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18 octobre 2013 5 18 /10 /octobre /2013 08:51


Thinking outside the box: Osaka-style 'boxed' sushi

Merci http://ajw.asahi.com/article/cool_japan/culture/AJ201310150034


October 15, 2013

By MISUZU TSUKUE/ Staff Writer

OSAKA--Sushi, the Japanese style of fast food that has taken the world by storm, has a long history. But it's not all about raw fish--at least here in Japan's second-largest city.

The hand-molded bites of rice seasoned with vinegar and sugar, topped with slices of mostly raw fish, are actually a style of sushi, called Edo-mae, or Tokyo-style sushi.

The signature sushi here in Osaka is called hako-zushi, or boxed sushi. Unlike Tokyo's Edo-style sushi, all the ingredients are either cooked or cured. And the sushi is not molded by hand, but rather, hand-pressed using a wooden square box, called hako.

Ingredients are placed atop a mound of sushi rice, and firmly pressed down with the lid to form a large block of sushi. The lid is carefully lifted and the sushi deftly cut into individual pieces. The aesthetics of hako-zushi lie in the clean-cut lines and the burst of color combinations of the bite-size treats. The sushi morsels that come out of the fragrant Japanese cypress wooden box are almost artisanal in their beauty.

Hako-zushi ingredients consist of elements of traditional nimono, a simmered course; yakimono, a grilled course; sunomono, a vinaigrette course; and mushimono, a steamed course. They are all represented and served within a wooden framework that is just 8 centimeters square.

Thus, the sushi is sometimes praised as miniature kaiseki, the term for a traditional multi-course dinner, measuring "nisun rokubu"--8 centimeters--as opposed to the regular "hassun" 8-inch platter used in a kaiseki course.

There are basically three schools of Osaka-style sushi: mushi-zushi (a steamed sushi); bo-zushi (a rod shaped pressed sushi); and hako-zushi. Yet, the regal hako-zushi seems to claim the name in its own right.

The main ingredients are grilled anago (sea-water eel), vinegared small sea bream, poached prawn and Japanese-style egg omelet. Back in the Edo Period (1603-1867), sushi was created with affordable fish like mackerel. Then in the middle of the Meiji Era (1868-1912), an establishment in Osaka's Senba district, called Yoshino Sushi, decided to elevate the concept to a new level, developing the hako-zushi that prevails today, with a variety of toppings arranged in an artistic mosaic. The elegant hako-zushi became popular among Senba's wealthy merchants and patrons. Other sushi shops quickly adopted the new style.

Whereas the essence of Edo-style sushi is the freshness of the toppings, Osaka's hako-zushi is all about technique and elaborate preparation.

Take the anago sea-water eel, for example. The anago is grilled slowly over charcoal coals, and repeatedly brushed with a sweet and salty sauce; the shiitake mushrooms that are sandwiched inside the rice are simmered in a broth for more than five hours.

When it comes to hako-zushi, rice is the key. A Yoshino Sushi chef said the taste of the rice "dictates 60 percent of the taste of the sushi." The vinegared rice is on the sweet side, and bursts with rich flavors inside the mouth.

In 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries designated hako-zushi as Osaka’s local cuisine. But in reality hako-zushi is losing its status as a popular local staple. Hako-zushi ingredients are all seasoned and flavored so the pieces need no dipping sauce. Yet, quite a few customers at Yoshino Sushi, unaware of this, try to use soy sauce.

If it weren't for World War II, the fate of boxed sushi could have turned out quite differently. In 1947, postwar Japan was suffering from a severe food shortage. The government effectively prohibited all catering and restaurant trade.

It was the ingenuity of Tokyo's sushi restaurant association to insist that exchanging a cup of rice with 10 pieces of hand-molded sushi was, in fact, not "restaurant business" but "contract manufacturing." The authorities gave way.

Hand-molded, nigiri-style sushi was the prerequisite for the "contract manufacturing" business. Thus, many sushi outlets in Osaka switched over to Edo-style sushi.

Improvements in freezing technology and better transportation networks and logistics helped bolster the popularity of nigiri-style sushi.

By the 1970s, reasonably priced kaiten-zushi restaurant chains, with sushi loaded plates rotating on a conveyer belt around shop counters became the rage.

Nigiri-style sushi quickly became Japan's popular national food. Hako-zushi required too much prep and handiwork. The skilled sushi chefs were getting on in years. There were few keepers of the heritage.

