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The Asian ApertureDen Den Town
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, August 15, 2011    Share

During my 3-year stay in Osaka, one of my favorite places to visit was Den Den Town aka Nihonbashi. I first discovered Den Den by accident with some friends. We decided to take a train ride to Shinsaibashi, then walked inside a shopping arcade that had a Yamaha music store, where I stopped to play a Jimi Hendrix Signature Strat. Afterwards, I remember walking for a good 30-minutes and then it was suddenly geek heaven. I saw tons of cameras on display, recordable mini disks, Macs, and cell phones, all for sale. You can even wheel and deal prices with the seller. Truly one of the greatest places on earth. Den Den is the electronics district of Osaka. That means several city blocks of nothing but electronic stores for miles. Giant skyscraper buildings have many different stores all in the same building. You can walk inside a cell phone store, take a short walk to the next floor and be in a used video game store. The next level may have used DVD's and VHS. A lot of the videotapes back in 2000 were such American classics as BMX Bandits and Stallone's arm wrestling epic, Over the Top. Second hand stores in Japan are the best places to score American junk entertainment.
Ami Suzuki Infinity Eighteen Pink Box Special Edition

My personal favorite store was Yamaguchi Soft. A big huge air conditioned department store that looms straight up in the air and holds some of the sweetest guilty pleasures ever. Just walking into Yamaguchi Soft was a big moment because your ears pick up on the driving pumping Jpop blasting through speakers. All you favorite past and present Jpop and Idol stars are here and available on CD and DVD live performances and music videos. I picked up the uber cute Suzuki Ami's Infinity 18 containing her biggest hit, Be Together. I bought the special edition that came in a big pink box with the heart shaped CD case. Going up the escalator, I passed computers, laptops, more cell phones, Den Den Town is jammed packed with millions of cell phones and more variety then anywhere else. Finally I made it to the top where the anime section is located. All around me were the latest anime videotapes, DVD's were also there but it was all about the videotapes in 2000. I remember seeing One Piece, various Gundam shows, and the cream of the crop, all the original Ultraman episodes from the 60's all in one set with many special features. Sadly I couldn't afford such a breathtaking purchase and had to be content with picking up the original Ultraman Soundtrack. There was just so many anime and live action Sci Fi shows that I went into sensory overload and had to get out and think about eating.
Ultraman TV series soundtrack

For eating, Den Den Town offers the nerd the usual McDonald's plus fast food with a Japanese twist like First Kitchen, home of the takoyaki (octopus balls) cheese fries and the local favorite Mos Burger, Japan's own take on American fast food. I usually get the rice burger, which is everything on a regular hamburger except no buns. Instead you get two grilled pieces of rice about the same size as a bun. If you truly want to go native you can always indulge in ramen. The noodles shops were everywhere. After renewing energy with a Big Mac, it was time for more action.

We went to several used manga stores. Manga books were stacked up to the ceiling. It was a paradise and frustrating to not be able to read all the books available because there were just too many shelves and filled to the brim boxes with manga goodness. I can't even remember what I purchased but it had to be special at that time.

Besides all that, there is still more, like whole stores devoted to bikini model photobooks. You can check out how your favorite pop star or movie actress looks sunning at the beach. Every type of camera and video recording equipment you could possibly want. DVD players, VCRs, and even old Japanese 8-tracks for those who still have an 8-track player.

Sometimes you just have to take such a happy place in the proper perspective. Besides, it is virtually impossible to see all the shops and toys both retro and current, all in one day. That is why you really need to head to the green overhead walkway and stand in the middle. It is imperative to take it all in from a high altitude. It is the only way to see if you missed anything like that toy shop way up high that is hidden from street walking. Then take a deep breath and run back down those stairs to embrace your full geek out shopping spree.

Den Den Town is a great stop for any tourist and the only sad part is returning home. That is why you need several bags filled with your purchases to make you look cool on the train and to remain sane.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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