Last stop

Osaka Travel Blog

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The Umeda Sky Building - taken at ground, not sky level

Osaka.  The final stop on our tourist odyssey, a new city, new sights and very little time!

Having overdosed on natural wonders on the Hozu river the day before, we decided to go back to what makes Japan so internationally successful - cities, skyscrapers and technology.

Our day started early with a quick trip to the Kyoto Manga Museum.  Located in a former school, the museum boasts over 300,000 manga in a variety of  different styles, genres and age.  Pictures festoon the walls tracing the development of the discipline; while galleries explore the history of the form.  A nifty computer gizmo allows you magaise yourself as an anthropomorphic worm or something.

 There was also an exhibit on Japanese demons.  Good stuff.

Having been a bit cultured, well, kinda; we climbed aboard an obliging express train and headed towards Osaka.  Where Kyoto is refinement, shrines, traditions and temples; Osaka isn't.  Here it's a booming metropolis, skyscrapers and commerce.  Luckily it's only thirty minutes away.

We arrived in the Kita (north) area of the city.  Stumbling out of the underground labyrinth of a station we appeared in the middle of a busy street scanning the horizon for our first destination, the Umeda Sky Building.  A dominating scraper - well two skyscrapers that join at the top.  It's an odd sight, reminiscent of a giant shiny glass 'M'.

Detail of the building
 There's a viewing platform at the top, but that costs money and we were broke.  Handily, you can use one of the super elevators to get you close to the top for free!  Ha ha!  Have that, and have a view of the city while you're at it.

The building gets more remarkable if you venture below ground level.  Underneath is Takimi-koji Alley; intentionally designed to look like a showa era market.  Twisting streets, traditional shop fronts and an overwhelming smell of delicious food (causing unintentional salivation), it's frankly barmey but great.  We stopped into a ramen bar, before heading out into the landscaped garden.  Never has one building offered so much.

We headed onto the underground, promptly getting distracted/lost as we did so and headed for Den-Den Town; a charmingly named den of of shops devoted to selling high-tech gadgetry.

Imposing hole in the roof of the Umeda building
 It's the alter of consumerism; shiny new fandangled bits of kit that can do everything (I imagine knowing the toilets arse washing is included).  Here, we figured we would find robots - you know, Transformer -like behemoths that will ensure endless servitude and toil.  Or not.  

Much to our distress there was narry a robot in sight.  Blu ray?  Check.  DVD thingeys?  Check, check.  Massive TVs, almost the size of skyscraper windows?  Check, check and check.  Robot?  On your bike.

Depressed we trudged on.  This was supposed to be Japan - why were there no robots?  Suddenly, salvation of a kind presented itself.  In Nipponbashi we spotted a toyshop, the windows of which were crammed with mechanical automatons.  They were bloomin' expensive, and seemed to fall over a lot, but it was robots.

Looking at Osaka from the 59th floor
 Our hearts soared.

Our feet trudged on, street after street of commercial craziness cascaded by.  "Shall we head back?"  I asked timorously.

"Yes - not enough temples."

We boarded the JR for the final push - back to Kyoto, then to Tokyo, then home.  Our time (and money) had run out.  It was over.

Still, Japan remains one of the most contradictory places I've been.  Deep-rooted spiritualism rubs shoulders with corporate decadence; tradition marches alongside progress.  People bow.  Ramen is cheap and plentiful.  The toilets wash your unmentionables.  It was great.  Despite the heat, the lost iPhones, the marauding deer and the noisy cicada I couldn't have had a better time - and I left with memories to last a lifetime.  Time to go back, surely?

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The Umeda Sky Building - taken at …
The Umeda Sky Building - taken at…
Detail of the building
Detail of the building
Imposing hole in the roof of the U…
Imposing hole in the roof of the …
Looking at Osaka from the 59th flo…
Looking at Osaka from the 59th fl…
Me, from far away
Me, from far away
Im bigger than you are...
I'm bigger than you are...
Park - long way away
Park - long way away
Takimi-kaji Alley, under the sky b…
Takimi-kaji Alley, under the sky …
The building from the park
The building from the park
Den-Den Town, home of electronics
Den-Den Town, home of electronics
photo by: yasuyo