Den Den Town: Nipponbashi
Osaka's answer to Akihabara
Den Den Town, also known as Nipponbashi, is Osaka's answer to Akihabara. Stretching from Shinsekai and reaching as far Namba, this specialty area is most famous for its electronics stores – hence the names “Den Den Town,” and “Denki no Machi,” literally “Electric Town.”
My first trip down to this area – slightly seedy-looking even in daylight – was alone and at night. It probably wasn't the best idea. I had just moved to Osaka and was looking for a used video game system to fill the long stretches of time in my tiny apartment, which had about three pieces of furniture and no cable or Internet. Each time I tried to get out to Den Den Town from my apartment in Hirakata, I ended up arriving after most of the shops were all closed. (8 P.M., for future reference!) So my first impressions of this strip were of shuttered storefronts, flashing lights outside of adult video stores, and hobos curled up in doorways.
But wait – I promise that's not all there is to Nipponbashi! I started wandering around during these trips, checking out the places that were open. Den Den Town has some great media “recycle shops” selling used CDs, games and the like. A couple of pawn shops and toy stores are open late as well as some of the multi-storey electronics shops. The 7-11 bathrooms have clean public toilets, and at the end of the stretch, Tsutenkaku Tower over in Shinsekai is of course best seen at night. Of course, if you are interested in Den Den Town's more adult lures, I doubt they ever even close!
In the daytime, Den Den Town is still a little more unkempt than your standard Osaka tourist spot, but the shopping is fabulous and cheap. The best time to hit the area is probably around dusk, when you can enjoy the crazy flashing lights and beckoning shopkeepers who are so iconic of the area. In fact, I always preferred Nipponbashi to Tokyo's Akihabara – the shops were accessible and easy to find, it's less crowded, and the layout of the area is much more suited to strolling and browsing than Akihabara is.
Walking from Ebisuchō Station Station to Namba (take a left on Sennichimae Dori, as you reach the Kintetsu Namba station!) is a nice way to see everything Nipponbashi has to offer and finish your journey in a great spot to have a bite to eat and find the right train home. And 5,000 yen for a Super Famicom and a handful of games – you just can't beat that.