By Amanda Ho
Sometimes, travelers get lucky.
On my visit to Nagoya, the Osu Kannon Shopping District was not on my list of things to do. In fact, I didn't even know it existed. But the eye-catching entrance way beside the Osu Kannon Temple caught my attention, and led me straight into this cool, stylish, and endlessly interesting shopping district.
This open-air shopping arcade is a beautiful mixture of modern and traditional. The structures, colors, decorations and architecture resemble a quaint period of Japanese past. For good reason, too - the shopping district is over 400 years old! But the shops are anything but antique. From trendy clothing to handmade goods to electronics to tourist-friendly duty-free shops, the more than 1,200 businesses in this "mall" cover the spectrum of anything and everything you could want. A full list of shops is available on the Osu Kannon Shopping District website, but it's much more fun to go yourself and spend the afternoon there.
The restaurant selection is particularly impressive as well. Restaurants covered cuisines from all corners of the globe - more interesting and unique than the usual options found in Japan. And the eating areas are quite nice, too - many of the restaurants had tables set up out front, where you can get some fresh air and watch the shoppers mingle by. There were also plenty of restaurants that had supper-floor balcony seating to give you a birds' eye view of the action.
The shopping district sprawls across blocks and blocks. The area has its own streets and walking maps, and a stroll through one lane ends up with five more directions to choose from at the end. In the center of the district is Fureai Plaza, a popular meeting spot marked by an enormous maneki-neko statue (the famous beckoning cat). There are small parks in the center of the district, temples, and even cuckoo-clock-like mechanical puppet shows that happen at certain hours of the day.
As mentioned, the shopping district is adjacent to (and named after) the Osu Kannon Temple, and the two collaborate together on many events. For instance, there are antique fairs/flea markets held between the shopping district and the temple on the 18th and 28th of every month (which are days said to be auspicious with visiting a temple or shrine). February 3 is the Japanese holiday of Setsubun, and a parade ending with a ceremony at the temple goes through the shopping district. Annual Spring and Summer Festivals are held in March/April and July/August, respectively, with floats, parades, dancers, performances, and a Bon-Odori dance for the summer event. Finally, in mid-October is the Osu Street Performers Festival, featuring a wide variety of buskers including jugglers, mimes, magicians, and more.
The best part of the Osu Kannon Shopping District is its liveliness. Traditional shopping areas in Japan are often suffering from a shift to more modern competitors, but this area is fresh, popular, and full of people. The buildings are relaxing and modern, yet give off a back-to-the-past image that is classic and comfortable.
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