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the old new world

Really, if I had a yen for every time I had an email asking me to put more photos of Osaka on the blog, I'd have four yen.

So, in response to a recent email that came flooding in (from Germany), here are some photos taken about town. However, this part of town is pretty unique. It's a neighbourhood in Osaka called Shinsekai (New World), though in reality it's really rather old.

It was built in 1912 and, wandering through its narrow alleyways, past the tiny eating establishments and cheap clothes shops, you quickly realise that "redevelopment" is a word that probably no one here has ever heard of. Not just because they don't speak English. Though some of them do. Maybe. I can't be certain though. What I mean is, Roppongi Hills it ain't.

The Lonely Planet advises visitors to Shinsekai to "keep their wits about them" as it's "the closest thing in Japan to a dangerous neighbourhood." It's all relative I guess.

In London, a dangerous neighbourhood is where hoodies lurk in the shadows with freshly sharpened knives concealed down their trousers.

In New York, a dangerous neighbourhood is where gun-toting crackheads settle scores with a bullet between the eyes.

In Japan, a dangerous neighbourhood is where oba-sans hold Japanese radishes in an ambiguous way.

Shinsekai is a lot of things, but it's not a danger zone....

....unless being blinded by its dazzling colours is a cause for concern.

Apparently the design of the area took inspiration from Paris and New York.

This'll be the Eiffel Tower then....

Tsutenkaku (The Tower Reaching Heaven)

And Central Park, perhaps?

Central Park is well-known for being green, like these leaves.

What Shinsekai is really known for is its kushikatsu restaurants.....

....which, for the uninitiated, looks a lot like this....

Heart-attack-inducing food on a stick.

The prices in Shinsekai are jaw-dropping....

....as are the fashions....

Just as Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster, this part of Osaka also has its very own rarely seen beast - the Shinsekai Ogre.

By an incredible stroke of luck, as I explored the streets of this fascinating area, I glimpsed what I'm almost certain was the ogre itself as it galloped along a highway close to the subway station.

In order to make verification impossible, I took the obligatory shaky shot. The resulting picture was bang on the money....

I then decided to make verification possible....

The Shinsekai Ogre

There's no doubt that a lot of businesses in Shinsekai have seen better days....

While others, judging by the large number of men entering the premises, continue to do a roaring trade....

An art-house cinema currently showing a movie about a Russian woman in a state of near-undress. I'm guessing it's a romantic comedy.

Besides the numerous watering holes....

....there are also many shogi shops....

Shogi - a board game not at all like Monopoly.

....and even some street theatre.....

After a decade of trying, a puppeteer on the verge of conceding that he may never be able to untangle the strings of his beloved puppet.

But what I found really heartwarming in Shinsekai was the shop owners' conscientious attitude towards their use of English....

The people of Shinsekai - they like to get it right.

Generally, the pace of life here is slow.....real slow.....

And just as I was starting to really enjoy this colourful neighbourhood, I caught the eye of an oba-san who seemed like she wanted to start something....

Beware of radish-wielding oba-sans in the Shinsekai area.

Radish hazards aside, I'd say Shinsekai is definitely worth a look. But hurry - who knows how long it'll be before its residents start to hear the word "redevelopment". In Japanese, of course.
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On Monday, 03 November, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Come on, now... I bet that oba-san could hold her own in the worst parts of New York or London.  

On Monday, 03 November, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

The state of that neighborhood and the surrounding areas is really very sad. It may seem safe during the day, but I don't know if I'd want to be anywhere near Nishinari come nightfall.  

On Tuesday, 04 November, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Ive been around there at night and its not dangerous, just pretty empty. Day time its not sad, just busy. I didnt feel sense of sadness there. Homeless congregate there no doubt. Its their community. Get your kushikatsu there. It tatses good.  

On Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Mr. Englishman in Osaka!

I've been reading your blog for at least a year and have been a silent fan—the best kind when one is trying to sleep in a hot humid apartment without ac.

When I was about 4 years old, traveling with my family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from my aunt's house to home, I swear I saw "The Shinsekai Ogre"!!!!!! In a field outside of the tiny village of Alpha! I made my dad drive back to see it, but of course he didn't drive back until it had disappeared because I was only 4. My family thought I was nuts, but really:
it was there!
Gotta love giraffes!!!

On Thursday, 06 November, 2008, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said:

The scary thing about radishes is that pepper spray is completely ineffective!  

On Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

50¥ coffee in vending machines? Unbelievable!

Also, there was a very interesting article in the NYT travel section about Shinsekai earlier this year.  

On Wednesday, 12 November, 2008, Blogger Heiso said:

Well I must say that Shinsekai seems very interesting. with the ogre and what not (^_^)
Oh and I really adore what they do with the MIXed ad-board. Priceless!  

On Sunday, 16 November, 2008, Blogger Unknown said:

I'm another silent fan of this blog! I really enjoy readin' your text!


On Wednesday, 19 November, 2008, Blogger Coquelicot said:

Es genial!
Me he reido muchísimo.

It's great!
I can't stop to laugh!

On Sunday, 30 November, 2008, Blogger Clunking Fist said:

Come now: if you have time to read, you have time to laugh.


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