Next stop to utilize our Osaka Unlimited Pass is Tsutenkaku Tower (通天閣). It’s located in the central district of Shinsekai (新世界) or literally the ‘New World’. A rather ironic name which looks to me like a neglected old neighbourhood… The area is kinda run down and depressing when compared to other glamorous districts in Osaka. From what I know, here’s a place which was once among the forerunners of Japanese modernization. Its planners’ had revamped Shinsekai to a miniature Westernized world. The lofty idea as such propelled the then prosperous Shinsekai into the limelight.
Then wars came and gone. Other cities underwent major redevelopments but somehow, Shinsekai never quite caught up with the pace. Its glitzy past is now replaced by a shady reputation, deemed as one unsafe place to visit by the locals.
Perhaps the positive thing about Shinsekai now is the nostalgic vibe it exudes, showing the ‘authentic’ Osakan neighbourhood capsuled in time.
From Dobutsuen-mae Metro station, we took the underpass towards Jan-Jan Yokocho sheltered arcade. Along the way, we came across heaps of homeless people roaming the streets. It’s evidently very different from the other part of Osaka which we visited. The area does not seem as threatening as some has claimed. But I guess it won’t hurt to be a little more cautious.
The narrow Jan-Jan Yokocho is an interesting and popular arcade. The scene was filled with restaurants, shops, pubs and pachinko parlours etc. No matter what you do, keep a lookout for the cyclists ALWAYS!!
One thing which stood out was this old-fashioned Japanese chess parlour. Notice how packed it was with the elderly folks on a Monday morning?
We spotted Tsutenkaku Tower soon after we were out of the sheltered arcade. Hmm…I would have thought the tower to be much taller though, it’s almost blocked by the buildings leading to it.
Tsutenkaku Tower and Billiken
The Eiffel Tower wannabe is a well-known landmark in Osaka. Rebuilt in the 1950s after being destroyed by fire, it ‘grew’ from 64 meters to 103 meters. While I’m sure it’s a great attraction during its heyday, it looks sort of grubby now…
We headed straight for the observation deck via the lift. The dark lift’s ceiling reflects a starry night sky and image of a cartoon character seen all over Shinsekai. The character is Billiken or the God of Happiness – a well-known icon here. A charm doll created by an American and made popular by the Japanese. Huh? Charm doll? God? Seriously? And people believe that rubbing the enshrined wooden Billiken statue’s feet bring good luck.
The tower is not that tall by today’s standards, but still offers a great aerial view of Osaka.
This is the one I like best – Tsutenkaku Tower Transformer anyone?
Great Sushi Lunch at Daiko Sushi
After Tsutenkaku Tower, we went back to hunt for food at Jan-Jan Yokocho, specifically sushi. I noted this particular restaurant Daiko Sushi (大興寿司南店) which we passed by earlier on, mostly due to its signboard. The 3 sushi per plate price looks very reasonable at around 150 JPY (S$1.90) to 600 JPY (S$7.60).
There were only us and another group of local customers that afternoon.
We took the bar counter seats and wanted to order right away. Only to realize there are neither pictures nor English on the menu. The old sushi chef doesn’t speak English and look kinda nervous after realizing we are not locals.
We overcame language barrier by pointing at the display fridge to order. And he went on to prepare the sushi in blazing speed. Then look a little annoyed when he noticed me taking a picture of him…my bad, I should have asked for permission first. Definitely not wise to piss off somebody who’s preparing my food.
He started to serve us the sushi plate by plate without any expression. I must say that all the sushi certainly looks fresh and delicious. Most importantly, the taste is excellent!
Let me emphasize that again – the sushi at Daiko Sushi is GREAT!! I will now let the pictures do the talking.
Bizarre Shirako Sushi Experience at Daiko Sushi
We emptied the plate as soon after I snapped a picture of it, clearly enjoying all the sushi. Occasionally giving the thumbs up and mumbled ‘Oishii’ to the old chef. It melted the ice somehow. We started communicating via hand signs and I asked him to recommend something different. This was what he prepared.
We were looking at this soft and mayo-looking sushi which we don’t recognize at all. He mentioned the name a few times but we didn’t quite catch. We ate it anyway, thinking it’s just some part of the fish. It’s really DELICIOUS!! The flavour was very creamy smooth, very much like foie gras or tofu.
I was totally clueless about it until a Google search back at the hotel. That sushi is called Shirako (白子) and you wouldn’t believe what that is. For those who’ve never heard of Shirako, how about making a guess before you read on?
It’s actually the sperm sacs of the male fish, usually from the codfish. Almost like a scene from Fear Factor, care for some fish testicle?? Oh my…but damn, it’s delicious. LOL
This delicacy is in season during the winter and it seems to be an acquired taste even for the Japanese. Will I order it again? For something that delicious, I just might.
When it’s time to leave, I asked the old gentleman for a photo politely. And wow, he gave us a big smile!