Osakan entertainment and nightlife25 November, 2012 by Chad
On the first morning waking up in Osaka, we got up earlier than usual. There was a SUPER☆GiRLS live event outside of Osaka at Toyonaka City in the afternoon, but more importantly, our complimentary breakfast timing ended at 9.30 AM this morning. The food was decent as far as complimentary breakfasts go, with a buffet spread of Japanese and Western dishes and drinks to help oneself to.
After breakfast, we tried our luck getting the hotel counter staff to help us with activating the B-Mobile Sim Cards. Unfortunately, they would be of no help either. None of the staff here spoke any English at all and even after explaining out situation to them, they would refuse to help. So much for the illusion of Japanese being helpful.
The only other alternative we could think of at this point was for Randy to get help from some of his distant relatives living in Tokyo. We spent a good part of the morning in the hotel lounge, as he conveyed our situation to his aunt and cousin. After waiting in vain for a reply, we decided to set off for the SUPER☆GiRLS event first.
Osaka isn’t nearly that big a city, and we were living at the fringe of the city at Shin-Osaka anyways, so getting to Senri Selcy where SUPER☆GiRLS would be holding the event would only take about half an hour by train. Part of the journey would still be within Osaka City, so we decided to purchase a one day subway pass, topping up the remaining distance to Senri-chuo.
Forgetting that it was a weekend and that the passes were discounted, we ended up paying the usual price of 200 yen more (Eco Passes are 600 yen on weekends and 800 yen on regular days). Why the ticketing machines in Osaka would still have that option, is beyond me. The ones in Osaka have terrible usability.
Those who have been to the Kansai region and especially around Osaka, would know how different the architecture here is compared to some of their other Metropolitan cities. The buildings bear more resemblance to those you’d find in Malaysia or some parts of Singapore.
The Selcy shopping complex looks quite a bit like Singapore’s Bras Basah Complex, though a lot better maintained. Beneath, in the station that we arrived in, the trains run just under the shops in the underground shopping street, another of Osaka and Kansai’s unique sights.
It was still too early for the live, and the queue for merchandise was too ridiculous at this point so we decided to take a look around the fair and the shops around the shopping complex.
One shop that drew Randy’s interest was Regal Shoes, a chain that specializes in dress shoes. Never noticed it around before, but we would run into more shops around everywhere. Randy spotted a pair of shoes that he really fancied at the shop and took a mental note to return. Getting a pair of dress shoes or loafers was another thing on his to do list for this trip since his current pair was barely holding up.
There was also farmers fair going on at Selcy this Saturday morning, many selling their produce and derived specialities such as pickled vegetables or the fried chicken in the picture below. Eventually agreeing that the prices at the fair were a little too steep and with everyone keen on finding some place to sit down until the live started, we decided to take a break at the adjacent Mister Donut.
There would be two SUPER☆GiRLS events that would fall within the days of our trip. The first would be here during our Osaka stay and included a free mini-live event. I had been to one earlier this year, so sort of knew of what to expect. It seems though that SUPER☆GiRLS were feeling more premium lately as handshakes at the event were no longer free. One would require a handshake ticket that came inside first press copies of their new single Akai Jyonetsu. The members were split into 4 lanes of 3 for that part of the event, with one ticket allowing you to handshake members from one given lane.
I had pre-ordered 9 copies of Akai Jyonetsu’s regular edition before hand from CDJapan for 1,000 yen each which were to be split among ourselves. The CDs were expected to arrive at our hotel last night, but after checking with the counter in vain, a quick check online revealed that my payment details on the order had been changed by the CDJapan officer and was put on hold.
Looks like we wouldn’t be getting our CDs anytime soon. Still, we came over to Selcy this afternoon in hopes of catching at least the free part of the live.
Leaving Mister Donut late, we’d expected worse-off seats, but there were so few fans in Osaka, and the venue so large, that it would be hard getting a bad spot. Which is funny, since some had traded a handshake ticket away for VIP seats in the mosh pit. Instead, we sat at the nearby steps which provided an excellent view, just that we had to contend with the strong afternoon sunlight.
The weather was still surprisingly hot in Osaka, a full 20 degrees this afternoon which far worst under the sun. As it was, we were only wearing one layer of clothes, yet were being cooked under the sun. But once the performances started we became less aware of that fact.
With everyone else in place already, there was no one at the merchandise booth, so Eri ran off to get some goods, leaving us to fend off one Japanese uncle who wanted to take her seat. She returned some time later with a SUPER☆GiRLS concert tee and Akai Jyonetsu towel.
