Midosuji Street

Midosuji is the main street of Osaka which goes through the center of the city, ranging from suburb to downtown. Strictly speaking,  the name of Midosuji refers to a mere section of the street going through almost entire Osaka city from north to south.

The north part of Midosuji is called Shin-Mido. As mentioned above, it isn't included in strict definition of Midousji, and 'Shin' means new in English. Shin-mido mainly passes over the suburb areas of Osaka. Then, let me introduce the towns which Midosuji and its extended streets pass over.

※)Subway  Midosuji Line is serviceable for exploring Midosuji as it, needless to say, runs under and over the street. The Midosuji Line is the most famous subway line in Osaka and covers all of the major towns which are located on the street. As the photo below shows, red-painted body is the trademark of the train running on the line.

1) Senri-Chuo
Senri-Chuo is a town located around north end of Shin-Mido and a relatively new bedroom suburb having shopping mall with pastoral atmosphere. People living in the area are generally middle-income group of Japanese society so you can see the typical Japanese family if go there on holliday afternoon.

This area is called Senri New Town as it was developed after the WWII, centering on the construction of apartment managed by public housing corporation. Those apartments, called Kodan Jutaku in Japanese, seem to be as if they are representing an ideology of communism. In fact, they ware built by using a large-panel construction system developed in Soviet Union under the administration of Nikita Khrushchev.

A typical early model Kodan Jutaku

As of now, these old type apartments are being demolished and reconstructed into new ones rapidly. This current process of reconstruction, however, have been causing severe problems; since most residents of old ones have been elderly, it would not be easy for them to endure physical hardships and mental distresses accompanied by twice moving house. In addition, they have to pay the rent fees for temporally apartments and reconstructed ones. Although there are subsidies from the relevant municipalities, the rent fees for reconstructed ones would be more expensive than previous ones.

 one example of new model Kodan Jutaku

Shopping mall around Senri Chuo station is the place representing Senri Chuo. The mall has various shops selling miscellaneous stuffs we need in our daily life. In addition, some kind of event such as live performance is usually held on holiday in its open space. 

2) Esaka
Esaka is located at the middle point between suburb are and urban area. Therefore, the town has the good point of these both areas, and more than anything, it is conveniently located to inner-city area. I recommend that visitors stay at Esaka where some hotels are available.

Although Esaka is a small town, its location has provided there with a significance and vitality. The street running in front of Tokyu-Hands, a large scale commodity store, can be said as the main street of the town, though it is such a narrow street that only one car can pass through.

Esaka park is another attractive spot in there. There is such an idyllic atmosphere that you might get sleepy when sitting on a bench in the park. As the park faces a grocery store, it would be nice to buy something to eat at the store and eat it in the park. Besides, as the park also faces a music school specializing in pop music, you might be able to see punkish boys and girls.

Furthermore, Esaka is also an easy-to-live city and one of the reasons of that livability is that there are some glossary store offering relatively reasonable prices. Of curse its distinguished accessibility is another reason. Inevitably, house rents are relatively expensive especially around the station, but it would be within acceptable range for those classified as middle income class.

3) Shin Osaka (photos)
Shin Osaka is the entrance of the city of Osaka because it has a station of high-speed railway line called Shinkansen, which runs throughout Japan. FYI, 'Shin' means 'new' in Japanese. Shin Osaka is a completely urban area unlike Senri Chuo and Esaka, and there is no fresh air. 

Shinkansen and Shin Osaka station

However, living or spending time in Shin Osaka area isn't so stressful because the population density of this area is relatively low and most of people walking there are businessman. Probably for that reason, this town radiates somewhat relaxed atmosphere. 

Because of the location of it, Shin Osaka has so many hotels aimed at those ranging from businessmen to travelers. So Shin Osaka can be said as the next recommendable town to Esaka for visitors looking for hotels. Or, to put it simply, Shin Osaka has good convenience while Esaka has good environment.

An home improvement retailer, Kohnan, is one of the most recommendable spots of Shin Osaka. There are miscellaneous goods; from bicycle to medicine. Although it is in not easy to find location, Kohnan is so familiar for people living nearby Shin Osaka that you will be able to get there by just asking passengers that "where is Kohnan?"

Moreover, there are some attractive stores around Khonan. A sporting goods store 'Sports Depo', an electric appliance store 'Joshin', and a grocery store 'Life' are those. Indeed, the area around Kohnan is the perfect place for killing the time.

4) Umeda
Umeda, also known as Kita, is one of the two largest downtown of Osaka, Umeda and Namba. Since Osaka has been the city for merchants for a long time, candidness and casualness have been the characteristics of people living in Osaka. In spite of the above, however, Umeda can be said as a relatively sophisticated town in Osaka.

One of the reason of its characteristics is probably in its railway accessibility. Umeda is directly linked to the Kyoto and Kobe by just one railway line respectively. These two town have a different personality from Osaka: Kyoto is an ancient capital city of Japan and Kobe has been one of the major port towns of Japan since around 10th century.

However, grasping the full view of Umeda is not easy especially for visitors because many of its major shopping areas are expanded underground. People living in Osaka call these underground shopping malls as 'Ume-Chika' ; 'Chika' means underground in Japanese.

