What happens when Ala Moana at Waikiki Beach and the Shotengai of Osaka have a love child? Welcome to the world Kispa La Park. Also known as Senmontengai, or South Gate Shopping Street, La Park Kispa is the gateway to the south shore of Osaka Bay, between Osaka city and the International Airport. While it is only 25 minutes away from KIX, Kispa La Park lives in a parallel universe to the sanitized feel of the duty free shops at Kansai or Western Japan International Airport.
Here you meet locals who live in one of the most established districts of Osaka, families who haven't moved for generations. They keep coming back to Kispa, where you can find a bargain without going to a 100 yen shop (they have one of those here too). From authentic Japanese cotton business shirts for less than 2500 yen, to gold medal barley shochu spirits for less than 1500 yen, Kispa stocks everything from everyday necessities to a heirloom kimono for your child for the Shichigosan festival.
Speaking of festivals, the floats of the annual Danjiri festival literally run past Kispa La Park each September, giving visitors a box seat view of one of the most exciting, if not hair-raising festivals in Japan. In some ways this part of Osaka, is like a kingdom to itself, its history built around the nearby Kishiwada Castle. The Kishiwada calendar starts in September, the month of the Danjiri Festival. You can even buy a calendar here starting from the month of September.
Actually the tag line of the entertainment and shopping complex is sukiyanen kispa, a reference to the Osaka dialect spoken in this most “nanba” of districts in Osaka’s deep South. The phrase “Sukiyanen, Osaka” was popularized by the Japanese boyband “Kanjani Eight”. Loosely translated as “like ya, Osaka”, you will fall in love with the no-nonsense humor and straight talking that these folk are famous for.
You could go further and say "めっちゃすきやねん", or metcha sukiyanen, which is like "like ya heaps". Now that is the point of no return in this Southern dialect!
So no matter what your age or background is, there is something to like at Kispa La Park. From a retro styled bowling alley, to a Karaoke bar that offers patrons free usage if you buy a drink, a children’s play center and a pachinko parlor, there is something for everyone. Despite this it is a compact space meaning you are unlikely to get lost. It is easy to build up an appetite after all this, so head down to the palm tree lined eat street courtyard, with cafes and restaurants serving traditional Japanese meals like Tempura and soba, while the First Kitchen burger store jazzes things up with a gourmet burger topped with Camembert cheese sauce with French Fries and a drink for just 730 yen.
Next door is the Kishiwada Velodrome, home of many champions training for love or money. In the movie "Don't give up" Tetsuya Takeda was driven by the lure of bicycle racing throughout his life. At the Velodrome, you can imagine the excitement that captured the imagination of a generation.
Kispa La Park is also on route 204, a main road between Osaka City and Kansai International Airport and points further south, such as Wakayama Prefecture, home to the World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. If you are driving, this makes a good pit stop to pick up some supplies or souvenirs or omiyage, as duty free counters and local prices ensure that you can obtain products like a large 700ml bottle of Suntory's Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky for around ¥4000 or Shisedo Men's skincare essentials kit (30g cleansing foam, 30ml toning lotion and 15g total revitaliser) for ¥3000.