SUPER☆GiRLS put up a good performance this afternoon. And though a lot of my enthusiasm for the group had died down since last year, due to their recent releases being rather lackluster, I still enjoyed their older songs. In total they performed Everybody JUMP, MAX Otome Gokoro, Akai Jyonetsu, Puripuri SUMMER Kiss, BELIEVER and Be With You, in that order.
Eri was definitely feeling it, while Randy managed to enjoy the performance despite not knowing anything about the group, singling out Katsuta Rino for her inability to catch up with the rest.
After the live, the girls spent a good amount of time on stage with the media again before heading off to freshen up, while the rest of the fans got into queue for the next part of the event. Returning to the merchandise booth, Eri bought a couple of packets of random SUPER☆GiRLS photos and ended up with a Katsuta Rino autographed photo. Since these were event specific, the odds are always really good.
The booth also sold copies of the new single, and we checked with them if it contained handshake tickets. They did. Eri was eager to go for the handshake, so I joined her into buying one copy, before taking our place in the queue to shake hands with Maeshima Ami, Goto Aya and Shimura Rika.
Though this would be my 4th time seeing SUPER☆GiRLS, I had missed the chance to meet them up close due to having to catch a flight immediate after in January (and almost missing my plane). The handshake was great, we weren’t strictly timed at all so I ended up shaking hands with Maeshima Ami, the group’s most popular member for what seemed like 15 seconds before moving on.
I did the default of opening that I was from Singapore, after which she was really excited and started to sprout so many words of surprise and thanks that I had trouble catching it all. Amita (as she is called) had a really firm grip, and held on for the longest time even as I was being pushed from behind. Still, holding on, I managed to catch the part where she said she hoped to see me again, so in reply I told her that I’ll visit her in Tokyo too, after which she politely replied “till Tokyo then”.
Goto Aya, or Gocchan was another of the group’s really popular members and easily one of the prettiest. After Maeshima, I guess I was still in a state of surprise and wasn’t quite sure what to say to her. In turn, she herself was distant and had trouble initiating much interaction or had little motivation to do so, after the obvious long gap between the last person she shook hands with, on account of all the time I had spent with Amita.
Finally, I shook hands with Rikataso, Shimura Rika the last in line. Being the last, it would seem that I would be given more leeway in terms of time. Another fave, Rika was sweet, though I felt bad for noticing how bad her complexion was up close. She too was pleasantly surprised to learned that I had come from Singapore, though true to her “baka” image, it was apparent that she had no idea where it was. After a long awkward pause while she was thinking, she finally went “ah, that’s where the Merlion is” and then repeated “sugoi” many times after.
Despite having just completed the most popular line, it took just 10 minutes to get to our turn due to there being not that many people in the first place. Randy, who was looking around shopping only had the chance to take a quick peek at the ABC Mart beside the stage before we were done.
Still high from the experience, Eri immediately ran off to get another copy of the single to re-enter the queue for Kano Kaede, Watanabe Hikaru and Katsuta Rino. Pressured, I contemplated for a long time, before getting one myself and heading to see Tanaka Mirei, Arai Reira and Yasaka Saori.
Mirei had the most priceless expression from learning that I had come from Singapore. Perhaps it was shock, or fear that she had just shaken hands with a filthy gaijin, but she was really nice about it. Apart from Amita, she was probably the most exciting person to meet today. Many of the other people in front had commented on her new hairstyle, the first time she was spotting a fringe. It didn’t quite suit her though. I decided to skip straight to wishing her happy birthday.
In a similar mirror to the last lane, Arai “Rachel” Reira would be pretty zoned out. Tried speaking to her in English a bit, but she caught none of it. And was probably caught off guard on account of me speaking to Mirei in Japanese. Yasaka Saori would end up talking excitedly about the Merlion and Marina Bay Sands, I guess being the oldest, she was easily the most informed of them.
With that done, we headed down to Namba for a casual late afternoon stroll and some shopping. Pleasantly recollecting what had just happened along the way.
Dropping off at Namba Station, we found Namba Parks just beside us. The new shopping mall had been greatly promoted by English media overseas for introducing greenery into the bleak Osakan landscape and seemed like a must see sight. Sadly, Namba Parks turned out to be more true to the locals reaction, unimpressive.
The mall mostly comprised of medium and up classed boutiques strung together by the building’s wavy architecture. The only “parks” element was a small patch of bushes at the top floor where three Indonesians were taking photos of the flowers. I knew exactly how they felt, spending all my time in Singapore, I still find it fascinating whenever I see non-orchid flowers actually growing out of the ground.
