I have no doubt that when it comes to shopping that I have stamina, but measuring at 2.6 kilometers, Tenjinbashi-Suji in Kita Osaka is a mean feat for even the spriteliest of shoppers. Shotengai, Japanese shopping streets at street level, are usually covered with a roof and sell everything from daily necessities to high-end items and are ever-present in towns and cities across Japan.
Tenjinbashi has a rich history as it transformed from a temple town in the Edo period and prospered in the Meiji Era to the thriving economic town of today. Old photos and recreations of this town, in the Edo, Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras, can be seen in the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living and show a street of cosy mom-and-pop shops clustered in a rather impressive shopping arcade.
The covered walkway covers 7 blocks with wall-to-wall shops on either side and is an ideal way for travelers to spend a rainy day in the city of Osaka, trying out Japanese shopping vocabulary and sampling sushi, potato croquettes and other local specialities. Osaka is well-known for 'flour-goods' like okonomiyaki and takoyaki are everywhere, but a stop at Okonomiyaki Chigusa comes recommended and is a welcome relief from pounding the pavement.
The traditional look of the arcade has changed over the years. Gone are the family businesses run out of home where little children were seen playing outside. In their place a throng of suited business men can be found visiting their favourite restaurants for a quick bite before returning to the office. The dirt roads are now tiled pathways for heavy foot-traffic of those looking for some local bargains. Some such Tenjinbashi souvenirs that would also make good local gifts are the soymilk puddings from Maeda Tofuten near Minamimorimachi station.
Tenjin Matsuri is rated as one of the top three festivals in Japan along with Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo. Complete with a colourful procession, impressive boating activities and fireworks it is certainly something to put in the diary for July 2016. Nearer yet is the Halloween Stamp Rally 2015, so put on your trainers and costumes and get ready to hustle your way through the bustle of shoppers.
There is immediate access to Tenjinbashi-suji from Ogimachi Station, Tenjimbashisuji 6-chome, Minamimorimachi Station on Subway Sakaisuji Line or Temma Station on JR Osaka Loop Line.