Grace was ill tonight and unable to leave the hostel, which meant that I had a free night to explore Osaka and experience the nightlife for perhaps the only time in my life. I should add, to argue against your immediate thoughts, that I did offer to stay in and look after Grace. She insisted that I should go out and explore or, to paraphrase, I’d resent her forever. Well, they were harsh words and forever is a long time, but the night was young and I increasingly wasn’t.
Fancying a stroll, I walked from Hostel 64 along the Amidaike-suji highway, took a left onto the American-themed Orange Street and walked towards the built up Soemon-cho area. Walking around until something took my fancy (criteria: prices were neither overly cheap nor overly expensive, queues weren’t tailing down the street, they had an English menu), I wound up in a place called Napoli’s Pizza and Caffé.
Napoli’s is an unusual place. It’s very popular with locals, though a couple of Westerners were here too. It’s primarily Italian-themed, though the bar itself is like any you’d find in the UK, with all the Japanese staff speaking at least a little English. Its prime beer is Carlsberg and their logo is proudly displayed all over the decor. It has a variety of spirits and beers on sale, none of which seemed unfamiliar to me. Most of the meat on the pizzas it serves is fish and that aligns it to the local Osakans (I’m sure that’s what they call themselves). The music played was Japanese-language soul music, but they helpfully counteracted that with several screens playing a subtitled Harry Potter film. It was the one where all the wizard schools from around the world battled for the tri-wizard cup and everyone realised Emma Watson was going to be really attractive but wasn’t yet because she was under-aged and to think that would have been wrong.
When I stepped back outside, I realised how easy it is to get completely lost in this area of Osaka. Bright lights everywhere, every intersection leads to another 100-200m of night spots. The nightlife potential here is second to very few cities in the world. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, seedy underground spots. The world, or at least one of the best places to be on a Saturday night in the world, was my oyster. There was only one place to go: Murphy’s Irish Pub.
Yes, by this point in our trip (about a week in) I was now missing some home comforts. Knowing what I’d get here was a good move. It was absolutely heaving with a mixture of Japanese, Americans, Australians and a handful of Irish people. There was a live band on stage called Ichigo Ichie. They played a mixture of Japanese, English and American music, including but not limited to Radiohead, Chad Kroeger, Oasis and Pearl Jam. The Japanese songs, of which I was familiar with none, were by far the most popular. It was perfect for the mood in the pub, with people happy to chat to those beside them regardless of whether they knew them or not. I met a couple from Hawaii and had a nice chat about American soccer goalkeepers and t-shirts.
I then retraced my steps back to a place I’d seen on my way into the centre called Kamikaze, a craft beer pub. It has been operating for three years from its location on the Naniwa-suji highway. It’s a fantastic place with the menu offering such drinks as Highland Peat Scottish Ale, Izutsu Grape Field Beer and Real Blood Lager, the latter of which I went for. At 1620¥ (just under £10) it felt a little pricey for what I got, but a bar blasting out The Libertines whilst Meet Joe Black occupied the big screen was by-no-means a loss.
And so back to Hostel 64 to check on Grace. It turns out her headache came and went and she probably could have enjoyed the night as much as I did. Osaka is a wonderful city with a lot to offer. As a lonely traveller walking around on my own through the Osakan night I felt 100% safe and the opportunities it offered to me were endless.