Stepping out of JR Osaka Station, you might think that Grand Front Osaka is just another department store. Well, it is not. In fact, it is even more than just an oversized shopping centre. On its website, Grand Front Osaka refers to itself as a ‘town’, where diverse people - visitors, residents, workers, etc. - are gathering for new encounters and inspiration…” However, while this over-the-top description is pretty dramatic, it is actually rather accurate.
So ‘town’, ‘mall’, ‘concept space’, call it whatever you want, I just call it a great day out, and here is why.
PANASONIC CENTRE OSAKA
Grand Front Osaka consists of three whole buildings connected by tree-lined walkways, a plaza and terrace gardens. Of the three, only two are of any interest to the casual visitor, and they are the north and south buildings. The south building is the one that is directly connected to the JR Osaka Station, and because of that, your first stop will be the 3-storey Panasonic Centre located in this very building.
It does not matter if you are not interested in buying Panasonic products, it is not why you are here anyway. This Panasonic showroom is about being inspired by how technology can change your life for the better. Of course the technology we are talking about here is Panasonic's, but no matter.
Start from the first floor located in B1, simply because we want to save the best for last. If you happen to want to re-model your house, this floor is for you. Here, Panasonic showcases a variety of finishing and interior décor in their show-rooms. On top of that, they have models of housing layouts before and after renovation to inspire you on how to improve the fluidity of space in your household.
Moving up one storey, to the first floor, you will first see, expectedly, lots of Panasonic household products (or as they like to call it, ‘lifestyle solutions’), arranged with care and grouped together by use. On the nearby wall is the most dramatic short-film you will ever watch featuring washing machines and other household goods. That is not what makes this floor so amazing however. Walk a little further and you will find Panasonic’s solar-powered smart-home showrooms. Panasonic basically showcases the feasibility of powering your house using solar-energy and how renewable energy, alongside Panasonic’s technology can make your life that much more wholesome and wonderful. In all honesty, the showroom is much cooler than my sarcasm is making it sound.
Now that we have all the educational levels out of the way, the second floor is the one that everyone can enjoy. The first thing you will see is Panasonic’s Cooking Café, Foodie Foodie, where everything is cooked using Panasonic kitchenware (surprise surprise!). But this café has so much more to offer than just food. The signboard outside the entrance with beautiful chalk writings on it? That is a screen that plays back the menu being written. That door along the walkway? That is the makeshift screen where featured items in the shop is being projected on. And those leafy greens encased in class that is literally inside the counter? That is your lunch (if you opt to have salad) being grown with Panasonic’s LED lights.
Still not cool enough for you? Try playing the racing game on the 4K TV then, and when you are done you can test out the myriad of Lumix cameras on display and mess with the giant touchscreen displaying photo scrapbooks. If all that is too technical for you, then you can always go to Panasonic’s beauty salon, yes you read that right, beauty salon, Cluxta. Why does Panasonic even have a beauty salon? I have no idea, but chances are you will be the first of your friends to ever Panasonic’s beauty treatment, so why not?
Sadly, that is all Panasonic Centre can offer you…but that is okay because in the North Building, we have…
Run by Knowledge Capital, The Lab is apparently ‘The World’s Best Laboratory for Everybody.’ That is probably pushing it a little but nevertheless, the things you will find in this ‘intellectual entertainment space’ will leave you pleasantly surprised, awed and inspired.
You first run into The Lab’s café on the first floor, with the very original name of CAFÉ Lab. Décor is cozy and from time to time, they do feature some interesting things on their menu. To eat or not to eat, that is your call. If not, you can hop one floor down into EVENT Lab where more often than not, exhibitions or events of some-sort are being held here. In my case it was a photography exhibition, but who knows what you will run into?
Now that you are once again done with the first two floors, head up to ACTIVE Lab on the third and fourth floor and we can let the fun begin (again).
ACTIVE Lab is basically a small-scale science museum with interactive exhibitions showcasing some of the latest technology. Here you will have the chance to converse with a talking robot, operate a state-of-the-art robotic arm, interact with paintings, watch dinosaurs come to live (on an iPad) and play Carbon Rider. It is one thing to learn about new technology, but being able to experience it first-hand just makes it that much better.
The best part is, from The Lab to Panasonic Centre, these attractions are fun for everyone and anyone of any age.
Of course, if you still have time, Grand Front Osaka’s terraces and broadwalks are great for a stroll and photography. If you are hungry they have food halls in the basement (along with a Beer Museum and Wine Museum).
But okay, fine, if you INSIST on doing shopping at Grand Front Osaka, because you know, there is nothing better to do in this incredible mall, fine. Nobody is going to stop you, go ahead, shop till you drop.