BIG-MAN, a large-scale TV screen, is one of the most famous spots in Umeda. There is a wide open space in front of the BIG-MAN and many people use there as meeting place. In every  weekend evening, so many people gather there as if something like an event is held there.

Maru-Building (Maru means circle) is one of the major landscapes in Umeda. There is nothing much around the building that attracts visitors though, its simple and unique appearance has been familiar to many people living in Osaka. For your information, Starbucks Coffee has its branch on the first floor of Maru Building.

A ferris wheel located on the building standing the center of downtown is another major landscape in Umeda. Its red-colored body stands out around there. FYI, the building on which the ferris wheel located is 'HEP-FIVE', a complex commercial building.

Lastly, as mentioned in this article, there are so many office buildings around or in Umeda. So it can be said as an adult-suitable town. In addition, the accessibility from Kyoto and Kobe provides it relatively elegant mood, which is not matched with the stereotype image of Osaka. 

5) Nakanoshima Area 
As regards Nakanoshima, I wrote about its fundamental aspects in this article, so I would like to write this article as a spin-off of the previous article. Since this area is located at the middle point of Umeda and Numba, it can be said as the center of Osaka.
In fact, Nakanoshima area has been recognized as the center of business and finance of Osaka, and there are many official institutions around there. To sum it up, the area can be said as the town for white color walkers. Therefore, various shops such as caffe, restaurant, and stationery shop, located there are inevitably and exclusively aiming at them.

In the case of using the subway Midosuji line, Yodoyabashi station is the nearest to it, and the area spread between Yodoyabashi station and Honmachi station is what is known as the center of business and finance of Osaka as I mentioned above.

Since the area around there is not a downtown, a number of passengers is not so many, which will make you feel stressless. For your information, the photograph below is Starbucks Coffee Midosuji Honmachi building-branch

Starbucks Cofee is good, may be, but the real attractive characteristics of this area will be revealed when you explore around there and find some small, nice restaurants or retailers in the backstreets; people who works in the area would know well about it.

When it comes to Yodoyabashi, quite a few people who live in Osaka would think of Mizuno, a general sports shop, first of all. The blue sign put on the top of its building has been playing a role of the land mark of Yodoyabashi, in a sense. 

6) Namba
Namba, alike Umeda, is one of the two largest downtown of Osaka and it is also known as  'Minami' (means south in Japanese). Namba is well matched with the stereotype image of Osaka which external Japanese people have about Osaka. So to speak, Namba can be said as 'deep Osaka'.

Ebisu-bashi (bashi means bridge) is one of the major sight seeing spots in Namba. Among Osaka people, this bridge has been known as the mecca for two events; One is the Victory of Hanshin Tigers, a professional baseball team placing its base in Osaka, the other is girl hunt.

In case Hanshin Tigers wins the victory in Japanese professional baseball league, people gather around the Ebisu- Bashi and dive to the river (Doutonbori River). This event has become the specialty of Osaka since Tigers' first victory in 21years in 1985.

As for travelers, taking a photo of the neon-signboard of Glico, a Japanese candy company, on the bridge has become a classic event  over the years. People appearing in the frame generally imitate the pose of the man in the signboard.

As to girl hunt, it has already become a legend, but there are still professional hunters; They are scout men for TV talents, nightclub hostesses, and fashion models.  They usually wear dirk suits and stand on the side of the street with two or three men's company. People call them "Catch".

Main street of Namba is Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Arcade and attendant some minor shopping arcades. They are connected and their total length is approximately 1.5 kilo meters. In weekend days, these arcades are so crowded that people cannot walk swiftly.

American Village, named after the fact that there were many shops carrying american clothing, is a controversial area in Namba. For many years, walking around and playing there have been considered to be stylish among young people, which already has gone out of fashion.

Recently, shop owners in the area have been bothered with the graffiti written by self professed artists, and the trade of illegal drug also have become a public concern. As difficult to understand as it seems to be, they are not the real evil but the so-called wannabe gangsters. They are copying the American culture that was born in slum areas.

7) Tenga-Chaya
Strictly speaking, Mido-suji ends at Nanba but the street itself continues beyond that point, merging with the other street (Yotsubashi-Suji). The street is called Route 25 and it continues into further extended street, the Route 26. Tenga-Chaya is on the Route 26.

The area around Tenga-Chaya is generally known as Nishinari district where there are so many cheap hotels aimed at hand-to-mouth people. The cheap hotels recently have been made use of by foreign backpackers. Although those two kinds of people have completely different backgrounds, there doesn't seem to be any high-profile problems between them so far. 

To put it bluntly, Nishinari-district is the slum of Osaka but travelers' impressions to this area are not that bad unexpectedly. A traveler from Britain said "There are many wooden houses and I found the old good Osaka in here which is unlike Namba or Shinsaibashi," and added "I like here because people are friendly." Meanwhile, one from Mexico said "I don't think there is no public order here. It's safer than Mexico."

