My time in Osaka was regretfully limited, thus I was unable to gain a good feel for the city. Similarly, my photography was also limited to a few subject areas – a limitation I can hopefully address at a future time.
Nevertheless, one forms impressions regardless of the time available and I saw enough to realise that Osaka has a personality quite distinct from that of Tokyo and its close Kansai neighbour Kyoto. By comparison with Kyoto, it presents as louder, grittier and more concerned with the present than the past. Like Tokyo, its importance as a business centre is evident, though the people present as more relaxed and less brand-conscious than in the national capital.
Before visiting Osaka I had read that it was a city obsessed with food and eating – a reputation that is well deserved. Given that Japan generally is a country where food and eating is somewhat of a national hobby, Osaka is the jewel in the crown with all varieties of restaurants and food outlets to please the most dedicated foodies. Unfortunately, I am not a foodie and cannot really add much more to this subject.
Most of the photos posted were taken in and around the Dotonbori area, which really comes alive after dark. Dotonbori is essentially a street that runs alongside the Dotonbori Canal in Osaka’s Namba ward, though the atmosphere extends to the many laneways running off the main street, as well as neighbouring streets. Given its proximity to Namba Station and popular department stores, the area attracts a wide cross-section of the community and is especially popular with the younger generations.
Its quirky feel can be appreciated by the impossible to ignore sculptures outside the Dotonbori Hotel (pic 1) and the robot-like streetlights (pic 15). Being a fan of street art, I was immediately attracted to the Peace on Earth work (pic 2), which, as well as expressing an important sentiment, created an interesting streetscape.
I mentioned proximity to popular department stores, one of which is Takashimaya shown at pic 4 with an army of people apparently exiting the store. This is a little misleading and it should be pointed out that, in accordance with Japanese practice, the very busy Namba Station is located under Takashimaya. Even as a tourist, one quickly comes to appreciate the collocation of stations with key infrastructure and there is a lesson in urban planning to be learned from Japan’s success in this area.
One of the things I came to love about Japan was the colourful signage such as those shown at pics 5 and 6, clearly aimed at appealing to the city’s obsession with food. Just as colourful and appealing are the street food vendors (pics 11 and 12), who are entertaining to watch and it is a shame that we do not yet have a way to capture the aromas of the food to match the images shown. One day perhaps!
During my time in Japan I came to the conclusion that dining is often a private/public experience and I may put together a series of images on this theme at a later stage. For the moment, I offer pics 9 and 10 showing partially obscured vision of diners enjoying their meals. My apologies for eavesdropping, but obsessions come in many forms.
My favourite images are probably those of a typical laneway (pics 7 and 8), with its lovely cobbled path and enticing signage creating a pleasant ambience. By contrast, pics 13 and 14 show sections of the main entertainment area, where the competition for trade is more actively pursued.
Finally, I have included a couple of portraits of a woman shopping (pic 16) and a cigarette seller (pic 17). The woman virtually requested the photograph by stopping and looking straight into the camera and what an interesting subject. Wearing kimono accessorized with a modern handbag and clutching the mandatory mobile phone, she is a great example of how easily Japan accommodates the old with the new.
The cigarette seller is a different story, as I had spotted him previously and had felt some sympathy for a man who gave the appearance of having a tough night. Not wishing to offend him, I sought permission to take his photograph and his disposition changed from that of glum to happy. It seems that being photographed cheered him up and made me feel good too. In fact, pic 17 became my final shot for that day. It’s always nice to end on a high note.
(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)