Juso dreams on the way to Umeda

People come and people go both those you know and those you know not.  Ihara Saikaku after Semimaru

The station is rarely that busy.  A mother and children, a couple of pensioners and a handful of young people wait, their view of the track obscured by the haze of the midday sun.  Moments pass and the train arrives, collects its charges and moves on.  Once onboard the children rush excitedly towards the priority seats, but are prevented on claiming their prize by the mother, who offers it to the pensioners, who, out of politeness, thinking perhaps, that mothers and children have as much right to the seat as them, put up some resistance before arthritis convinces them to accept the seats.

A couple of stations goes by a few more people get on, another pair of pensioners, and a young couple, the female half of whom is expecting, and had been for some time.  Bags are moved, backsides are shuffled and room is made for the Oka-san to be, and she sits next to the pensioners, greeting them with a smile.  The quiet civility of the commute is resumed, broken only by teenager playing a game on her smartphone, and a mother and daughter gossiping.  The white-gloved and black capped train guard takes his march down the carriages, reminding people that use of mobile phones is forbidden, all stop using theirs as he walks, then re-produce them the second he finishes his rounds, which he always does with a bow.

At the next stop, the young folk get off, as they attend the local University, although they are replaced with a greater number of their fellow scholars in training, all of them male, likely bound for some post-seminar libation.  Stations pass, few people gets on and even fewer get off, there is ultimately nothing here really but dwellings.   Another city is, after all, is where we all are destined. And then we arrive at Juso.  The Oka-san to be, her husband, a handful of salarymen and the young scholars leave the train.  Maybe they are bound for other places, maybe for Kyoto or Kobe, if so, the place to change trains would be here.  Or maybe, for the men at least, Juso is their final destination, it being an entertainment district.  If Osaka is ‘the kitchen of Japan’, then Juso is its premier pantry, shops; many selling confectionary as well as izakaya – Japanese pubs and restaurants can be visited by going down the back alley’s near the station and down the pleasing named ‘Friendly Street’.

Perhaps appropriately, Sakaemachi, can be found opposite ‘Friendly Street’.  Down that street, the pink salons, whose existence are heralded by billboards with photos of cute Japanese girls, offer not just rest and relaxation for the harassed salaryman (though not for the foreigner, for him such worlds are forbidden) but also, through the salacious, a complete escape from the everyday drudge of Osakan life.  In Sakaemachi, there is no need to concern yourself with work commitments, bosses, schedules and deadlines, or indeed, in many cases one supposes, wives and children. Whilst down Sakaemachi, one need only be concerned with enjoying the female form on show, and there are many on show, even outside, as some of the girls can be found advertising the services that are offered within. Umeda, with its restaurants, museums, theatres and galleries are for the respectable, for the cheap and cheerful, one turns to Sakaemachi.

On some nights, when there is high volume of men in the carriages, the train seems to be deserted after Juso.



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