Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tsuyunoten Shrine and Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre

As I wrote in the previous post, on 3rd January, after visiting Taiyuji Temple located near Higashi Umeda railway station in Osaka, hubby and I returned back to the station. Hubby saw the map of the area in a Japanese guidebook and realized that there was a famous local shrine named Tsuyunoten Shrine (Jinja) in the neighborhood, and so next we visited this shrine. Tsuyunoten Jinja is a short walk from Higashi Umeda station.

Tsuyunoten Jinja shrine is located in Sonezaki of Kita ward. The shrine was built more than 1100 years ago. This shrine is considered to be the protector of the Sonezaki and Umeda areas, and has been appreciated by local people. In 1703, young lovers who were not destined to be together took their own lives in the forest of the shrine. The tragedy inspired Chikamatsu Monzaemon to dramatize the incident and write the famous Bunraku puppet play ‘Sonezaki Shinju’. The pureness of love moved audiences to tears and the play became a sensation. The main character, Ohatsu, especially left a vivid impression on audiences. Through the play, the shrine became very famous and began to be commonly called Ohatsu-Tenjinsha. Since then, the shrine has been known as the god of love and is visited by many couples.

From Higashi Umeda station we walked for about ten minutes to reach the shrine. We walked south along Ohatsu-Tenjin Street which is a covered shopping arcade. Many pictures of the doomed lovers associated with Tsuyunoten Jinja shrine hangs from the ceiling of the shopping street. At the end of the street among many buildings, Tsuyunoten Jinja Shrine is located. We used the back approach (Ura-sando) to reach the shrine and entered a small gate of the shrine. Walking through the shrine premises, we reached the main torii-gate located at the main approach (Omote-sando) to the shrine, which consists of busy streets bordered by houses and shops. A big crowd of people were doing hatsumode during the New Year and there was a long queue of people waiting for worshipping at Haiden Worship Hall (oratory). After waiting in the queue for about fifteen minutes, we reached the front entrance of Haiden, and prayed for the well being of our family as well as friends. We saw a priest performing some Shinto rituals inside Haiden. Afterwards, we moved around in the shrine premises and enjoyed the views. I took a photo of hubby standing next to a huge ema plaque bearing the picture of tiger, the zodiac animal of 2010. Inside the shrine premises, we saw a beautiful bright vermilion colored Torii gate of another shrine named Tamatsuinari Jinja. We did not enter this shrine. We were inside Tsuyunoten Jinja premises for another fifteen minutes and then walked up to Umeda railway station. It was a fifteen minutes walk.
Ohatsu-Tenjin shopping street

Ura-sando Gate of Tsuyunoten Jinja Shrine

Omote-sando Torii Gate of the shrine

Haiden Worship Hall of the shrine

A long queue of worshippers in front of Haiden

Hubby and I almost reached the front entrance of Haiden

A priest performing Shinto ritual inside Haiden

Hubby standing next to a huge ema plaque bearing the picture of tiger

Torii gate of Tamatsuinari Jinja shrine

At Umeda railway station we took Osaka city subway Midosuji line train to reach Shinsaibashi railway station. After coming out of Shinsaibashi station, we walked around the city for some time. It was fun to wander around the crowded streets. While walking, we saw a small-scale reproduction of the Statue of Liberty on the top of a building in Amerikamura (American Village). Amerikamura is a retail and entertainment area located in Shinsaibashi. Since the 1970s, it has been a center of youth culture. The streets are lined with retail outlets of Western fashion clothing stores, bars, nightclubs, cafes, and galleries. It is one of the sightseeing spots in Osaka but we skipped seeing it.
The Statue of Liberty on the top of a building in Amerikamura

We had not eaten lunch that day, as we were rather busy visiting various temples and shrines. It was already about 5 pm, and so we had an early dinner at a restaurant named Shokudou Maruten in Shinsaibashi. It is a small restaurant and we had a nice experience of having various kinds of dishes with a taste of home-cooked cuisine. We had chicken karaage, miso soup, salad of shredded cabbage with boiled pork and egg, yasai nimono (simmered vegetables in soy sauce), small bowl of sukiyaki, tonjiru soup, saba no shioyaki (grilled mackerel with salt), and rice. We ate too much but enjoyed the simple taste of the food. A huge black and white picture of the original Shokudou Maruten building hangs on the wall inside the restaurant.
Picture of the original Shokudou Maruten building hanging on a wall inside the restaurant

