After leaving the signage store, I continued walking north into the shotengai, but stopped when I reached a wide open intersection. The smaller street I was on opened up into a large area that then forked off in two other directions. Directly to my left, there was a bookstore and I decided to take a break and head in and look at the photography section. The store was large and it took me a minute to find the section on the floor map. The second floor was my destination and up the escalator I went. What was I going to find? Well, the reality was, unless I found something that was just amazing or small enough to fit in my bag, I wasn’t going to be buying anything as I didn’t want to have to carry it. So after flipping through books for 20 minutes, there really wasn’t anything that I hadn’t already seen before at the bookstore next to Kyoto Station (that I wandered through on my first night there), so, I decided to leave.
It was so much fun wandering through the shotengai, passing all the restaurants, souvenir shops, DVD shops, Billiken statues, pachinko parlors, karaoke clubs… it seemed just totally endless.
After all this walking, I was getting hungry but couldn’t decide what to eat. I had read about a large crab restaurant on the Dotonburi canal that I thought could be good and decided that’s where I’d eat lunch.
I headed west, past the Bic Camera (note: link is video) and I exited the the shotengai, along the way passing a bookstore that looked interesting. From the window looking in, I saw that it was just packed full of massive collections of books that seemed very specialized. I imagined them to have been volumes and volumes of legal books or something technical. Either way I like it so I took a photo and walked on. After that, I came to the crosswalk that lead to the Dotonburi and stopped.
I was now standing on Sennichimae-dori (street) which bisected the shotengai. In front of me, (across the street) was the entrance to the continued shopping arcade. To my left was a large building that seemed like it was probably a Kabuki theater based on its architecture. Next time I’m in Osaka, I’ll pay it a visit.
The light changed and across the street I went.
So many shops again. This side felt different- it seemed newer, less rundown with a larger variety of stores. It felt like I had gone from the old part of town to the new. The streets that branched off from the main were very interesting. So many signs for so many things- bars, clubs and so on. Visually, incredibly rich.
I could see the Dotonburi Canal just up ahead now. The covered street opened up onto a pedestrian only street that runs parallel. With a huge Tsutaya bookstore to my right, I saw the crab restaurant just across from me. I walked over to the entrance and found a menu resting on a stand and looked through it. I quickly decided that this was not going to be the place for me to have lunch as it much more expensive than I had thought it would be. Besides, it was almost 4pm and if I had gone in, it would have probably taken too much time so, I decided instead to walk over to the fine Lotteria and get a quick bite to eat. Not gourmet by any means but fast. And, it had a second floor that looked down onto the street which seemed like a good place to do some people watching while I ate.
I ordered my fine cheeseburger set meal, paid, got my tray with my drink and fries (my burger was coming up as it was being prepared fresh for me) and went upstairs to get a seat with a view. It turned out that all the window seats were taken with young women busy typing away on their cell phones and ignoring the view so I took a seat in the next row back. I suppose to them, the view was nothing new or exciting, just the city they see everyday.It didn’t take too long for my burger to arrive. However, just as it did, two girls got up from their window seats and left. I quickly moved up and began to eat. The view turned out to be nothing spectacular but it was nice to watch the steady stream of people below moving back and forth, crossing the canal with their shopping bags. While sitting there, I decided that I should have just stopped in Osaka for two nights after Koyasan and then hit Kyoto for two nights. Oh well.
Back down on the street after my gourmet meal, I wandered north again and crossed the canal. I turned after crossing to gaze upon the large sized billboards on the buildings along the canal. The most famous of them is the “Glico Man” neon sign. It has been here for ages and it is one of Osaka’s landmarks for sure. Not as thrilling in the daytime since it’s not lit up, but still fun to see. I love the architecture down here, it’s a place that definitely feels like it has kept up with the times.
As I reached the crosswalk to enter back into the shotengai, named Shinsaibashi-suji at this point, I paused to watch three repair men and a lone security guard going about performing some sort of window repair. I couldn’t tell exactly what they were doing but it seemed very important- they were all so focused on the job at hand. Perhaps they were so focused because they were trying to finish before the rain came which at this point, seemed like it would arrive any second. I crossed the street and was back in the covered shopping street.
After walking a block and coming back out to the open street, it was now raining. As I waited to cross yet another street, I saw a guy on the other side of the street sitting on the ground next to his bicycle, in the rain without an umbrella, trying to do some sort of repair to his laptop computer. It puzzled me why he didn’t move under cover.The light changed and I crossed back under cover and out of the rain. In this block, I actually stopped into a couple stores. The first was a Yamaha music store then into the Disney Store, looking to see if they had any unusual merchandise based on any the shows I had worked on for Disney Animation- no such luck. The next stop was something totally unnecessary (especially given my lunch), Krispy Kreme donuts. I thought, “hey how about a nice donut for the Shinkansen” and went inside. There was a little bit of a line but not too long. After a minute or so I was surprised when these two young guys came and got in line right behind me. Turns out they were from Orange County, south of Los Angeles and in Japan on vacation with their families. It was summer vacation before their senior year in high school. Neither had been to Japan before and found the place pretty cool but didn’t seem to know too much about the country. I guess I am always shocked though when I meet other Americans here and see how much they really don’t know about Japan.
As we talked, they decided not wait in line ,since, as they correctly stated, they could eat these back in America. Not me, I never go in America and used this trip as the excuse to splurge. I ordered two donuts, the classic glazed and a glazed with chocolate and sprinkles, paid and left. It was now raining harder.
I came out of Krispy Kreme and had to wait again to cross yet another street. Even though it was raining harder now, I didn’t want to deal with my umbrella while holding my donuts and camera so it stayed stashed in my camera bag. I was glad it was finally raining and happy that the streets were wet since they would yield some nice light and reflections. I waited to cross the street for a couple of cycles and spent the time photographing the people in the rain.
Deciding that time was finally running out on my day in Osaka, I crossed the street and made my way up through the shopping arcade until I reached the Shinsaibashi Station entrance for the Midosuji subway line. I went underground and caught the train all in a very short amount of time. I arrived into Shin-Osaka station at 4:48pm and hurried down from the platform and out into the main part of the station. Shin-Osaka station is seperated into two areas, the non-JR tains and the JR trains. I had to get back to the JR area and get a Shinkansen ticket. Fortunately there is a JR ticket office right as you come out the local train area so I hurried inside. I got my seat on the 5:13pm Shinkansen to Kyoto and ran out of the office. Remembering my route from the Koyasan journey, I was able to get up to the right platform quickly. In fact, it took only 10 minutes to go from the subway, get my ticket and get to the Shinkansen platform. It gave me enough time to buy an nice cold can of coffee to enjoy with my snack on the train. I was happy.
My train arrived on time. I boarded, settled down into my seat and relaxed as it pulled out of Shin-Osaka station bound for Kyoto. My day in Osaka turned out to be quick and short, but extremely fun and well worth it! I still had an night left in Kyoto and was looking forward to get back there and doing a bit more exploring with my camera.
Here’s a funny story about the Shinakansen and Osaka. I realized after I got back to my room that night in Kyoto that I rode the Shinkansen three times directly between Kyoto and Osaka. And on each trip, I sat in the exact same seat: Car 7, seat 3-E. So weird. The tickets to prove it.
The donuts were great by the way. Oh, and the fan I bought in the morning? It turned out to be a great purchase. Next up, my night back in Kyoto…