Saturday, October 22, 2005


Osaka misses the point

Tower of the Sun, Osaka Expo Park

I saw this article in the Daily Yomiuri about Osaka, the city I used to live in, and still work in.

Some major foreign Web sites and guidebooks carry misleading information on Osaka Prefecture, exaggerating its negative aspects by describing it as an ugly place full of gangsters and drunks, according to a survey taken by a prefectural government-related committee.


According to the survey, one major Web site's travel section says in its first paragraph about Osaka that the city "yearns to be loved despite its ugliness."

That'll be the Rough Guide, if I remember correctly. But, what is wrong with that statement? Osaka (like, quite frankly, many other Japanese cities) is ugly - concrete buildings out the wazoo; urban motorways, giant grey snakes strangling city blocks; and tatty smelly shopping streets winding through ramshackle residential zones. But I love it - the tower block with a motorway running through it; the authentic imported (I think) church put together on the roof of the Hotel Monterey; the neon glows of the city after dark as seen from Solviva's counter.

It goes on to say, "Osakans may greet each other saying, 'Mo kari-makka?' (Are you making any money?), but they also know how to enjoy themselves once work has stopped."

Whilst "Mo kari-makka?" may be as stereotypical as saying Glaswegians may greet each other with "Hurrya dae'n hen?", I can't really see anything particularly wrong with it, and anyway what's wrong with enjoying yourself after work, which the Osakans certainly do?

Shinsaibashi, one of the major commercial districts in Osaka, is described as a place "where bequiffed lads cast their nets for mini-skirted girls on the Ebisu-bashi [bridge]."

Embarrassing but true. Not sure about the quiffs, but plenty of bad suits, perms and dye-jobs amongst the touts and scouts for the dodgy bars around Namba-bashi (chat-up bridge).

Another major encyclopedic Web site says people in Osaka are considered by other Japanese "to be rowdy and boisterous with a robust and coarse sense of humor."

And this is a negative how? Again, harking back to Glasgow, the City Fathers there don't mind, in fact they may even encourage, this image of the city.

Tsutenkaku Tower located in the Shinsekai district of southern Osaka, is mistakenly described as "Osaka Tower" on the site.

Fair enough, but we're getting into nit-picking now!

A 2003 travel guide published by a major British publisher has a boxed article titled "The Yakuza" depicting Osaka as a city of gangsters, accompanied by a photograph of man with tattoos all over his body.

I suspect that this lost something in translation from English to Japanese then back to English! The Yaks have a strong base in southern Osaka, but the average tourist need not worry for a single second about them.

Officials working for the committee will collect travel guides published in other nations to check whether the city is being similarly misrepresented.

Woo-hoo - junkets for all to bookshops around the world! I hear there are a lot of Osaka guidebooks for sale in Hawaii, Las Vegas and Bangkok.

They plan to send leaflets carrying "appropriate" descriptions of the prefecture to the publishers and Web operators in an attempt to restore the prefecture's reputation.

I'd love to see these leaflets! I've barely seen anything negative (and I'm sure a lot more cities get a lot worse write-ups) in the story above.

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