After spending 30 minutes, in a packed train, full of suits and no sound, I was happy to arrive at the Osaka station to hear the noise again, making sure my hearing was excellent. It amazes me that all the trains in Japan are more silent than a church with “silence please” written everywhere.
The area you arrive in is called the Umeda Area. Exiting the station, you will see a mall called “Grand Front Osaka.” Go inside and be amazed by the architecture, make your way to the contemporary Mercedes coffee shop, that doubles as a store selling merchandise and cars. The first of its kind.
This mall is a test station where products are tested on consumers before they are mass produced. On top of the building, there is a start-up hub called “the knowledge salon,” subsidized by the Japanese government to get good ideas commercialized. They test the products at the mall. They have demonstrators that show customers the products and collect feedback to the entrepreneurs.
On the first floor, you can find the Café lab, where visitors can learn and share knowledge with their coffee by using the tablets on the tables. Go up the stairs and check out the AI personal shopping assistant, and try clothes on in a hologram of yourself. “The Active lab” is a place to experience new technology and to help design it even better. If you want to help create the technology of the future, this is the place to go. Read more about is here. The latest in fashion, branding, and interior from High profiled brands are also presented here, to get feedback from consumers before they mass produce.
Make your way to the top floor and have lunch in one of the themed restaurants and check yourself in on the interactive machine. Try the restaurant that grows their own vegetables or the one that breeds their own fish. Guaranteed free of toxins.
There is an underground passage from the mall to the Umeda Sky building. Make your way to the top to get a view of the city.
There would be another mall worth a visit, especially if you did not have lunch at Grand front. Hep five have a food court worth a visit. And the floor above is a game level not to miss if you want to see what is popular amongst the Japanese youth. This is where selfies are taken to another level. Using new technology to old ideas, you will a get a different photo booth experience, and there are many to choose from. If you are not afraid of heights, the mall also has a Ferris wheel on the roof. The view was great, and there is the obligatory photo at the end of the experience.
Across the street from Hep Five, you can get on the purple line, one stop to Nakazakicho station. Exit number two and check out this area of narrow alleyways and small boutiques and cafes. Exit number one will take you to the Tengo Nakazaki shopping arcade, leading to the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping arcade, that goes on for 2,6 kilometer and houses 600 stores. This is the longest straight shopping street in Japan filled with more than you can imagine.
From Osaka station, get on the JR loop line to Osakajokoen Station. Or, if you walked all the way through the arcades heading south, you can get on the purple line, one stop to Temmabashi station exit 3 or Tanimachi station exit 2 or 9. The beautiful gardens around Osaka Castle is a welcome break from the city. Go through one of the gates leading over the Moats surrounding the Castle and explore the gardens. The park area is famous for its Cherry and Plum blossoms. There a are hot seated fully automated public toilets in the area, as well as food and coffee served several places in the area.
Make your way to the red Mido-Suji line station called Shinsaibashi Station. If you exit number 1 you will find yourself just outside Louis Vuitton, in the luxurious north/south going Mido-Suji shopping street, where the luxury brands line up along the road. Go one block east along the east/west running Nagahori dori street and enter the Shinsaibashisuji shopping arcade by Zara and walk south. This arcade is higher profiled than the ones in Umeda. You will encounter robot doormen, and At the end of the street, you will cross the famous Ebisubashi bridge. Stop and take in the neon light facades and giant commercials this space is known for. It is an explosion of colors and moving images. A stroll along the canal, stopping by one of the many eateries gives your legs a welcome rest, and your eyes a never-ending change in facade display.
The canal is dividing the Shinsaibashi area from the Namba area. Cross the bridge, and you are in Namba. Walk straight and take the first street left. Dotonbori street is a continuous movie, of neon signs, commercials, and Japanese letters. You have entered the old theater district – Now a vibrant nightlife scene with restaurants and bars. The narrow streets south of Dotonbori has hidden alleyways with restaurants, bars and tiny shops in cobblestoned historic streets. The perfect place to have dinner. Hozenji Temple is a hidden gem to look for in the alleyways. Soak in the Buddhist tranquillity of this temple, In the calming light of the lanterns lit for the wisdom kings. The perfect ending to a noisy afternoon and evening.
If you need something from the supermarket, I would recommend trying a Lawson just north of the center. Close to the Panasonic headquarters, Lawson and Panasonic teamed up to make the new generation robots for supermarkets and are testing it here in a Lawson branch in Osaka. Get a basket, the groceries are scanned directly on the basket when you put it in. Put the basket on Reji Robo when you are finished shopping, and your groceries are packed while you pay. Straightforward and fast. The purple Tani-machi line at station Dainichi is the closest station if you want to check it out.
If you are staying the night, try the capsule hotels. You will receive pajamas, slippers, towel, and the bathrooms have all you need of toiletries. The capsule you sleep in has got its own safe, TV and mood lighting. This is high tech sleeping, ready to charge both you and your devices. Leaving Osaka, get on Shinkansen, the latest in superfast trains, and fly low to your next destination in these high-tech trains.