Our dinner at Shokudou Maruten Restaurant

Hubby having dinner

Next, we went to see a Japanese comedy show at Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre located in Namba. Due to the very heavy dinner that we had at Shokudou Maruten restaurant, I was not able to walk much afterwards. So we took Osaka city subway Midosuji line train to go up to Namba railway station, although it was less than a kilometer away from Shinsaibashi station. At Namba underground railway station, we saw two mini aquariums having dimensions of about two meters square. The freshwater aquarium had aquatic plants, and cute and bright tropical fishes. The saltwater aquarium had beautiful rocks and large colorful fishes. We enjoyed watching the fishes for some time. In fact, while planning our trip to Osaka, we thought of visiting Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan which is one of the largest public aquariums in the world and is a must-see sightseeing spot in Osaka. However, we visited Osaka only for a short two day trip, so we dropped the plan of visiting Osaka aquarium during our present trip. While watching the fishes in the small aquariums at Namba railway station, hubby joked that since we saw various cute beautiful fishes at Namba, there was no need to visit Osaka Aquarium!
Mini aquariums at Namba railway station

Hubby watching cute small tropical fishes inside freshwater aquarium

Hubby appreciating the rocks and colorful fishes inside saltwater aquarium

After coming out of Namba railway station, we walked for about five minutes and reached Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre. We saw a Japanese comedy show named ‘Yoshimoto Shinkigeiki’ at this theater. Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre plays host to traditional performing arts and entertainment since 1987. The theatre is run by Yoshimoto Kogyo, a company famed to provide employment to several hundreds of comedians. Yoshimoto Kogyo is the most famous and largest entertainment production company in Japan. Namba Grand Kagetsu theatre is a fine example of a variety theatre in Osaka and is a centre of laughter and entertainment. We can enjoy comedy performances such as manzai, rakugo, and shinkigeki at this theatre. Apart from comedy shows, the performances also involve lively songs and acrobatic stunts. The comedy shows are held twice a day and three times on Sundays and national holidays. However during New Year season, four shows are held in a day to cater to the large audience. The theater puts on performances all year round without any days off.
Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre and the street in front of the theater

The front of Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre

I will briefly explain about various kinds of comedy performances. Manzai is the Japanese stand-up comedy in which usually two or three performers carry on comic dialogues and trade jokes. Manzai originated in the 13th or 14th century. However, modern form of manzai developed in western Japan (Kansai) at the end of the 19th century. Performers are called manzaishi, and they try to make the audience laugh by their speech and gestures. Each performer has different parts in the dialogue. Boke is the part that says foolish things. Tsukkomi is the part that responds to the boke. Another type of comedy called rakugo is a traditional Japanese sit-down comedy, where a single performer tells a comic story. Rakugo originated at the end of the 17th century. The performer called rakugoka, dressed in a kimono, sits upright on zabuton (small square cushions) on tatami or floor and entertains the audience with clever narration and humorous facial expressions and body movements, with just a fan and hand towel as props. Yet another type of performance is known as shinkigeiki (new comedy). Shinkigeiki involves several performers and is well known for its outrageous onstage skits. By embracing the absurdity of life and the subtleties of human nature, the performance is full of sarcastic jokes, parodies, and slapstick comedy.

