Namba Nights

Japan has given us no shortage of things to blog about. We knew Japan would be like nothing we had ever experienced before but this place has been beyond our weirdest expectations. Our first stop was Osaka, where we stayed in a neighbourhood called Namba, in an area known as Nipponbashi. We had a great apartment that was much bigger than what we thought we would have in Japan, having heard about the success of capsule hotels in this country. You can check it out here.

Nipponbashi is known to be the center of manga, or Japanese comics, in the Kansai region. Manga is wildly popular here and is read by pretty much everyone, from teens to hot shot CEOs. In fact, manga accounts for 40% of all books and magazines sold in Japan. Animated characters are everywhere – they even use hello kitty instead of pylons!

While Manga is loved by all, this area only seemed to attract die-hard fans and as such, was full of all sorts on interesting characters. We got a pretty weird vibe from this place. It felt a little lonely – maybe because these people are so into manga they don’t have much time to socialize. There were also plenty of girls dressed up like manga characters, seemingly vying for the attention of these lonely manga loving males.

Along with the manga shops are some seriously strange businesses. Most popular seem to be maid cafes, where you can go have a coffee or beer and be served by a maid. No joke, there were at least 30 of these cafes in our neighbourhood. I’m not sure we fully grasped the appeal but they are really popular. The maids also put on weird little disco shows and charge an extra fee for a conversation. Its not quite prostitution but its definitely not your average cafe.

Osaka isn’t a particularly charming city. Its an industrial city that was bombed heavily during the second world war so a lot of the architecture feels very utilitarian and cold. But for what this city lacks in charm it makes up for in bright lights and tasty snacks.

My favourite area of Osaka was Dotonbori, the huge nightlife and entertainment area running along the Dotonbori canal. There are blinding lights absolutely everywhere and its just packed with people, arcades and pachinko parlors. I’m actually shocked that Nu was able to sleep after coming here because it’s so visually stimulating.

Osaka is known for its food and Dotonbori is the heart of it all. Everywhere you look there is some sort of food being prepared, from soba noodles to the city’s famous octopus balls.

Fresh food is extremely expensive in Japan and just one apple can set you back as much as 5 dollars. Its so pricey that we found it was actually cheaper to eat out than to cook at home. One of the nice things about this was that we got to try lots of Japanese cuisine and enjoy some unique dining experiences, like ordering from a machine instead of a human (something that’s quite popular here) or selecting our meal from the perfectly crafted plastic replicas that sit outside every restaurant. They looked so lifelike that Nu would try to eat them!

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After a few hectic days in Osaka we have made our way to Kyoto – the city of temples. More to come on this soon!