We spotted the top of a Taito Station from the park and Randy requested that we head to an amusement center. Walking in the direction, we passed by a MOMI&TOY’S outside of the Namba City mall. Recommending their delicious crepes, both Eri and Randy decided to get some. I wasn’t exactly in the mood, so decided to try their Maccha Bubble Tea instead. Despite having visited so many times, I had yet to try any Japanese “tapioca”.
This particular MOMI&TOY’S was staffed by two young ladies. I guess no one ever comes to a crepe shop to buy bubble tea, so one of them had to dig out all of the bubble tea ingredients from deep within the freezer. It took a while to concoct up my order, so by the time Randy had already mowed down his crepe. It’s that good.
The tapioca balls were really chewy, not sure if it was on purpose or because they had just been defrosted. I don’t drink nearly enough bubble tea in Singapore to know, but it was enjoyable. The Maccha Milk Tea was really nice since it wasn’t too sweet, again, the reason why I don’t drink much of these sort of teas in Singapore.
Took a quick tour around the Taito Station. I’m told that the amusement centers here stock a lot of machines that aren’t available yet in Singapore. On the floor totally dedicated to dance and rhythm games there was a machine utilising the Kinect to deliver a hands free dancing experience much like Dance Central, except with better songs.
One young girl at the stairway entrance was strangely engrossed in some button pressing rhythm game, ignoring everyone who tried to pass through, only later did we realize that she had ear plugs in.
Turning into Nankai Dori, we found ourselves face first with a huge AKB48 Cafe and Shop at the NGK Building opposite the NMB48 theater. Haven’t been following anything 48 related in a long time now so this came as a surprise. There wasn’t a queue to enter, but it did get pretty crowded inside, which left me wondering if the shop had only just opened recently.
Inside, it was most of the usual stuff. AKB48 related merchandise of the Japanese sort, such as clear folders, note books and stickers. The shop was decorated in their trademark tartan patterns and displayed a few member clothing and signatures on the walls. Not long after entering had we lost Eri. Randy commented on how cute the shop staffs here were. Well, one of the cashiers did look a bit like Fukagawa Mai.
One thing that did catch my eye was the AKB48 Trading Card Game and Collection, again something I would learn about for the first time here. My daily job in my Japanese company has had me working recently with a number of other Japanese card games. And with an IP like AKB48, the merchandising possibilities are pretty insane. I’m sure that many would had thought of something like this before, but I’d never think that they’d go so far as to put explicit statistics to each girl.
The most amusing part, at least according to the posters here was that the cards made used of some basic AR (augmented reality) technology. Through the use of a free downloaded smartphone app and the appropriate cards, one could project 3D versions of the AKB48 members onto their phones cameras.
Unsurprisingly, the rest were pretty keen on having a meal at the cafe, even if just for the novelty. There was a short queue inside of the shop for the connecting AKB48 Cafe. While Randy and I queued for our place, we lost Eri again as she ran off to grab some merchandise.
The cafe was a lot smaller, having more in similar to a fast food joint than an actual cafe. From entering the cafe, the waitress informed us that we could only spend a limited time in the cafe. You’ll need to place an order at the counter yourself, selecting from a limited menu of burgers and sandwiches.
Just like in Singapore, the cafe was filled with an assortment of, for the lack of a better word, interesting people. Some had come to see the videos displayed on the 3 LCD screens here, which were surprisingly worse than Singapore’s. One huge guy had been repeatedly visiting the cafe to collect the coasters there, he must have had almost all of them as he presented his collection of coasters to one of the shop staffs.
Well, it turns out that there are a bunch of different types of coasters, which seemed to be the main attraction of the cafe. Depending on the type of order you make, you’d either get one with a QR code, one somehow related to the new AKB48+ME 3DS game, or a regular coaster.
We decided to go for their current special, a burger, drink combo for 700 yen with a random QR code coaster, thinking that it was somehow related to the augmented reality stuff. In fact, I had though that they would give us a random AR card instead. But after foolishly trying to get the coaster to work, it turns out that the QR code for another of their social network card battle games.
After purchasing your meal, you’re supposed to pick out a coaster yourself from a pouch worn by each of the cafe girls. Eri pulled an Iriyama Anna, while I got a Kashiwagi Yuki coaster. Eri actually purchased an additional drink on top of the meal to get another AKB48+ME coaster, pulling it out of the waitress’s pouch she revealed a Oshima Yuko coaster, her favorite member, much to her excitement.
