shots of some of the more interesting buildings in the Osaka district of Osaka. I managed to transfer to get through the station get on the train for Shin-Osaka, and then “quickly” stumble to the Shinkansen for my ride to Hiroshima.
Only three more posts for Japan and then I’ll finally be writing about Korea… now 19 days into Korea. Well, it’s progress.