Hubby and I reached Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre at about 5.50 pm. We had already purchased the tickets for the comedy show from a convenience store in Yurihonjo city and so we did not have to stand in the long queue at ticket office counter of the theater. The tickets cost 5000 Yen per person. The evening show was scheduled to begin at 6.45 pm. Since there was almost an hour left for the show to begin, we visited a shop located at the first floor of the theater complex that sells various kinds of goods related to the comedy performers. We bought a few refrigerator magnets and key chains as souvenirs from this shop. We walked around the theater premises and hubby noticed a huge board that gave information and names of the comedy performers for that week. There were many famous performers and he wished that he could attend and enjoy all the shows! Later we went to a coffeehouse located inside the theater premises and had a chocolate cake and two cups of coffee. At about 6.35 pm, we left the coffeehouse and went inside the theater hall. Our seats were located in the first floor of the hall from where we got a nice and proper view of the stage.
A shop inside theater complex that sells goods related to the comedy performers

Hubby standing in front of a board that gave information about the comedy performers for that week

Chocolate cake and coffee at coffeehouse

Hubby drinking coffee at coffeehouse

Hubby and I enjoyed the comedy show. The show-goers were not allowed to take photos and videos of the comedy performance, and so unfortunately I do not have any photos. There were six manzai groups named Smile, Rozan, Shampoo-hat, Taira, The-Bonchi, and All Hanshin-Kyojin. The performance of each manzai group was very funny and we enjoyed it very much. In between the manzai shows, a ten year old boy performed wonderful acrobatic stunts. Next, a rakugo performer named Katsura Bunchin gave a very elegant and funny performance. The majority of rakugo monologues date back to the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) Periods, and much of the content reflects an entirely different lifestyle from that of today. I, being a foreigner, had some difficulty in understanding the rakugo performance. Earlier that night I had taken a rather heavy dinner, and so somehow I dozed off during rakugo performance. Later I regretted dozing off, but hubby told me that the performance would have been difficult for me to understand even if I was awake. Hubby woke me up after the rakugo performance. Shinkigeiki performance was the last comedy show of that day, which continued for 45 minutes. Several comedians performed an outrageous skit that was extremely funny and we could not stop laughing throughout shinkigeiki performance. The comedy show was over at 9.05 pm and all show-goers left the theater hall with smiles on their faces. Hubby and I enjoyed the entire comedy show and started the New Year with lots of laughter.
Information about the comedy show we attended

I have written the information about the comedy show in English

Adjacent to Namba Grand Kagetsu Theatre, there is a ramen shop named Kinryu Ramen. Hubby had a bowl of ramen here. He was not at all hungry but he wished to enjoy the taste of Kinryu Ramen. Kinryu Ramen is a family owned ramen shop chain having two more shops in Dotonbori Street. The chain is notable for its giant golden dragon billboard at the top front of the shop, as well as its seating arrangement consisting of raised tatami platforms. Kinryu Ramen is open 24 hours a day. The specialty of this chain is the white broth soup of ramen that has a distinctive tonkotsu taste with a whiff of seafood, though it is much lighter than original tonkotsu broth. The broth is actually a closely guarded secret family recipe. The ramen has toppings of chashu and sprinkling of scallions. In addition, the shop provides three unlimited free toppings: fresh garlic, hakusai kimchi, and nira chives kimchi. Hubby got a free bowl of rice also. He enjoyed the ramen very much.
The top front of Kinryu Ramen shop

I am sitting inside the ramen shop. Notice the raised tatami platforms in the background.

A bowl of Kinryu ramen along with free fresh garlic, kimchi, and a bowl of rice

Hubby eating ramen noodles

After hubby had a bowl of Kinryu Ramen, we walked back to Namba railway station. We had to walk through Namba shopping arcade, which was still bustling with people at 10 in the night. We took a train and finally returned back to our hotel near Shin-Osaka railway station at about 10.45 pm.

Namba shopping arcade

One more view of Namba shopping arcade

The next morning on 4th January, we took a flight from Itami Airport in Osaka at 8.55 am and reached Akita Airport at 10.15 am. We reached back home at about 11.30 am. Hubby and I had a nice time with relatives in Ichinomiya city and a memorable sightseeing experience in Osaka during the New Year holidays.


Alice Kelly said...

Useful information ..I am very happy to read this article..thanks for giving us this useful information.Fantastic walk-through. I appreciate this post.
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Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Alice Kelly for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just wanted to ask if the show was in English. I can't understand Japanese Language. Hope you can give me a feedback. Thanks.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Anonymous for your comment...Unfortunately these shows are only in Japanese language.