The Teriyaki chicken burgers which we ordered were mostly tasteless. It’s only saving grace was the creamy eggplant and seaweed inside.
Randy placed his order later, after he was done excitedly snapping up shots of the cafe. We’ll probably post up more photos in a separate post in the future. He tried asking one of the waitresses for a photo, but to his disappointment that was against company regulations. He ordered a Japanesey Cheese burger instead, which had yakisoba bits inside but turned out to be actually better. He picked out a Shimazaki Haruka coaster.
After the light meal, we headed around the corner to see if the NMB48 shop was still there. Thinking that perhaps the Cafe and Shop had replaced it, we were surprised to find that it was still there. One of my requests from Singapore was from Michael Chow (aka Uncle48) for a Yogi Keira birthday t-shirt. I usually never, ever do shopping requests for anyone during my trips, but Uncle and I go back something like 7 years, so I made an exception this time. Still, I wasn’t going to be seen purchasing a 13 year old girl’s t-shirt, so Eri would need to pick it up together with her Yamamoto Sayaka tee.
Near the NMB48 shop, we spotted a Namco Game Center and entered. It was mostly a normal arcade, except that the first floor was dedicated to Bandai Namco’s capsule machines and it exclusively carried their arcade cabinets of course. There was also a Tekken Museum on the upper level along with a tournament area.
On the way down, we spotted the newest itineration of the Kamen Rider Card Battle system. I was pretty amused, having started picking up the tokusatsu in recent times too and this was my first time noticing the machine. It’s pretty similar to those Animal Kaiser and Love and Berry systems, except that I would learn that the machine tie in with not just the cards, but toys from the franchise too.
The new version utilizes Kamen Rider Wizard’s ring belt system, allowing players to scan the wizard rings from the belt selt or gashapon machines for added bonuses during the battle. Really amazing merchandising there. Randy tried his go at the machine. You immediately get one free card at the start of the game. Since it’s primarily targeted at children, I wonder if there’s any way that you can actually lose at it.
Next we headed to the adjacent adult store. One of the pay to view offerings in our hotel was an image video for the former SDN48’s Kouchi Masami which Randy wanted to see. Rather than pay the 1,000 yen to get a view card, I’d thought that it might be a better idea to try to find it in stores.
No luck there though, the video was either old, or really obscure as the shop didn’t carry it. The three of us spent a while looking around the other floors for a while too. For obvious reasons, pictures inside are scarce but I did manage to find this pop-up display of Miyuki from the Official Evangelion Project.
Now that it was getting dark, figured it was as good a time to make a turn toward Dotonbori. I had forgotten that it was a Saturday evening, so the crowds were pretty packed here, not just with tourists but also with the tons of touters, hosts and hostesses that call the place home.
Dotonbori is a pretty strange place in that it is not only the most touristy region of Namba, but also the heart of most of the city’s shadier activities. While foreigners would be mostly shunned in Kabukicho, the touters here will gladly grab anyone who looks approachable enough. Even among the Japanese, Osakan’s are well known for being exceptionally friendly.
While walking along the busy main streets we spotted random girls in costumes occasionally passing by and remembered that Halloween was fast approaching.
Dotonbori is also well known for its food, and the outrageous signages that accompany the stores here. Kani Doraku is perhaps the city’s most famous restaurant, with its giant robotic crab sign. There are a great number of outlets around Dotonbori but the “honten” or original shop is located just beside the Shinsaibashi Bridge where all the host and hostesses stalk their prey.
I was really keen on visiting Kani Doraku, after having heard nothing but good things about it. We had given it a pass during our previous trip on account of Yan considering it too touristy and commercialized, citing that we were better off going to Hokkaido if we wanted to have crab.
Kani Doraku specializes exclusively in snow crabs (the kind most synonymous with Japan) which many Singaporeans mistakenly refer to as Hokkaido crabs.
In actual fact, snow crabs can be caught almost anywhere in the sea of Japan, with the majority coming from Hyogo and Fukui Prefectures. Precisely where we were at now. Which is why, unsurprisingly, this Osakan franchised has spread throughout the rest of Japan, as opposed to say, a Hokkaido brand. Hokkaido is better known for the variety of crabs that settle there, rather than any single one type.
Should our stomaches allow, we would definitely return later in the evening for a go at Kani Doraku.
The Kuidaore Taro, another of Dotonbori’s mascots had gotten a makeover since my visit here last year. He has his own building now, right beside the Glico shop, a popular spot for those visiting Osaka to get their omiyage. We’re still in just our second day over in Japan, so we didn’t see the point of getting any yet.
