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  • Writer's pictureRei Tsuru

Night life of Nishinari

During this golden week, I spent a few days in Kansai and my first destination was Osaka, the second (and probably last) city on my top Japanese metropolitan areas. There are so many reasons why Osaka is so special and why many people, whether locals or tourists, are not interested in it, and one of the best examples of Osaka's vibe is Nishinari, a special area near the city center.

Nishinari is the quintessential low-key life you've seen in cyberpunk movies, you can feel its vibe even if you have no idea where you are or what the story is.

The homeless, the garbage on the streets, dilapidated houses, the cheap food and the red light district are all very different from how people usually imagine Japan.

But it's still Japan, and yet it's much safer there than in your own city, amigos.

I used to live in the cheapest hostels for less than 1,000 yen a night, go around at night with my macbook, drone, camera, ipad, and never had any problems other than drunk Japanese guys calling me to continue nomunication (first time I hear this word from one guy at Awaji, who helped me and my friend get back to Kobe from the island, it was already too late and we missed all the buses. Nomu (飲む) is Japanese for "drink").

Super Tamade is a chain of low price supermarkets and one of the symbols of Nishinari, for example you can find there onigiri for 65 yen only (I'm not brave enough to try, although Japanese food is usually safe), and they even have my favorite blue chewing gum with penguins. ^^

I definitely feel the lack of dystopian ghettos in Japan, and this neighborhood is probably the only opportunity to remedy that deficiency. But that time I realized that I had never tried to capture the real spirit of Nishinari, which is not easy because it is not as bright and colorful as the neon streets. All of Osaka looks more simple and brutal than Tokyo, and I want to try to capture that on my next visit.

Shinsekai! I'd like to tell you about that dark tower in the background called Tsutenkaku, but it looks like it's undergoing repairs and all the lights are off.

Shinsekai literally means "New world". The district opened in 1912 as an amusement zone with Luna Park at its center, which referred to the design of Luna Park on New York's Coney Island.

These days there is a large food court with local Osaka dishes such as kushikatsu, takoyaki or okonomiyaki, which has been favored by photographers thanks to light installations.

It's so unfamiliar to see this street without the lights of Tsutenkaku at its end, I hope I'll have better luck next time

Even if you have never considered Osaka as a tourist destination, give it a chance! I know enough people who live in Osaka and genuinely love this city more than historic Kyoto or cozy Kobe.

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