Unexpected enjoyment in Osaka – featuring Free Flight Brass Band

I have documented on this blog my difficult relationship with Osaka. Last time we stayed for a couple of days, and I vowed that I wouldn’t go back again. I wasn’t true to my word, though, because at the end of our sixth trip we had an overnight stay back at the Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka. Purely for convenience, you understand, as we were flying home out of Kansai International Airport early in the morning.

We ended up having a good time. It helped that the day was hot and sunny. We were too early to check in at the hotel, so we dropped off our luggage and headed out into the Osaka sunshine.

We headed up the road to Naniwa and sat in the sun next to the river, eating buns we’d bought at Shinshindo on our way out from Kyoto Station, drinking huge cans of CC lemon bought at the vending machine on our way from Blue Tengu to Kyoto Station, and watching the synchronised setting up of a Texas BBQ.

A pleasure boat sailed by as we lounged on the steps of Minatomachi River Place (湊町リバープレイス) and the tour guide had everyone waving to us, so we waved back. Then we walked up to Shinsaibashi, taking photographs of graffiti and stickered vending machines and interesting signs and buildings along the way.

It was such a beautiful day, and I could feel myself warming to Osaka. We made our way to Tokyu Hands to buy some presents for our cat from the pet department, then headed back to the hotel to check in. We went back via one of the shopping arcades, which was just like Market Street in Manchester on a Saturday afternoon. Tired and hot, I could feel my dislike of Osaka returning!

Checked in at the hotel, we had a bit of a rest and a cool down in our room on the 29th floor. The view was staggering, even in the slight haze of a hot day.

Refreshed, we set out again, looking at shops and wandering through an area full of the Japanese equivalent of Shoreditch Hipsters before heading to the Namba branch of the Yukari okonomiyaki chain for tea.

It was as good as the okonomiyaki we’d had at the branch in Ohatsutenjin Dori, near Umeda station. We also had a salad of shredded daikon, carrot and cucumber with a plum sauce, which tasted amazing.

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We had a good wander round Namba after eating. Namba is a surprisingly rum area. After drifting around the covered shopping streets, where we saw a couple of interestingly named shops, we somehow ended up in the red light district.

Feeling like it was time to move onto pastures new, away from the seedy gents crawling the streets of Namba for sex, we headed back up to Dotonbori where I was determined to buy a Portuguese egg tart from Lord Stow’s Bakery.

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It was so delicious that I wished I’d bought two!

We wandered around aimlessly some more, seeing where our legs took us, taking in the sights and sounds, and drifted towards a plaza outside the Takamashiya department store, where taxis were congregating, waiting to pick up fares. Various bands and singers were also performing, and one of the taxi drivers was clicking his fingers along with a folky indie band.

Right in front of the Takamashiya was an R’n’B singer. Modern R’n’B not being our thing, we quickly walked past and were rewarded around the corner by a jazz brass ensemble in the New Orleans mode.

We stood and listened for a while, and then my husband spotted that they were selling CDs. He waited for a break in their playing and then approached one of the band members to buy a CD from him. The band are called Free Flight Brass Band, and you can follow them on Facebook. We bought a copy of their second CD, Take Off, which is really good. Six tracks of upbeat brassy jazz.

It would have been good to stay out later, but we had an early start for the airport in the morning, so we decided to head back to our hotel. We passed a live music venue with lots of posters around its entranceway. Quite a few of the bands looked interesting.

Maybe I’ve been approaching Osaka all wrong, using it as a stop off for the airport and only exploring it in daylight. Maybe, if we stay again, we should do more night time things there, see a few bands, hit a few bars. Maybe that way I’ll understand Osaka better. In just one evening, I’d had a better time in Osaka than I had on previous visits!

When we got back to the hotel, there was a sliver of red moon hanging in the sky over the city. It looked like something out of a Murakami novel, and I went to bed not hating Osaka any more.

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