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26 février 2013 2 26 /02 /février /2013 04:09

Source: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/296559/lifestyle/travel/cruising-through-sakai-s-rich-past-by-the-river


Cruising through Sakai's rich past by the river

February 25, 2013 9:45pm
It was not too long ago when the Sakai tidal river of Japan was mockingly called dobegawa or the "stinking river," finding infamy in its then filthy black waters and putrid stench. It was all blamed on a then booming industrial economy that fostered large, lucrative factories but also left behind hazardous chemical by-products that literally killed the river.
That is why, during a recent cruise on the Sakai River, I was beyond shock and was surprised upon seeing the waterway nowadays—what with its clean and tranquil waters, thriving aquatic life, and zero water pollutants.
The tidal river was originally created by excavation some 600 years ago to serve as the locals' defense against the changing sea tides. The city is located inside the Osaka prefecture, southwest of Tokyo. With the tidal river system in place, water racing from the neighboring Osaka Bay gets evenly distributed to the river stream running around Sakai, instead of flooding the coastal city during high tide.
Strategically located at the mouth of Osaka Bay, the Sakai tidal river also served as a gateway that connected foreign trade to inland trade, and once accommodated large merchant vessels and had a reputation as a busy and bustling international port.
But with the advent of industrialization, coupled with several wars that swept Japan, came the degradation of the Sakai tidal river.
It was only several decades ago that the city was able to revive the river. It took locals around 50 years to tidy it up by pumping out trash and dirt that had accumulated on the riverbed over the years.
And so thanks to the collective efforts of the local government and the people of Sakai, the once hated tidal river has transformed into a tourist attraction, with daily river cruises (for 1,000 yen or around P400 each) that would take tourists around the city—similar to the gondola rides of Venice. Going around the city via the river is like taking a tour of Sakai's history itself.
Cherry blossoms along the way
Currently, a huge portion of the winding river stream had already been closed to the public, but a good half of the river remains accessible by boat. From the docking station near the Old Sakai Port area, cruisers get to sail along the sakura- or cherry blossom-surrounded river. 
Apart from sakura trees, somber-looking but majestic weeping willow trees are also lined up along the riverbanks. In the 1960s, the locals chose the willow tree as the city's official tree.
Not too far away from the dock, a huge orange structure stands. The statue resembles two things: the number "21" to symbolize the 21st century, and the mythical bird phoenix—with its wings spread while standing on one leg—to symbolize rebirth. 
Farther along the river, tourists can view the Tsukishu Junior High School, where the first ever airconditioning units in Japan were said to have been installed. 
More than cooling the rooms inside the school, the AC units were actually used at the time to provide ventilation since the doors and windows had to be closed to prevent the odor of the then stinking river from seeping in.
The river also still has evidence that the city was once a thriving site for cultural and economic trade between the Japanese and westerners. At the edge of the south bridge, a brass statue of a European merchant was erected to symbolize Sakai's ancient trade relations with Europe.
Over at another section of the river, a park named after the Spanish missionary St. Francis Xavier can be found. The missionary was said to have visited Japan in the 16th century to promote Christianity. Today, only two million Japanese are Christians while the majority of the population are mostly Buddhist or Shintoist.
At the portion of the river leading out into Osaka Bay, a towering statue of a woman called the "Princess of the Dragon" was placed to symbolize peace and prosperity. She also acts as a "protector" of the ancient city.
And not too far from the lady statue sits what is considered as one of Sakai's natural treasures: an ancient wooden lighthouse—the last of its kind—that guided docking ships in ancient times. The lighthouse is no longer in operation, but remains as a reminder of the once thriving international trade in the city. 
The almost 400-year-old lighthouse was constructed in 1615. Since then, it had undergone only two renovations, one in 1775 and another one in 1800.
Currently, sprawling industrial factories can still be seen along Osaka Bay, not too far away from the Sakai River and juxtaposed along the horizon with cultural symbols like the ancient lighthouse.
But perhaps learning from their past mistakes, the people of Sakai this time have succeeded in preserving their culture and history—through these ancient landmarks and structures—but at the same time not doing away with the benefits of a modernized society. And throughout Sakai's evolution and transformation, the tidal river was there to witness everything.
And so, more than serving as a mere deterrent against the tides or a passageway for traders, the Sakai tidal river has over the years served as a venue where people—locals and foreigners alike—take a cruise down memory lane to relive the city's rich past—from its lively global trade era to the trying times of surviving three wars to its current laidback atmosphere set against an industrialized setting. —KG, GMA News
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25 février 2013 1 25 /02 /février /2013 04:40

Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/02/24/commentary/osaka-japans-latterday-second-city-forever-breaks-the-national-mold/#.USrdR_LmFJF


Osaka: Japan’s latterday second city forever breaks the national mold

by Roger Pulvers

Special To The Japan Times

They’re funny, finicky and feisty, not to mention being full of wicked mischief, with their own way of talking, too. Outside of Japan, think of Liverpool, not London; or Munich, not Berlin; or Mumbai, not Delhi. I’m talking about the people of Osaka.

Before World War II, Osaka, the port city in the heart of the Kansai region, was a commercial powerhouse and media center. But they say that during the war soldiers from Osaka were consistently at the back as a regiment raced up a hill. That’s pragmatism!

After the war, Tokyo looked one-eyed straight to the United States. It still does. Osaka set its sights on Asia and Europe … anywhere a profitable deal could be done — and damn the ideology.

It was without a doubt the second city of Japan. In 1955 it had a population of about 2.6 million, and it continued to grow from there until it peaked a decade later at 3.1 million. But now the population is back at its 1955 level — around 1 million fewer people than live in Yokohama, and not far ahead of Nagoya’s 2.2 million.

But perhaps decadence and decay suit the city of Osaka, known in history, particularly during the Edo Period (1603-1868), as the home of the adventurous and the racy: Saikaku Ihara (1642-93), a dyed-in-the-wool Osakan, author of randy tales that today still strike us as pleasantly offcolor; and Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725), a playwright who spent the last 20 years of his life in Osaka and wrote his best plays for bunraku (traditional puppet theater) there. Thanks in part to Chikamatsu, Osaka is still the home of this traditional performing art. His most popular dramas are those that feature double suicides by ill-fated lovers.

I bring up this tradition because the literary representative of modern-day Osaka, Sakunosuke Oda, was born 100 years ago this year, and it’s high time we took a new look at his brash and brilliant legacy.

Oda startled the literary scene in 1939 with his second novel, “Zokushu” (“The Vulgar”), receiving for it a nomination for the country’s most prestigious accolade for new writers, the Akukutagawa Prize. The novel depicts five brothers and their wives in all their routine intrigues, raising themes of family discord, economic woes, jealousy and divorce — not to mention a variety of malicious and wonky liaisons.

These themes became obsessions for Oda in his later works: people bonded to each other by their prejudices and passions, especially sexual ones.

In two of his novels — “Seso” (“The State of the Times”) and “Yofu” (“The Bewitcher”) — he wrote about Sada Abe, the woman who, in May 1936, strangled her lover and sliced off his penis and testicles, to carry them around town in her handbag. She only had three days to do that, though, before being arrested and convicted that December of second-degree murder and the mutilation of a corpse. She was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released in May 1941.

Incidentally, recently deceased director Nagisa Oshima based his 1976 film “In the Realm of the Senses” on this incident, and managed to meet Abe, who was living in a nunnery, before she died in 1970.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t long after Abe’s release that Osaka was thoroughly devastated by indiscriminate U.S. bombing during the war; and the postwar chaos saw the city coping with mass malnutrition, rampant disease, a proliferation of drugs, prostitution and the kinds of crime that accompany them.

But back to brash and brilliant Oda, whose greatest work — and one that all Japan associates with its Osaka setting — is “Meoto Zenzai” (“Hurray for Marriage, or Sweet Beans for Two”). First published in 1939, it is an ultrarealistic portrait of a marriage between a solid and lusty woman (the type that has come to typify the Osaka female) and a flighty, spoiled and untrustworthy rake of a man … I will withhold comment on the male stereotype here. The woman works her guts out as a geisha while the man, profligate that he is — and easily distracted by the flutter of a skirt — goes through her money like the man on the flying trapeze goes through air. This novel has been filmed no less than four times, on the latest occasion, in 2008, titled “Akifukaki.”

