Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The sights and sounds of Osaka

Bobit S. Avila - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – I have known my dear friend, Consul Robert “Bobby” Joseph for many years now and he has lived with his cancer for over six years already. Bobby comes to Cebu so often because he is the sponsor of the 888 News Forum held at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel, which is also shown on MyTV’s Channel 30. His many contributions to tourism in Cebu earned for him the title “Son of Cebu”, which was given by former Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia.

As he considers us as his Cebu family, Bobby Joseph invited me and my wife Jessica with former DOT Regional Director Patria “Dawnee” Roa and Philippine Star Lifestyle columnist Honey Loop for a trip to Osaka, Japan with his entire family. So last November 15, we departed from the NAIA Terminal 2 on board Philippine Airlines (PAL) PR 408 for the four-hour trip to Kansai International Airport (KIK).

I have been to Osaka several times before from Tokyo. But it was my first time to fly directly to Kansai International Airport. I was fascinated by KIK because it is an international airport that was totally reclaimed from the sea (something we should be doing in Cebu). Arriving in KIK and after clearing the immigration and customs and getting our bags, we took an escalator from the arrival hall to the second level and into the Nankai Railway ticket counter for the Airport Express to downtown Osaka.

This train ride from Kansai International Airport to downtown Osaka is a 50-kilometer trip but it only took us an hour. Arriving at the Namba Station, we took a short subway ride to the Shinsaibashi Station. The Airport Express train fare is 1,430 JPY per person or P572, which in my book, is very cheap for the distance we had to travel from the airport.

If Filipinos are going to Japan these days, it is because Japan is no longer as expensive as we thought it would be. Singapore, which is a favorite destination for Filipinos, is by far too expensive if you compare it to Japan. But tourists who shun the usual tourist buses and opt to travel like the local Japanese must learn to deal with machines.

Yes, the daily life of the Japanese is a series of vending machines, from train or subway tickets to water or soft drinks and even in restaurants. Even the famous Family Mart, which has already opened shop here in Cebu, have vending machines for many of their products due to lack of personnel to man the stalls.

For this Osaka trip, I chose to visit places that I’ve never seen before and the place that fascinated me most was the Shinsaibaishi-suji covered arcade, a five-minute walk from the Hotel Nikko Osaka. The place is about a kilometer long series of covered arcades located in the Mido-suji Street in the center of downtown Osaka, which is often dubbed as the Champs Elysees of the East. This place was already Osaka’s main shopping district from the Edo, the Meiji and Taisho periods.

The shopping arcade has the most expensive stores, starting with the giant Daimaru Department store which is 15-storys high, down to small retail shops that sell different merchandise, including used items. One thing I noticed, though, is that the shops do not sell counterfeit items. One shop was named “Ingni” which sounds very Cebuano. There over 180 shops and restaurants in this area. It was also known as the Dotonbori Theater where Japanese operas are played. At the end of the arcade is the Nagahori-gawa canal, where you can enjoy a short river cruise within the Dotonbori District.

This covered shopping arcade was teeming with shoppers and tourists looking for bargains you could hardly walk a straight line. It is this visit to Osaka’s Shinsaibashi covered arcade that made me realize that I need to return once more to Osaka, which, by the way, is made more convenient because there is already a Kansai-Cebu-Kansai flight by Philippine Airlines. I hope that someday someone would do a covered arcade in downtown Cebu!

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