Long established hako-zushi restaurants closed down one after another. Now, there are only a handful of places that offer hako-zushi as their main staple.

It was precisely this set of circumstances that led to the birth of Sanematsu, a restaurant that opened in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, in 2003. Sanematsu specializes in hako-zushi takeaways. It serves roughly 50 customers a day who are drawn to the taste of the "good old days."

Master sushi chef Takuji Sanematsu, 66, who has much experience working in Japan and overseas, was confident of success.

He said: "I knew we were offering the real thing."

At Yoshino Sushi, the founder of hako-zushi, customers are served traditional sushi prepared by seventh-generation master chef Takuji Hashimoto, 33.

He said: "I am proud to carry the culinary heritage of Osaka. I am committed to my work."

Naomichi Ishige, 75, an ethnologist who is a gourmand well-versed in the history and food culture of Japan, said that it was time for hako-zushi to head out overseas.

Ishige noted that after nigiri ventured abroad, chiefs overseas added novel ingredients like avocado, and succeeded in broadening the culinary possibilities of sushi. Ishige sounded hopeful: "If hako-zushi draws attention on the world stage that would revitalize interest back here in Japan.”

Former professional soccer player Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, 36, who played on the Japanese national team, was born in Osaka. He shared his views on hako-zushi:

"I just loved hako-zushi. I remember eating a lot of anago sushi when I was a child. The hako-zushi pieces are delicate and dainty compared to their counterpart, nigiri. That's what makes them so special.

"I sense true workmanship in the careful preparation and seasoning of ingredients. Hako-zushi travels well. So I want to see more people take hako-zushi along on trips and bring it home as a souvenir.

"I live abroad right now. Everywhere I go, I only see nigiri, fresh seafood sushi. I think foreigners will love the bright color palette unique to hako-zushi. I hope hako-zushi will go global and start spreading the good word."



According to Osamu Shinoda's book "Sushi no hon" (Book on sushi) published by Iwanami Gendai Bunko, sushi was actually "born in Southeast Asia and grew up in Japan's Kansai area." Sushi originated as a means of preservation when fermented rice was used to store fish. During the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) people began eating rice and fish together, which gave rise to bo-zushi and oshi-zushi (pressed sushi) styles.

By MISUZU TSUKUE/ Staff Writer

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20 août 2013 2 20 /08 /août /2013 02:43

Nara researcher finds oldest weights in Japan


by Komaki Niregane


  • Aug 19, 2013

Archaeologist Susumu Morimoto recently made a landmark discovery that could change today’s views of Japan’s ancient measuring system and of the Yayoi Period (300 B.C. to 300).

The head of the International Cooperation Section at the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties discovered that what were believed to be grinding stones from the first half of Yayoi, about 2,400 years ago, are actually weights for scales.

“This would be my first and last discovery, and the greatest (in my life as a researcher),” Morimoto, 54, said.

“Compared with the continent (China), people back in that period are often considered barbaric,” he said. “But it may have been a more advanced era already with measurements and mathematics.”

Morimoto has said that the weights, with an accuracy of 99 percent, may have been used for trade and for items that could not be otherwise measured.

Morimoto had been obsessed with the 11 stones ever since he saw them about 30 years ago after they were excavated from the Kamei site in Osaka Prefecture, where there used to be a village surrounded by a moat during the Yayoi Period.

The cylindrical stones, which are 3 to 8 cm long with a radius of 1 to 4.5 cm, are more than 500 years older than the previous oldest bronze weights from the latter half of Yayoi that were unearthed from the Harunotsuji site in Iki, Nagasaki Prefecture.

Morimoto said he doubted the stones from the Kamei site were used as grinders because they looked different from any of the grinders he had researched and because he was unable to confirm any grinding traces.

To find what the stones were actually used for, Morimoto collected data and made calculations in the spring of last year that suggested they may be two sets of weights. He became more strongly convinced of this when he remembered weights from Mesopotamia he saw at the Louvre Museum in Paris in September 2010.

Morimoto said he hastily wrote a report on this assumption for presentation at the end of last year, but feared that “someone else may have already found it out as this seems too evident.”

A native of Tsu, Mie Prefecture, Morimoto became interested in the Paleolithic period when he was a sixth-grader and found his favorite books were reports on archaeological excavations.

