心斎橋 Shinsaibashi

After work on Friday evening, I met Yuko in Shinsaibashi.

Shinsaibashi is a busy crowded area full of shops and restaurants, not far from where I work. At its heart is Shinsaibashi-suji, a pedestrianised covered shopping street, stretching block after block for more than half a kilometer. This kind of covered street or arcade is called 商店街 shoutengai in Japanese.

It’s very enjoyable just to stroll through the area, enjoying the buzz and the atmosphere.

We thought it was funny that this shop was called “Womb”.

It was a little alarming however to discover that Womb was having a “Mail member only fair”, with “15% off”. Or maybe it’s “only fair”.

Shinsaibashi dates back hundreds of years as a shopping, restaurant and commercial area, and has a lot of history. Tucked away at the back of some narrow alleyways is the Hozenji temple.

Hozenji temple has a very special statue – it’s thickly covered with a verdant layer of moss. By tradition, each visitor pours water over the statue to encourage the growth.

Just across Shinbaibashi bridge is the iconic “Glico man” neon sign, which has been advertising Glico candy for almost 100 years. After the Great East Japan earthquake in March last year it was switched off for a few weeks to save power, but I thought it was supposed to be illuminated again now?

Shinsaibashi is also home to Murphy’s pub, the first Irish pub in Japan. We called in for a drink there after our meal.

Note on the word of the day:

心斎橋 Shinsaibashi takes its name from one of Osaka’s many bridges (橋 hashi  in Japanese). The canal that the bridge crossed is long gone, but some of the architectural features of the stone bridge were reused in the modern pedestrian overpass at the same location, such as the iron lanterns seen in this picture.

The character 心 shin means “heart”. 斎 I’ve never seen before, but it apparently means “religious purification”. So the meaning of 心斎橋 might be something like “purification of the heart bridge”.

 

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