When I was an exchange student in 1999, I spent a lot of time hanging out with the other exchange students in Osaka. Led by a wily and hep raver pimp who shall remain nameless, we galavanted about town, club-hopping, flirting, complaining about our high schools, practicing Japanese with our entourage of official groupies, and drinking a lot. Given its convenient location, the Osaka/Umeda station was our hangout of choice. In particular, we spent lots of time waiting for each other in front of Big Man, a giant TV in front of Umeda station, pictured here:
For the year we spent on the exchange , Umeda station was something of a playground, or more of a launching pad for our numerous antics and mayhem. Safe from the watchful eyes of our parents and tossed into a society too polite to tell us no, we exchangers (who mostly hailed from Europe, Canada, and the US but included souls from such exotic places as Brazil and Australia as well) scammed the trains big time (more on that later), took advantage of Japan’s strange legal loopholes, sat around for hours nursing one cup of Mr. Donuts coffee, went on violent drunken rampages, hooked up with each other, hooked up with kids from the schools, hooked up with host sisters, got people pregnant (or “took it to the house” as one of my Swedish friends put it) and that’s just scratching the surface. I didn’t perpetrate all of the above myself, mind you, but I just want to emphasize that Umeda station was the launch site for all this madness. (Go to this Flickr site or this awesome site for more of an idea of what I’m talking about).
That is why I am saddened to hear that, according to the latest eyewitness reports, the beautiful Hankyu Umeda station in Osaka is being torn apart as part of area renovation plans. Hankyu is planning a full-scale revitalization of its flagship store in Umeda, and in the process developers have scaffolded off the entire station. This story tells of people saying their last goodbyes to the Old Umeda Concourse:
Anticipating the loss of the station they knew so well, Osakans capture the final moments of the Umeda Concourse in Kita-ku.
Saying Goodbye to Old Hankyu Umeda Station Concourse Walls
Sept. 13, Asahi Shimbun
Starting Sept. 14, the old Hankyu Railways Umeda Station Concourse will see a construction fence go up around it as part of the renovation project of Hankyu’s Umeda flagship department store. That means that the mosaic murals that line the tall walls and ceilings of the station will no longer be visible. Those who came to say goodbye brought their cameras to “capture the elegant form” of the station.
The fence will go up directly over the 6-meter wide walking path. The ceiling will be removed within the fiscal year, but Hankyu Railways is considering saving the murals and chandeliers.
I had originally thought that this was talking about this gigantic hallway:
To get to any subway station from Hankyu trains you have to pass through this area, one of the few expansive, open areas that I encountered in the “beautiful urban jungle” of Osaka. I think the Old Concouse actually refers to an old area of the station located away from any trains or foot traffic. It has cool little murals like this:
But to tell you the truth I CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER!! This makes me even sadder than hearing it’s getting redone!
More than anything, thinking back on all this reminds me that I can never go back to my salad days as an exchange student.
As my own way of saying goodbye, Here are some random pictures of Umeda station that I culled from Google Image search:
Marketing events dominate much of the area immediately surrounding Big Man.
This conveyor belt walkway was first introduced at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair.