Monday, February 11, 2008


That red demonic looking thing reaching up into the sky is actually the Ferris Wheel (kanran-sha, 観覧車) on top of HEP5, seen behind one of the many entrances to the Hankyu Railway station. Ferris Wheels are somehow a typical feature of the skyline in many entertainment districts in Japan. This one is visible from almost anywhere in Umeda.

The sign is quite boring. It reads Hankyu (阪急), the name of the railway, Umeda Eki (梅田駅), the station name, San Ban-gai (三番街) and Juu-nana Ban-gai (17番街), that is number 3 and number 17 shopping mall. These bangai go up as far as number 32, spreading out in a mysterious labyrinthine structure around the station. They belong to the rail company and are a vital part of the company's overall business strategy. They must have been numbered chronologically, in typical Japanese fashion, because there seems to be no connection between their numbers and their physical distribution. Indeed, it seems likely that some of them were torn down and replaced with others at the next chronological number. I'm sure I haven't seen close to 32 of then but I have been in the 32nd bangai.

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