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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rediscover Good Japan ~Vol.5

The finale of the series is my favorite love and hate relationship city, Osaka;
the second largest economy city in Japan after Tokyo.
It is an industrial, merchants city. 
Osaka is a sister city of Chicago, San Francisco, Shanghai, and other major cities all over the world.
Osaka city locates almost center of Osaka prefecture, which consists with 32 other cities, 9 towns and 1 village.
 There are 22 cities that have more than 100,000 population each in Osaka prefecture.
I grew up in one of 24 districts in Osaka city, which I used to think it was like living in ghetto for life (well..because it's known for pretty bad reputation for snatching and stuff) but now I really know it was rather a nice, peaceful neighborhood.
The district with little over 130,000 population is known for the highest foreigner population in the city of Osaka and many are Korean and Chinese immigrants.
Since I grew up in the community where kids didn't care where we came from or what we are, I naturally became more adopted to the mixed culture neighborhoods in Osaka.
 To me, these mixture of different cultures created the unique, exotic, could even be chaotic but beautiful things about Osaka.

 And this certain kind of beautiful chaos is made by the people, which
I think the most attractive thing about Osaka; they are frank and easy going people. Osaka-jin (Osakans) are also known for their brutally honest openness but probably they are mostly known for being funny.

There is a saying in Japan, "to become Edokko (Tokyo-jin/Tokyo people), takes three generations. To become Kyoto-jin/Kyoto people, takes ten generations. To become Naniwakko (Osaka-jin/Osaka people), takes one generation."
This phrase shows how difficult to become Tokyo-jin and Kyoto-jin, specially Kyoto which used to be the capital of Japan is where people prefer keeping new things out of the city.  On the other hand, Osaka, where people welcome anything and anyone seems to be much more reachable by the outsiders.
Yes, I think people in Osaka are rather straight forward and honest yet, therefore, they could be taken little bit rude by others. But the truth is they are mostly sweet  and genuinely nice, at least they are more kind than I am.
I have to admit, growing up in a city like Osaka was pretty damn good thing for me.

There are just way too many interesting areas in Osaka, but I particularly would like to talk about this deep, a little hard core old Osaka area called Shinsekai. (Yea, I know long intro..sorry.)

 Shinsekai today
image copy right by Pigeon Dynamite

Shinsekai means New World in English.
And to me, it's been always rather strange world than the new world.
Since I was little, without being told by anybody but I knew the area was different from any other downtown areas in Osaka.
Even now, with those bigger areas of Osaka such as Umeda and Namba being completely rebuilt and packed with tons of shopping centers and buildings, Shinsekai has been always rougher than other downtowns.
Today, Shinsekai leaves certain impression of old Showa period (1926~1989) of Osaka and has become more of a tourist attraction.
 This district, somewhat peculiar and strange, has some interesting history behind it.

 Shinsekai was planned initially based upon Paris and Coney Island in New York back in 1909.
 They planned the south part of Shinsekai to be like Paris and put Shinsekai version of Eiffel tower, Tsutenkaku in the north side.
The first generation of the tower stood up on the gate that was designed based on Arc de triomphe de l'Étoile in Paris.
 In 1912, mocking Luna Park in Coney Island, Shinsekai version of Luna Park was opened. The theme park and the first Tsutenkaku was connected with the cable car/aerial tramway.

There was a music hall, a fun house, a hot spring spa, and shopping malls inside of the European looking buildings.

Luna Park in Shinsekai, Osaka
ファイル:Original Tsutenkaku and Shinsekai Luna Park.jpg
The first generation of Tsutenkaku tower
 Images from

As Luna Park was opened, people brought more businesses around Shinsekai;
There were restaurants, a zoo, (i.e. Tennoji Zoo, which still exists today) theaters, cinemas, an European style Sumo stadium, which was turned into a movie theater after the business failure in 1928 but the building was lost by bombing of Osaka during WWII, and Tobita Yukaku, which was the largest brothel district until 1958 in the western Japan.
Thus, Shinsekai became the "it" district (and the "it" red light district at the same time.)

Image of Hot Spring Spa in Shinsekai

However, while Shinsekai flourished and had its time, Luna Park was losing its popularity and finally closed in 1925.   
 The original Tsutenkaku tower was also damaged by the fire and was taken down by the government during WWII in 1943.
Shinsekai came to one end after the bombing of Osaka in 1945; the city was destroyed so was Shinsekai.  Shinsekai became the ruins.

However, Osakans demands for entertainment and life first brought the markets in Shinsekai after the war.  Many theaters and restaurants came back and brought more people back to Shinsekai.
People started to talk about the construction of Tsutenkaku tower to Shinsekai around 1953 and in 1956, the second generation of Tsutenkaku was built slightly north from the original location.
Second generation Tsutenkaku
image copy right by Pigeon Dynamite
Shinsekai had its light back again once more, but as modern transportation spread and other nearby areas such as Namba and Umeda developed to become bigger and more urbanized downtown, people slowly started to forget Shinsekai.

Until early 2000s, Shinsekai was kind of something that modern Osakans left together with Showa period,
but its retro nostalgic atmosphere and the people who lived there always reminded Osakans of the time they had forgotten.
Ironically, Shinsekai, the new world, became popular again for its Showa retro style.
Today, families come to Shinsekai, go up to the Tsutenkaku tower, and have Shinsekai's specialty Kushikatsu. (Japanese deep fried vegetables and kebab)  
There is Shinsekai's famous god, Billiken, the god of things as they ought to be. 
Billiken was in the Luna Park when they built the theme park in Shinsekai.
And he is up in Tsutenkaku today for people to rub back of his feet for good luck.

 You can find him everywhere in Shinsekai. The two of them are inside of Tsutenkaku.
images copy right by Pigeon Dynamite

 Shinsekai may not be as impressive as bigger, fancier areas like Umeda,
but the town that had blinked to peak the horizon gives us the sense of dream that people dreamed long time ago.

Tsutenkaku at night 
 image copy right by Pigeon Dynamite

So..this is the last post for the Good Japan series.
I thought I knew my country better but I only knew so little and there are just so much more to learn about it. 
 Hope I get to go back my country more often in the future to explore and rediscover more.
And hope the series made some of you get inspired to travel to this wonderful country.

Thanks for reading.

こういう場所で こそ、ちょっとコアでユニークで時には混沌としたものかも知れませんが、大阪らしいものが生まれてくるんだと思っていました。






道にはレストランが並び、動物園が作られ(現在の天王寺動 物園)映画館、劇場、中には西洋造りの相撲場所迄もあったそうです。しかしながら1928年には経営が破綻し、映画館に姿を変えた後大阪大空襲で失われて しまいます。その他、有名な赤線、飛田遊郭も誕生し、1958年に解体される迄西日本最大の歓楽街として名を馳せます。 

初代通天閣も火災によって受けた損害と、鉄筋属の回収令で第二次世界大戦中に政府から解体されて 1943年新世界からその姿を消します。






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