Travel is often filled with welcome surprises and unexpected thrills. For one, my friends and I thoroughly enjoy wandering through and discovering curious alleys and streets in a new city. And in Osaka, we learned that the best shopping happens on its streets.
In the Chuo District of Osaka lies in Shinsaibashi, the city’s major shopping district. The main road of Mido-suji houses the most distinguished shopping malls including Daimaru and other high-end luxury brands and boutiques. Shinsaibashi also houses two shopping villages on opposite sides, known as the Amerikamura (American Village) and the European Village. Yet, the area is probably most visited for its kilometer-long shopping street arcade called Dotonbori, where most tourists would have had their photos taken with the iconic Glico Running Man behind them. The entire stretch of Dotonbori shopping arcade is a cornucopia of popular clothing labels, including Uniqlo, Zara, and Gu. Interspersed between these clothing stores are all kinds of shoe stores too, from European brand names to the chain Japanese shoe store ABC Mart. For shopaholics, this shopping street is a mecca indeed. Even better, the district offers a wide range of cuisines, beginning with Kanidoraku Honten, with its crab dishes. You surely won’t miss this resto as you’ll see a gigantic orange crab right smack above its doorstep. But a must-try is Osaka’s Pablo Cheesecake, for its fantastic creamy and premium cheesecakes, with a couple of stores on the arcade.
On the other side of Shinsaibashi however, lies a less-known shopping street called Orange Street, where Osaka’s hip and discriminating crowd seem to converge. Orange Street is home to Japanese local designers, with their wares creatively displayed within artistic shop fronts and housed in stores with quaintly conceived interiors. Remarkable though about Orange Street is the attention to detail and deliberately curated pieces sold in pop-up stores. The merchandise might be a bit pricier than those found in Doton-bori and the alleys of Shinsaibashi. But if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind piece to keep for years, this is the place to visit. The locals though would be seen browsing through the racks of thrift second-hand stores for the best finds. Among these racks, you will find last season’s pre-owned labels that look almost new. This is probably what you would equate with thrift stores along Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
Far from Dotonbori and Orange Street nonetheless, my friends and I accidentally walked into a street market just off the Tenma subway station on our way to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. And what a pleasant surprise this street was and became our instant favorite! Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street is a true haven for local Japanese products and cuisine at reasonable prices. Restaurants here serve full-meal bento boxes at only 500 Yen and less. From traditional Japanese wooden crafts, finely crafted handkerchiefs, scarves, gift wrappers, fabric-trinket boxes, socks, baby strollers, wheelchairs, to shoes, everything was all here. Frequented by locals, the shopping arcade also offers Japanese delicacies that you could easily bring home like takoyaki, onigiri, unagi and mochi.
Like the Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Tenjinbashisuji is a must-visit if you’d like to be in a less touristy part of Osaka. However, be ready to walk through its almost two-kilometer stretch! In fact, by the time my friends and I found the next train station, little did we know that we had spent an entire afternoon browsing through the stores and never actually got to see the museum at all. On our last day, planning to go back to Tenjinbashisuji for the day, strangely we couldn’t figure out in the labyrinth of train stations how exactly to get back there. Perhaps that was a stark reminder too that we’d already had enough shopping done on the streets of Osaka.