Shinsekai (Old Osaka) and Kushi Katsu

The Shinsekai district of Osaka was originally built as “the new world” district, before World War 2. Its north side was modeled as a Paris, while its south side was modeled as a New York. However, after the war, it has not received the same kind of attention as other areas of Osaka, and hence it has remained somewhat unchanged, retaining an old town charm in the process. For a tourist, this place offers a great ambience to feel what old Osaka would have been like. As we are now in the 21st century, this old town charm is now mixed with a new age consumer culture, with restaurants, bars and shops lined up on both sides of the pedestrian-only streets. Though Shinsekai is considered by some as a “shady” neighborhood, visiting it is not be a problem at all, as long as one follows common sense.

The epicenter of the most activity is the Jan-Jan Yokocho lane and adjacent streets running north-south.

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        (Jan-Jan Yokocho Lane with Tsūtenkaku tower in the background)

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                              (Shinsekai)

People (lots of old folks) were playing a Japanese version of the game of chess, known as Shogi in Japan, inside these rooms with glass walls.

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                                       (Shogi game room)

One thing that seems to be ever present in the entire Shinsekai area is a famous American charm doll/mascot called Billiken (read about this American traditional mascot here). Apparently, one has to touch the feet of the Billiken to get good luck.

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                        (Billiken statue)

Shinsekai had a presence of the spiritual side of life as well. In Zen Buddhism, before a tea ceremony, one has to wash their hands at a fountain as in the image below. There are 4 chinese characters on this fountain which mean “I only learn to be contented”. This means that one should be happy and satisfied with what one has in life. I found this fountain while walking along the narrow alleys.

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                                  (Zen fountain for washing hands)

Shinsekai is best known for serving a Japanese version of the deep fried kebab called Kushi Katsu. If you are in Osaka, you absolutely have to try out this iconic delicacy. Kushi means skewered, and Katsu means deep fried. You can find various types of Kushi Katsu such as lotus root, cheese, eggs, meat, vegetables, etc. Kushi Katsu is held with the skewer stick, then dipped in a brown (slightly sweet) dipping sauce and eaten. Cabbage leaves are served as a side dish. One rule to follow while eating Kushi Katsu is NO DOUBLE DIPPING! If you need more sauce, then you can use the cabbage as a spoon. Cabbage is served free of cost with the order of Kushi Katsu.

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                                        (cabbage and dipping sauce)

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        (Kushi Katsu of lotus root, chicken (triangular), sweet potato)

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(Yes!! there was a Volkswagen parked INSIDE the restaurant!, and they had a table for two inside the van)

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 (A famous restaurant selling Kushi Katsu with ‘angry chef’)

While walking around after enjoying Kushi Katsu, I noticed a very very unique vending machine, which I probably can expect only in a place like Japan. While purchasing a hot or cold drink (as you can see in the image below), you also get a choice of a “free gift”. Options include a toothbrush, a candy or something called as “Natto”. Natto is a very traditional japanese snack, which most non Japanese find quite strong/un-tasty. In Japan, they say that if you can eat Natto, then you are a proven Japanese!

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                      (Interesting vending machine with “free gifts”)

While in the Shinsekai district, I stumbled upon an alley which is decorated with lanterns and wall paintings. It also has very old maps of the area, and some photographs of famous comedians and showmen.

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                                         (Alley of history and colours)

shinsekai map

     (marked in yellow is the Shinsekai area and walking street)

‘A’ denotes Shin-Imamiya station and ‘B’ denotes Tsutenkaku tower

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Items: Osaka Old Town (Shinsekai), Kushi Katsu snack.

Price: Access to Shinsekai and Jan-Jan Yokocho lane is free, Kushi Katsu (2 pieces) is around ₹190 (300 japanese yen).

Location: Osaka Naniwa-Ku, Osaka, Japan (see map in the image above).  Telephone: 06-6643-6322.

Type: Cultural/Food/Recreational.

How to get there: Take a JR line train to Shin-Imamiya station. Or take subway Midosuji line to Dobutsuen-mae station. Walk north of tracks. Shinsekai is to west of Tennoji Park.

Language: Mostly Japanese speaking shop employees.

Also visit: Tsutenkaku Tower (website here)

Notes: Shinsekai official site is here

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2 thoughts on “Shinsekai (Old Osaka) and Kushi Katsu

  1. Great post, I really enjoyed reading it! I’ve never come across one of those “free gift” vending machines in all my trips to Japan, I’ll have to keep my eye out for one. I want that natto!

  2. Thank you for the kind comments. Next time you visit Osaka, you know where to go to get your “free gift”. By the way, I did manage to finish the whole natto by myself, I must have a little bit of Japanese in me surely!

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