Thought we’d head towards the waterways to try and avoid some of the crowds, but would soon realize that that was in vain. Many were queuing up for the more popular restaurants and shops here. We would also soon bump into the reason for all the costumed ladies.
Turns out that at least one of the most popular clubs here was holding its Halloween party in advance of the actual day this Saturday evening. A long line (of mostly women) in costume stretched across half of the entire waterway. Randy was rather amused by their (mostly store bought) costumes which stretched such variety as bunny girl, cat girl, slutty nurse and slutty policewoman. I’m guessing their entry was waived by wearing costumes.
There seemed to be a very different consensus to costumes here than in Singapore, where many tend to prefer a more grotesque or humorous style. The only people in vaguely amusing costumes were the guys, such as one who was dressed up as Piccolo from Dragon Ball whom we mingled with for a while. Walking past, he had initially tried to speak to Randy in Chinese, then tried some Korean when he didn’t reply, finally asking where we were from in English.
Amused that we were from Singapore, he started to shout some random English words. Even before we asked, Piccolo seemed eager to be captured on camera, with he and his lady friends (a princess Jasmine and two bunny girls) promptly posing for pictures.
Past the costumed queue, there was another longer queue of people in regular attire stretching the entire other direction. Unfortunately, we didn’t come prepared and we’re really in the company of party goers. It’s been years since dropping out of the scene myself, but would really love to hit some Japanese clubs some time for the experience. It’d be best if we had someone local and familiar with the clubs though.
After digesting the AKBurger and building up a bit of appetite, we returned to the Kani Doraku head shop. Checking with the counter staff there, we had only about half an hour until the last order, and an hour till the shop was to close. Still, we decided to head on in and was glad that we did.
After a bit of debilitating we settled upon the special seasonal kaiseki, which was kind of like the usual sets available there, with just some minor differences. We’d have the middle tier set which cost about 6,000 yen. And as with kaiseki, we were served multiple dishes in turn, starting with an almost raw crab leg.
Next up were some crab hors d’oeuvre, the black cup contained a cold mix of crab and yam, the rest: a little piece of steamed egg with crab, a couple more thoroughly cooked pieces marinated in different sauces and a small cold dish. Everything was quite delectable. Even the crab filled “chawanmushi” egg custard was quite good, despite not being much of a fan. Those who are will likely find it heavenly.
Throughout, as the food was being served one of the shop’s “Mama-sans” explained how the food was to be eaten.
The highlight of the meal seemed to be the 3 pieces of crab legs each given to us to grill to our liking. Now, I must apologize that I tend to eat really slowly, so in consideration, one of the younger staffs was sent to help grill them for me, demonstrating how to do it and explaining that just a quick sear would be ideal. We weren’t the last people around, but the shop would be closing in about half an hour so she eventually obliged to just cooking all of the crab and vegetables for us, keeping exactly one piece on each of our serving plates at a time.
As if I wasn’t eating slowly enough, I engaged in a little bit of small talk while she helped cook the meats. Tried asking if it was a family business since she was doing a good job, to which she laughed and explained that it was just a part time job. Pressing on, we learned that she had just been there for just 6 months.
The rest had already started on the sushi pieces, while I was still behind with the crab. After the both of them had tried one piece of sushi and went “oshi”, the Japanese girl, being now more colloquial stopped them and went “no, this piece is better” pointing out another one. Sure enough, she was right.
By now, everyone else on our floor had already left, and the rest of the kimono-clad staff were starting to wait on us. I felt a little bad for holding them up, but at the same time you can’t really get these things to you when you’re spending this much on a meal already.
The final dish served was some sweet potato pieces covered in sesame ice cream. I love my sweets, just not too sweet, so this was a great finish to an already awesome dinner. It’s little wonder that Kani Doraku came as recommended as it does.
It’s definitely not easy on the wallet. Yet perhaps because of the slightly steep price, Kani Doraku has managed to maintain to expand as big as it has without having to compromise on quality. If only once, it’s worth paying the price for the experience.
Contented, we made our way slowly back to the hotel to retire for the night. We’d have trouble getting anywhere being as full as we were at this point anyways. It was already 11 PM, so the party-goers were also starting to head back. Japan has some really ridiculous laws on night time entertainment.
Even had our day just ended after this afternoon’s SUPER☆GiRLS event, it would had already been a pretty fulfilling day. Yet, we managed to run into more new experiences after. After some of the troubles yesterday, things looked to be picking up, so much that it didn’t occur to us how late it was, already forgetting about some of the small issues that we had yet to resolve.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.