To give you an idea of the esprit that permeates “Meoto Zenzai” and the town where it takes place, I’ll quote some lines from the traditional eponymous song, made popular by chanteuse Sayuri Ishikawa:

When I went looking for you It was raining in Dotonbori Hazy in the surging crowd The sun has gone down Red lights shine on the river’s surface My breast heaves … Where’ve you gone?

When’re you coming back to me?

Whoever said the Japanese are reserved and tight-lipped never lived in Osaka.

The lyrics of the song “Meoto Zenzai” are written in Osaka dialect, which makes the message all the more poignant and tender for people who speak it as their everyday language.

And the people of Osaka are fiercely proud of their dialect, so much so that they speak it unashamedly on television all the time. I say “unashamedly” because residents of other regions outside the capital use the so-called standard accent when in the national public eye. Only Osaka people tend to stick to their dialect, as if only it can openly and frankly express the emotions they feel.

The male antihero in Oda’s novel, a bonbon, the Osaka word for a good-for-nothing rich boy, is disowned by his father. At the end of the story, which is a bitter-sweet comedy of manners, the couple, as destitute as ever but counting their meager blessings, share a single bowl of sweet-bean soup.

Back in the early 1980s, when I was literary editor of the Mainichi Daily News, I commissioned a distinguished American translator named Burton Watson to render “Meoto Zenzai” into English for serialization in the paper. Later, in 1990, Columbia University Press published the novel, along with with some other translations of Oda’s fiction, under the title “Stories of Osaka Life.”

Oda passed away from tuberculosis in 1947, aged 33. He lived his life on his own home ground, and dedicated his gifts to his city, Osaka. One of his works was banned for a time; others were roundly denounced by the literary establishment of his day. This came about because he hated authority to the marrow of his bones. He was wary of orthodoxy, which he saw as the servant of repression. This wariness toward the established order is a trait associated not only with him but also with many Osakans.

In a deeply insightful essay published in December 1946 in the progressive magazine Kaizo, just a month before his death, he set out his credo regarding literature and life. The essay is titled “Kanosei no Bungaku” (“The Literature of Possibilities”), and in it he wrote: “Creating a novel is, in the end, creating a world where there is an alternative nature. People there are not portrayed as the accumulation of their experiences, but rather as possessors of the potential to leap away from those experiences.”

Such wisdom, it seems to me, applies not only to literature in Japan today but to all Japanese society struggling, as it is, to writhe out of the straitjacket of social and political orthodoxy it is bound up in.



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25 février 2013 1 25 /02 /février /2013 04:34



Explications chez  We ♥ K a n s a i.

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25 février 2013 1 25 /02 /février /2013 01:58

Source: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/economy/business/AJ201302240036


Tough times leave Osaka day laborers homeless, jobless and on welfare

February 24, 2013

By YASUYUKI NISHII/ Senior Staff Writer

OSAKA--In Japan's rosier economic times, day laborers were in hot demand for short-term jobs mainly in construction. These days, many are on welfare, being left unemployed and seeking a bed in a free shelter.

This city's Kamagasaki district is known for its large population of day laborers. The mood here is bleak.

"Kamagasaki was last bustling several years ago, when Sharp Corp. built a plant in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture," says a 59-year-old man who has been resident in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. He gives his name only as Miyazaki.

Miyazaki said he slept the previous night at a free shelter for day laborers. He awoke at 3:30 a.m. and headed to the Airin labor welfare center.

"You cannot get a job unless you go there early," he explains.

Dozens of vans are parked outside the center. Brokers are shouting, "Take up a day's work!"

Men examine slips posted on the vehicle windows. One offers 6,800 yen ($73) for demolition work. Another quotes 9,000 yen for regular construction work. There is nothing for Miyazaki.

Many men seem to be in the same boat, and within an hour or so most have left. They will have to find somewhere to spend the day, perhaps on the street, before standing in line again for a place at a free night shelter.

