Moukarimakka (もうかりまっか) is apparently a standard greeting in Osaka. It translates as “Are you making much money?” and is taken to be an indicator of the nature of the city and its residents.
We paid a visit to the city on our honeymoon in 2009. We didn’t see much of the city itself on that first visit. We focused on the Sky Building near Shin Osaka station (新大阪駅) and the castle (大阪城). On emerging from the station, though, we popped into Yodobashi Camera for a look at some gadgets.
This shop is an emporium of gadgetry. On our second visit to the city in 2010, we were impressed by both the mobile phone charging units at the entrance to the store, and the entire section given over to gatchapon machines:
There is also a section which sells those wonder-loos that you find in department stores and people’s homes, the ones that warm your bum and spray you clean while playing a tune. They are pretty large, and we decided that we’d probably exceed our luggage limit if we bought one, so we left it. We also saw a Panasonic 3D tv being demonstrated, which was pretty impressive if a little weird.
Back to our first visit, though, and the Umeda Sky Building (梅田スカイビル). This is an office block with a viewing platform and exhibition at the top. It’s in an out of the way area known as Shin Umeda City (新梅田市), accessed via a pungent subway that passes under the railway. On our way towards the building, we became embroiled in a pack of baseball players who had been enjoying a quick game on the nearby ground. The building itself is an inverted U shape, with an escalator connecting the two legs three-quarters of the way up. It towered over us on our approach. In the basement of the building is a village of restaurants, and outside there are landscaped gardens and benches where you can enjoy the elegant view of the terraces and pools. We made our way up to the 38th floor, where we paid our entrance fee and were escorted up to the 40th floor observation deck by a very prim and doll-like young woman. The journey up involves travelling between the two legs of the building on a space-age escalator:
The observation deck is split into an interior area, with different things to see and do, including a short film presentation, graphic panels describing a fantasy sci-fi future, various viewing points and an area to celebrate your marriage.
Outside was a windswept circular observation deck which afforded wonderful views of the city, as well as a vertiginous view down into the space between the two legs of the building.
Our next port of call on this first visit to Osaka was the castle. It’s not an original building, as the original was destroyed. The castle grounds contain plenty of original structures, however, including turrets, a gunpowder store and two original gates. There are also huge stones dotted around the grounds which aren’t quite what they appear…
Approaching the castle is a real indicator of what it must have been like to be an enemy trying to attack. The main tower looms over you, wherever you walk, and is decorated to look cross and scary!
Entry is by ticket purchased from a ticket machine in the grounds. Unbeknown to us (our Japanese not being that good!), you’re supposed to take the lift to the 8th floor and work your way down the building using the stairs. We decided that we would be healthy and forego the lift in favour of the stairs. Each floor has a different part of the castle’s story to tell, and the folding screen depicting the Summer War on the 5th floor was worth the climb. The 8th floor has a viewing deck, where we saw more spectacular views across the city.
After our visit to the Castle, we walked to a train station and made our way into the city for the briefest of looks around. We thought we would have time to look around the shops in the Minami area of the city, but by the time we had misread our map and tried to ask a local for directions, we only had time to take snaps of two unusually named shops before we had to make our way back to Shin Osaka station!
On our second visit to the city, in the autumn of 2010, we concentrated on Den Den Town and Dotonbori. Den Den Town is Osaka’s answer to Akihabara in Tokyo. There are lots of shops selling gatchapon toys, as well as electrical goods. Gundam seems to be a local hero, with posters and statues almost everywhere you look.
Dotonbori is a popular local spot which used to be a pleasure district full of theatres. We hit it in the evening, when the neon lights were shining and people on their way home from work were filling the streets. I found it a little overwhelming, as there were lots of people.
I was also very hungry, which didn’t help with my coping strategy. I found Osaka to be quite difficult as a vegetarian. We eventually wandered through a closed market area and found a noodle bar on a corner which served Kitsune Udon. It was the best Kitsune I have ever eaten – not just because of my hunger.
I have mixed feelings about Osaka. It is busy and noisy and the local dialect is hard to follow, especially when you don’t speak Japanese very well. I spent most of our second trip feeling out of my depth and tense. I certainly didn’t feel like I was making much money!