Thursday, May 07, 2009

Osaka Strut! (大阪市)

Well, the "Golden Week" holiday is now officially over and I am back home in Ehime and back at work as usual. During my time off, I took a three-day vacation to Osaka.

Despite living in Kyoto for three months with a host family, I only visited Osaka twice. The first time was to go sightseeing at Osaka Castle with a group of Kyoto University students. The second time was to go girl hunting (unsuccessfully, I might add) with some college friends over a three-day weekend. Both events are detailed in the blog archives if you are so interested.

So, I consider this to have been my first real "taste" of Osaka.

Osaka has the reputation of being a crass, dirty, in-your-face, "fuck-the-establishment" kind of city. And, to an extent it is, though, any and all civil disobedience still seems somehow carefully constrained by the rigidness of Japanese society as a whole.

I am reminded of the time I went drinking with a Japanese friend in Tokyo. He invited along two of his college buddies. All three of them had studied abroad in America for a few years, so they could speak fluent English. The guys had fully integrated a wide variety of cuss words into their everyday English vocabulary.

Listening to them rattle on with their "Fuck this...Fuck that" speech pattern, while detailing their time spent smoking weed and chasing girls in California, I couldn't help but smile. Come Monday, these same three young men would be back in their identical black suits, bowing deeply to their respective section chiefs, and using their best honorific Japanese with clients on the phone.

For me, this interesting duality is at the heart of Osaka culture. Perhaps, it is at the heart of modern Japanese culture as a whole.

Osaka is often regarded as the anti-Tokyo. Where Tokyo people might queue up patiently for the subway or all sport variations of the same, latest fashion trend; Osaka people will swarm like a pack of rabid hyenas around the subway car door, and be seen wearing crazy neon shirts or entire outfits with color combinations that make no sense.

In the coming updates I will focus on the various places I visited in and around Osaka, so stay tuned! Osaka is generally divided up into the Kita (northern) business area of Umeda and the Minami (southern) entertainment / shopping area of Shinsaibashi and Nanba.

Below are pictures from the northern Umeda city center. Enjoy!


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