He acquired his master’s degree in archaeology at Kyoto University and also studied in Belgium, before joining the Nara research institute at the age of 30.

Despite having little knowledge of computer programming, he learned to develop his own database and made one that lets researchers search for survey reports and unearthed artifacts across Japan.

Morimoto has also been involved in many projects to preserve archaeological sites overseas, having made more than 100 trips to Afghanistan, Cambodia and other countries.

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21 avril 2013 7 21 /04 /avril /2013 05:49
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12 mars 2013 2 12 /03 /mars /2013 02:39


Merci http://ajw.asahi.com/article/cool_japan/fun_spots/AJ201303110070


The colorful "Itoguruma no Genso" (Revery of the spinning wheel) watches over Osaka's business district. A man who works in an office building across the street says his guests always ask him about it. He says he always thought it was a relic left over from the heyday of Japan's asset-inflated economy. (Nanako Ito)

Gaudi-inspired piece on the rooftop in Osaka


OSAKA--It was an e-mail inquiry from a reader that alerted us to an intriguing piece of art sitting quietly atop a building in Honmachi, the bustling business district here in Osaka.

Called the "Honmachi Building," the modest nine-story structure stands at the corner of Sakai-suji and Honmachi-dori streets amid a sea of skyscrapers. If you peer upwards from the foot of the building, there is no inkling of any rooftop art. You need to move away and, from a distance, train your eyes on the roof, and then you will see it.

It's quite a monument. Stars seem to be dancing around a huge ring, and the lines are crude and simple, as if they were created by the clumsy hands of a giant. The colorful work certainly stands out, loud and unique, against the stark backdrop of the concrete cityscape.

The building caretaker was uncertain as to the pedigree of the artwork on the building's roof. "If I'm not wrong, I think someone told me that it was the work of some great artist," he said. "But the building has changed hands, so I am not so sure about the history."

None of the men in business suits walking around the neighborhood could help, either.

The building was built in 1961 by Toyobo Co., a major Osaka-based textile company with a long history, before it was eventually sold to a real estate company in 2007

The next stop, then, was a visit to the Toyobo head office in Dojima, Osaka.

"We have no one left who actually knows about the artwork, but we found some old records," an official explained. An in-house magazine dated June 10, 1961, carried a report on the piece. There was a photograph of the work with the caption, "By Kenji Imai, professor of Waseda University." Furthermore, there was a note, "The design was inspired by (Toyobo) textile." The trail was old, but not cold.

Kenji Imai (1895-1987) was a notable Japanese architect who designed such well-known buildings as the Tokagakudo Concert Hall in the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo (1966), and the Twenty-six Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki (1962). Imai was greatly impressed by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, and Imai is credited with introducing Gaudi's work here in Japan.

The mystery piece by Imai was titled "Itoguruma no Genso" (Reverie of the spinning wheel). The tableau stands 10 meters high, featuring a spinning wheel and a bolt of cloth, unfurled, surrounded by the moon and stars.

Kazumitsu Sakai knows a lot about Osaka's modern architecture. He is curator at the Osaka Museum of History, in Chuo Ward.

"The bold form and the technique employed, creating the image by assembling smashed up tile pieces, clearly show influences from Gaudi," Sakai said. "There are a lot of famous pieces by Imai that remain in Tokyo and the metropolitan area, and Kyushu. I am pretty sure that the piece in Osaka is the only Imai representation in the Kansai region."

Back in 1961, when the Honmachi Building went up, the area was the undisputed textile center, known as "Senba." In its heyday, according to statistics compiled by the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Osaka textile wholesalers were handling more than 50 percent of the nation's total annual sales revenue.

"Japan was going through postwar recovery," Sakai mused. "Buildings were cropping up everywhere in central Osaka. Placing a monument with a warm handmade touch on the rooftop was a sign that the company was aiming for an ideal city--not all cold and inorganic."

The huge spinning wheel is a monument that tells the story of Senba--a sort of quilt of memories that triggers pictures of the rise of the textile hub and Osaka's road to recovery.

"Maybe it's not the most famous monument, but it definitely deserves to be called a cultural heritage of the Kansai area," Sakai said. "I hope more people will stop by, take a moment to look up, and take it in."

Kensuke Imai, 82, Kenji Imai's oldest son, shared some memories of his architect father.