"You cannot withstand the cold in the park without a cup of 100-yen shochu (distilled liquor)," Miyazaki says, his breath reeking of alcohol. "You cannot be stone sober, either."

In Kamagasaki, one in three day laborers is on welfare.

On any one day, only 5,000 to 8,000 jobs are offered in the district. This is, at most, a third of the work available in the late 1980s during Japan's asset-inflated economic boom. Some jobs require workers to stay in camps.

"These days, TV sets and washing machines are assembled in China and South Korea where wages are low," said a 64-year-old man who gave his name as Shibuya. "It is not surprising that there are fewer jobs for day laborers."

He said he receives 120,000 yen a month in welfare benefits.




Fewer factories are being built, and there has been a decline in the number of public works projects under way. And heavy machinery can perform many of the tasks that aging laborers once did.

Men in Kamagasaki who work for at least 13 days in a month are eligible to benefits from a type of employment insurance for day laborers.

But the shortage of work means many cannot count on meeting the required number of days. Since the 2008 financial crisis, thousands of day laborers have been forced to go on welfare or live on the streets.

The number of people on welfare continues to grow in Japan, setting new records almost every month. As of October, there were more than 1.56 million registered recipients, 43 percent of them households of people aged 60 and above.

Minoru Yamada, director of Kamagasaki Shien Kiko, a nonprofit organization which supports homeless people in Kamagasaki, says the community of day laborers is "the epitome of Japan in the near future."

"We must expand public support for employment and come up with new ways to secure jobs," he said. "That way, we can reduce spending on welfare benefits."

Yamada said some people shut out of the labor market were reclassified as "sick" and admitted into facilities so that they could receive welfare benefits accordingly. But he said such stopgap measures will not work anymore.

Some laborers who do not want to go on welfare have taken cleaning jobs offered by the Osaka prefectural government in a program designed to tackle unemployment.

The program pays 5,700 yen for a day of cleaning streets and parks, although each laborer is allowed to work only five days a month. About 1,500 people are registered for the program.

"I want to continue earning money for as long as my body will still move," said a 67-year-old man who gave his name as Sakamoto.

He said he had first come to Kamagasaki in 1970, when an expo was held in Osaka. "In those days, I was fit and well, and Japan, too, had momentum."

When he is not on a cleaning job, Sakamoto collects empty cans on the street. He earns roughly 1 yen per can.




Osaka has the largest percentage of welfare recipients of 20 major cities.

A growing number of young temporary workers are on welfare, and the overall percentage of temporary workers in Osaka Prefecture is far higher than the national average.

One 30-year-old temporary worker at the factory of a Panasonic Corp. group company in Osaka Prefecture has received several tens of thousands of yen in welfare benefits since June.

His hourly wage is a little over 1,000 yen, and he is not entitled to bonuses. The father of three said in a good month his take-home pay is more than 200,000 yen, including overtime, but even that fails to cover the family's expenses.

"I am employed by a staffing agency. However, the company I work at is a large one," he said. "I never imagined that I would be unable to survive without welfare."

Last year, Panasonic announced a heavy loss. He was told his factory would close for many days in the summer to cut back production of TV sets and audio products. An enforced holiday brings no reward for dispatch workers paid by the day.

"I thought it would leave me unable to make ends meet," he said.

Ninety percent of the 100 or so workers at the factory are employed by staffing agencies because the company has been squeezing costs wherever possible.

"Our jobs are hard, but we have put up with low wages," the man said.

When business conditions dived further, his contract was terminated after six months.

He is back in work again now, but increasingly fears that his three-month contract may not be renewed at the end of March.

Amid the uncertainty, rumors are rife. One says that one-third of the workers will be let go. Another says the axed workers will be chosen by lottery regardless of their record.

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23 février 2013 6 23 /02 /février /2013 09:11

Source: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130222p2a00m0na008000c.html


Pillar holes found in moat around ancient burial mound in Osaka

SAKAI, Osaka -- Nearly 30 pillar holes have been discovered in a moat surrounding an ancient burial mound here, leading experts to believe they may have been for a bridge used for a funeral of the person buried in the mound.

