To those studying the language, it may not come as a surprise that the Japanese have a specific word for unexpected wandering. “Yorimichi” is commonly used to refer to dropping by somewhere along ones way home. Today we’re going to go on a “yorimichi” through the narrow streets of Osaka. Follow along!
A World of Music
Our first stop is a hidden gem, tucked away on a side street in Namba, the Chuwa Dixie Bldg. This five story building comes alive at night. Each floor houses a different music bar, from jazz to rock and live bossa nova there’s something to tickle your musical fancy. My personal favorite is the old jazz bar, boasting vinyl records and a dusty ambiance reminiscent of something out of a Murakami novel, Jazz Bar Top Rank is the place to be if you really want to get lost in true Osaka style. The owner, an old Osaka ojiisan was charming and eager to share his Billie Holiday collection with me. If you get bored, you have four other floors of musical detours to keep you occupied the whole night through.
Stroll Around Dotombori
Next, let’s stumble away from the nostalgia of vinyl records and wander down the Dotombori. Located in the southern part of Osaka city, Dotombori is perhaps the most recognisable street in Osaka. Take a photo in front of the famous Glico man near Ebisu Bridge or marvel at the incredible storefront displays. If you’re hungry, now’s your chance to really taste what Osaka has to offer. Dotombori has it all, from Kansai favourites like Okonomiyaki (Japanese “pancakes” filled with a variety of ingredients) and Takoyaki (octopus filled dough balls) to international tastes. Eat your way down this colorful street.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Namba Yasaka Shrine. This Shinto shrine is very unique because there is a massive lion head stage on the grounds. Here you can see dances on festival days, or ask the lion to grant your wish. There’s no shrine in Japan quite like this. Tucked away discretely on the side of a commercial street, it’s easy to pass by if you’re not paying attention. Ask Google Maps for help with this one.
See the City by Water
If you happen to visit durning the warmer months, from May to November a number of boats run sightseeing cruises down the Dotombori river. These boats depart from Minato River Place, located just a short walk from JR Namba station. Don’t miss the BYOB Jazz Boat, blaring soulfully down the river all summer long. If your Japanese is up to snuff, try the tour boat run by a Japanese Rakugo comedian.
Now let’s set down our anchors and mosey our way south, all the way down to Shinsekai. What better neighbourhood to get lost in? This town, literally “New World” in English is anything but new. Since the beginning of the 20th century, this area has been a famous tourist hotspot. Many Japanese people consider this to be one of the seedier areas of Japan. However, anyone familiar with Japanese crime statistics may chuckle at this exaggeration. Shinsekai’s shadier spots only work to add to it’s charm. Step away from the bustle of center city and get lost in old Japan.
For an unobstructed view of Osaka, go to the famous Tsutenkaku, towering over surrounding buildings. In true “yorimichi” style, you can challenge an old man to a game of shogi (Japanese chess) in any one of the back alley parlors or try your luck at Pachinko.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, why not bare all in SpaWorld? This multi-storey mega bathhouse offers European and Asian style bathing experiences. For those new to Japan, it’s a great way to ease into trying Japanese sento (public bathhouses). Don’t forget your bathing suit, SpaWorld also offers a mixed gender swimming area as well as outdoor hot tubs.
Hanami at Osaka Castle
Our last stop on our way home is going to take us to Osaka Castle. The park is particularly delightful in the spring as there are cherry blossoms in bloom and hanami (flower viewing) parties underway. This park has a long, rich history. Originally constructed in 1583, Osaka Castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in it’s history. The castle grounds feature Nishinomaru Garden which boasts over 600 cherry trees, a tea house, and offers a view of the castle.
Osaka is a sprawling city offering unlimited opportunity to get lost in it’s cracks and corners. What’s your favorite “yorimichi” tale? Let us know in the comments below!