However above comments are stated by Young backpackers. For curious and vigorous young explorer, Nishinari district would be an attractive spot, but for those who want a safe and comfortable trip with adequate money, staying in Nishinari may not be a rational option. 

People tend to be kind to travelers from other countries but they are certainly living severe daily life. In fact, Airin district of Nishinari is known as a temporary day labor's town where there are many blue tent houses and free markets on the roadsides. The district went through totaled 24 times of riot.

8) Sakai
Sakai city, the center of south Osaka, is located in further south of Tenga-Chaya and on the Route 26. It also known as a historic city having huge ancient tombs and brilliant history of being the economic center of Japan during medieval and early modern era.

The trade with China, initiated from the mid 15th century, produced many wealthy merchants in Sakai. In this era, Sakai had been administered by those merchants in effect and there was a sort of self-government situation without intervention from the central authority which had based in Eastern Japan.

Among other things, gunsmith was one of the specialties of Sakai in those days. Craftsmen learned manufacturing method of matchlock gun in reference to ones brought to Tanega-Shima, an island located south end of Japan. Those guns were brought there by two Portuguese, Francisco and Chris da Motta, boarding on Chinese drifting ship which was cast ashore to the island.

The gun manufacturing had been flourishing until the start of Edo period in which there were hardly any wars. After that, demand for guns inevitably became fewer and fewer in the warless period. Consequently, the gunsmiths were forced to change their product type, and they gradually shifted it from gun to kitchen knife, which was triggered by abrupt demand for knives to cut tobaccos imported and introduced from Portugal. 

Furthermore, they were instrumental in popularization of bicycle in the late 1860's. Using effectively their skills developed through their experiences of manufacturing guns, kitchen knives and other iron products, they swiftly absorbed the method of bicycle manufacturing.

By the way, the first opportunity for recognition of matchlock gun as an effective weapon was produced by Oda Nobunaga as he reportedly used so many guns in the battle of Nagasino, employing a novel and creative tactics. Before the battle, matchlock gun had been regarded as an innovative but unpractical weapon because of its lengthy process for the firing.  

Nobunaga organized matchlock gun corps which consists of a lot of gun squads of three men - each of which has a gun. The three men stood in a row, and while the front man aimed his gun at the enemy, the second and third men were preparing for their firing.

This tactics inevitably necessitate a large quantity of guns and it amounted three thousand ones including two thousand and five hundred manufactured in Sakai. Although the fact of history has been cast some doubt by historians, there were facts that Nobunaga won the battle in which a lot of guns were used, and he has been considered an innovative warlord; his gun tactics has been known and taught in school as one of his unique and novel ideas.

Sakai, from the historic perspective, is principally known as the commercial center of medieval Japan.  Luis Frois, a Portuguese Christian missionary who came to Japan in 1563 and died there in 1597, reported to a commander residing in Portuguese Malacca that Japan was an orient Venice -"Sakai is the most wealthy harbor town  and there is most of the gold and silver owned by Japan" said Frois. He, incidentally, was given an audience with Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, two greatest Shoguns (that was almost same as king) in that era. 

He also contributed to forming our recognition of Japanese history since he wrote and compiled a book, History of Japan, in accordance with an indirect command from the Society of Jesus. Describing the actions of those in power including Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, incidents and disasters of those days, and details of common people's daily lives, the book still has been regarded as one of the valuable materials of Japanese history.

★ Conclusion and Midosuji Parade
Starting from 1983, the Midosuji Parade had been held annually until 2007 when Toru Hashimoto, the governor of Osaka, who had a somewhat innovative nature, put a halt to it. The decision was made from financial perspective; the parade was considered to be a burden to implementation of finance reconstruction project of Osaka. Instead, another similar annual event, the Midosuji Kappo, - the name roughly means "Let's walk along Midosuji"- was launched in 2008, reducing the cost by half of the previous parade.  After that, it has changed the name to Midosuji Joyful in 2004.

View of the original Midosuji Parade

To sum it up, Midosuji runs through the center of Osaka from north to south. Most of the major towns of Osaka are concentrated around or along the street with some satellite-like cities and towns such as Kyobashi, Tenroku, Ibaraki, Neyagawa, and Takatsuki located far away from or adjacent to it.  

Foreign travelers can explore Osaka efficiently only by using the subway Midosuji line and getting off the train at some primary stations. As you go up to the north, people and atmosphere would subtly become classy. The reason of the difference is, that the north area is more easily accessible by train from Kyoto and Kobe than the south area. The newly developed bedroom town, so-called new town, located in the north area would be another reason of it because the new town has been playing a role of the receiving port for transferring families from external regions of Japan.

Regarding its characteristics, the city Osaka is classified by north and south rather than east and west, and the difference can be expressed by the words of formal and casual; north area is formal and south area is casual. Therefore, there is nothing more suitable than Midouji, which runs through north to south, as a traveling course.

Strolling around the stations of subway Midosuji line would be the easiest way to comprehend the entire image of Osaka. As for the lodging, you should take up it in Esaka or Shin-Osaka as I mentioned above. If you hope spending time in fresh air and calm atmosphere, Senri-Chuo is the most recommendable, and there is a hotel too. 


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