The Sakai Municipal Government announced on Feb. 21 that 29 pillar holes and two pieces of oak lumber that were apparently used as pillars were found in the moat on the eastern side of the round-shaped part of the tomb at the Nisanzai burial mound in Sakai's Kita Ward, which dates back to the late 5th century. Experts have pointed to the possibility that the holes were for pillars supporting a bridge used for carrying a coffin of the deceased and other materials into the mound.

It is the first time in Japan that pillar holes for a structure believed to be a bridge have been discovered in a moat surrounding an ancient burial mound, city officials said. The find is a precious one that could provide clues to the construction process of ancient burial mounds and burial methods. Previously, a bridge made of earth left in place during the digging of an ancient burial mound moat was found in that moat, the officials said.

According to the city, there are seven rows of pillar holes stretching from north to south, one of which extends to the central part of the moat. Pillar holes were also found near the embankment of the moat. It is likely that those holes were for a sequence of pillars supporting a bridge over the moat.

"The discovery of these remains is something unexpected. We should assume that similar remains exist at other ancient burial mounds, and this survey is of great significance in that respect. The usage of the pillar holes couldn't have been anything other than for a bridge, and it's possible the bridge was a splendid one using all the seven rows of pillar holes that have been discovered," said Taichiro Shiraishi, director of the Chikatsu Asuka Museum in Osaka Prefecture.

According to the city government, the pillar holes each measure one meter square and up to around one meter deep. The width of the part of the moat where the pillar holes were discovered stretches some 40 meters. Near the round-shaped part of the mound, the pillar holes were concentrated around the part of the mound believed to have been above the surface of the water at the time of construction. Excavators found seven rows of pillar holes lying north and south at intervals of 1.6 to 2.1 meters, as well as three rows of pillar holes lying east and west at intervals of 1.6 to 1.8 meters.

Among the seven rows of pillar holes lying north and south, the fourth row from the north had five more pillar holes lying toward the embankment on the eastern side. Those pillar holes were found at a depth of 2.4 meters from the bottom of the moat. Two other pillar holes were also found at around four meters away from the embankment, along with two other pillar holes on the south side. The fourth row of pillar holes lies almost on an extension of the main axis of the mound connecting the hearts of the front rectangle-shaped part and the rear round-shaped part of the mound. The holes were apparently dug around the time the burial mound was completed, based on surrounding geological formations, according to city officials.

Ryuji Kuroda, professor at Kobe University graduate school, pointed to the possibility that there had been a two-tiered stage at the mound-side end of the bridge where rituals were held, on the grounds that the intervals of the pillar holes are different on their north and south sides. He produced a replica of the bridge based on the findings of the pillar holes.

"The pillars are believed to have been thin and lightly built but were systematically arranged, which indicates that builders had overwhelmingly high technical capabilities," Kuroda said.

The Nisanzai burial mound lies at the eastern edge of the Mozu Tumulus Group, which includes the Daisen burial mound (the tomb of Emperor Nintoku) and is administered by the Imperial Household Agency. Legend says Emperor Hanzei, the son of Emperor Nintoku, was buried in the Nisanzai mound.

February 22, 2013(Mainichi Japan)

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22 février 2013 5 22 /02 /février /2013 02:18


(Source: Visual Anthropology of Japan)

おおさかエイズ情報Now: http://www.osaka-aids-now.info/ (japonais)

Japan HIV Center: http://www.npo-jhc.com/index.htm (japonais et anglais)

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20 février 2013 3 20 /02 /février /2013 08:44



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19 février 2013 2 19 /02 /février /2013 03:02
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17 février 2013 7 17 /02 /février /2013 14:33

L'histoire se déroule dans le quartier Shinsekai d'Osaka


Voir J.C. Jones, Jarinko Chie and Yā-san Tetsu: Representing the Face, Heart and Underbelly of Osaka, Villains and Villainy I, éd. par Dana Lori Chalmers (2009)


Kié la petite peste





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2 janvier 2013 3 02 /01 /janvier /2013 10:07

View PHaT PHOTO大阪マップ in a larger map

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