Down the Rabbit Hole - Wandering into “Hell Valley”

Down the Rabbit Hole - Wandering into “Hell Valley”
03 March 2016 Shohei Fujita Experience

Recently I moved to Nodahanshin area, in the Fukushima Ward of Osaka. I grew up as a typical Western Japanese, so my soul is somewhat tied to my hometown, where people speak in the Kansai accent. Where I grew up though was the outskirts of Osaka, so settling into the deep center of an urban city is a new experience for me.

In general, good-old Japanese shopping streets consist of multiple shops where they sell different things; each shop has a specialty. One sells fish, another sells vegetables, and another sells meat. Household stuff, tools, knives, clothes, electronics, pickles and cakes are also sold in different shops.

Shopping streets have such a variety of shops lined up; Open, and waiting for all the customers to come in. For everyone’s convenience, there is transparent roof that covers the entire street, which protects it from rain and harsh sunlight. People chat with everyone while smiling. This is the so-called “main street” of shopping streets. They are happy and everyone is having fun. I’m glad to be one among them.

One block away from the “main street”, there are darker but enticing shops. These could be the oldest bars or restaurants in town, or mysterious night bars where elderly people sing Karaoke inside. I’ve never been into one of these shops, but I like to wander such backstreets and get a feel for the atmosphere. I think you should try wandering the backstreets when you’re bored in the middle of long trip, especially at night.

As I was new in the Nodahanshin area, I wandered into the backstreets of the Nodashimbashi Shopping Street. It was nothing special to me, and places like I wrote about above were seldom seen. It looked like just a normal residential area. With a bit of disappointment I walked back to the “main street”, but I guess I took a wrong turn and got lost. Then, I suddenly found a sign stood between two houses.

It said “Jigokudani”, which literally translates to “Hell valley”. There was narrow gap that barely one person could walk through, and from there I could see some lights.

It was strange, but also enticing, so I gathered my courage and let myself slip into the gap. Walking forward, what I saw was truly mesmerizing. There was the oldest of nightclubs, pubs, kushi-katsu restaurants and other Japanese restaurants decorated with modest lit-up signs. The path was so narrow that I couldn’t even call it a street; it was more like a passageway, but with tiny cozy bars and restaurants.

My mind was completely blown away by this “down the rabbit hole” kind of experience, and without knowing I reached the end of the narrow gap. Well, actually I couldn’t distinguish the definitive end of “Jigokudani”, as it was just a part of the passageway. I continued walking, and after several minutes I realized it wasn’t the same area anymore. I walked back but I couldn’t find the place I had come from.

Next time, I am going to find out exactly where the “Jigokudani” is and visit one of these mysterious shops inside. If nothing is posted by me after this, you can consider me dealt with by the devil.

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