Osaka is often referred to as Japan’s kitchen, and while I think that might be a bit overstated, the food, and hospitality in Osaka was definitely different than in Tokyo. Not necessarily better, but different.
Osaka is also Japan’s unabashed no bullshit zone. While still maintaining a friendliness that permeates everyone I interacted with in Japan, it’s also a good way to get closer to how an Osakan feels about you quicker. It feels more real than Tokyo, which has a sterility, a formality, a veneer that needs to be peeled back to get closer to the reality. Osaka also doesn’t have the same perpetual rebirth that Tokyo has, where demolition and construction happens in a matter of weeks. You actually can see a patina on some of the buildings. That’s the sort of thing I appreciate in a city. That’s not to say that Osaka is run down by any means, it is just as neon filled, outlandishly flashy as Tokyo is, but there’s a slightly gritty edge.
For punk I really only hit up Punk and Destroy, Time Bomb and Disk Union. I should’ve gone to King Kong, and I will next time. Overall I liked shopping in Osaka better than Tokyo; the higher end items were not quite as expensive outside of a few rarities, which were competitively priced. The quality of a shop like Punk and Destroy is worth a visit alone, so if you have a day and a JR rail pass it’s worth your time. Where else are you likely to see the first Lip Cream 7" and Death Side “Wasted Dream” on the wall? Well, you won’t see Death Side on the wall there anymore… While it’s a tiny, tiny space, in an underground cavern of dank bars (more on those later), and ill lit corridors, it’s perfect as a record store. Great selection, decent prices, a lot ot choose from, and despite his statement that his English was not good, the person who served me was absolutely able to hold a conversation in English (we talked about top 5 hardcore punk LPs — Death Side “Wasted Dream” is in that with Gauze, Black Flag, Poison Idea and Jerry’s Kids). Most of the punk (and punk related) record stores are in the Sinsaibashi district and are easy walking from Sinsaibashi station. Here’s a short video I took walking down the stairs to Punk and Destroy as it’s not clearly signed and hopefully will save you about 20 minutes of looking:
As I said, Punk and Destroy is definitely worth a visit for punk and hardcore, Time Bomb for indie rock and punk (as well as some amazing KBD style punk, and a smattering of hardcore). Frankly after Punk and Destroy, I felt a bit like I didn’t need to go anywhere else.
I should’ve gone to King Kong, and Rockers Island (who specialize in reggae) next door, and Revenge Records (who deal more in black metal, punk and grind) and Flake Records (who deal in emo and indie rock). Oh here’s a map with record stores, some food I ate at or was recommended by locals and some attractions:
So you can see, outside of a few outliers, that there’s a few record stores clumped within a ten to fifteen minute walk of each other. Just go to Punk and Destroy first — especially if you’re looking for crustier or classic Japanese hardcore. Time Bomb, is the classic has a smattering of everything indie record store and shouldn’t be underestimated; it likely will have something you want. Just not necessarily everything you want, or at the price you want to pay. However, you might find it here, if it’s outside the narrow definition that Punk and Destroy has. I also had some good luck finding some The Stalin CDs at the Book Off near Sinsaibashi station. Book Off’s aren’t always well stocked, and the vinyl, if they have it at all is very hit or miss.
I also found Disk Union near the Umeda/Osaka station to be decent — I saw a copy of an Order CD on East/West that was horror priced (around ¥9500, which is probably about right seeing as I’ve never seen it, but seemed ridiculous to me to spend that much on a CD). Disk Union, is always, always worth a visit even if it’s not punk focused.
In Osaka I didn’t actually get to any shows, despite there being one on the Wednesday night we were there. However, over the years I’ve seen that Namba Bears, Hokage, Fandango and King Cobra all have punk shows of some (ill?) repute. For drinks, and no shows, Bar Konton is your best bet, and it’s located across the hall from Punk and Destroy. Have I mentioned that Punk and Destroy was awesome?
I wrote a little about finding vegan and vegetarian restaurants in General Admission Traveller: Tokyo. I’m not those things, so I will say the local specialties are okonomoyaki (think a savoury layered thin pancake or crepe, with cabbage, pork, bonito flakes, mayonaise and thick brown sauce, fried and cut like a pizza) and takoyaki (a piece of octopus tentacle in a deep fried ball). All I can say (and this is true everywhere, not just Osaka) is eat away from the tourist spots, even a street or two over is infinitely better food. As I wrote in the Tokyo entry, food is absurdly good even at the inexpensive local or national Japanese chains.