"My father was always drawing sketches as he sat in the living room, dreaming and making plans. We recovered sketches and plaster models of the 'Itoguruma no Genso' that were kept in his home and his studio. As an architect, he was careful about respecting the environment of the people who actually used the building. I think he wanted to create a relaxing space on the rooftop for people who worked in the busy commercial center. I am thrilled to hear that people are still interested in (his work)."

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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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23 novembre 2012 5 23 /11 /novembre /2012 09:04

Merci http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20121123p2a00m0na006000c.html


Osaka excavation shows palace larger than previously thought

The remains of a wall and building (in the foreground) believed to be part of the Naniwa Palace, in Osaka's Chuo Ward. (Mainichi)
The remains of a wall and building (in the foreground) believed to be part of the Naniwa Palace, in Osaka's Chuo Ward. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- Remains of an imperial structure believed to have been built in the mid-7th century have been found during an archaeological dig on the grounds of a hospital here, the Osaka City Cultural Properties Association has announced.

The ruins are said to have been part of an administrative wing of Naniwa Palace built by Emperor Kotoku (596-654) after the Taika Reforms in 645, which then burned down during the reign of Emperor Temmu (631-686). It is located approximately 300 meters west of what used to be the Chodo-in ceremonial hall, and is around 100 meters west of what was previously believed to be the westernmost edge of the palace.

An official for the Osaka City Cultural Properties Association says the latest findings raise the possibility that the palace grounds may extend further west than originally believed.

In August, the association began surveys of an approximately 1,900-square-meter area on the grounds of Osaka National Hospital, which is rebuilding some of its facilities. Ruins of a hottatebashira building -- or a dug-standing pillar building -- stretching 16 meters, as well as the remains of a large wall at least 41 meters long had been found on the site thus far.

The buildings and walls have been positioned in an orderly fashion facing the same direction, and are believed to be part of an administrative wing in the western part of the palace. A large area of land created by filling in a valley has been found nearby, from where earthenware vessels from before the mid-7th century have been recovered.

An on-site briefing session will be held on Dec. 1 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information, contact the Osaka City Cultural Properties Association's Naniwa Palace Survey Office at 06-6943-6836. (Japanese only)

November 23, 2012(Mainichi Japan)


Merci http://mainichi.jp/feature/news/20121123k0000e040153000c.html

大阪・難波宮:従来想定より広かった 新たな建物跡発見

毎日新聞 2012年11月23日 10時34分(最終更新 11月23日 11時05分)


 大阪市中央区の大阪医療センター敷地内の発掘調査で、大化の改新(645年)後に孝徳天皇らが造営し、 天武天皇時代に火災で焼失したとされる「前期難波宮(なにわのみや)」(7世紀中ごろ〜後半)の役所の一部とみられる建物跡が見つかり、22日、大阪文化 財研究所が発表した。

 建物跡が見つかったのは、朝廷の公式行事や政務を行った「朝堂院(ちょうどういん)」の西約300メー トルで、これまで宮の西端と考えられてきた場所からさらに西へ約100メートル離れた地点。そのため、同研究所は「宮殿の範囲が従来の想定より西へ広がる 可能性が出てきた」としている。

 医療センターの建て替えなどに伴い、同研究所が今年8月から約1900平方メートルを調査していた。調 査地からは、東西16メートルの掘っ立て柱建物跡のほか、建物に伴う大型の塀跡(東西41メートル以上)を確認。建物や塀は方角をそろえて規則的に配置さ れており、宮の西に広がる役所群「西方官衙(せいほうかんが)」の一角とみられる。近くでは谷を埋め立てた大規模な整地跡も見つかり、整地土には7世紀中 ごろ以前の土器が多数含まれていた。


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16 novembre 2012 5 16 /11 /novembre /2012 01:17



News photo
Spiritual anchor: Reiganji Temple, a "Chosen-dera" Korean religious institution, is festooned with colorful lanterns on Mount Ikoma on Sept. 25 in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture. KYODO

Korean residents find peace of mind at Mount Ikoma temples


OSAKA — The earsplitting sound of Reiganji Temple's bell echoed across Mount Ikoma, home to nearly 300 religious institutions along the border of Osaka and Nara prefectures.

The temple is one of 30 "Chosen-dera" Korean religious institutions — as they are commonly known in Japan — built on the mountain to serve as an anchor for the many residents of Korean descent in the Kansai region.

Many of these temples perform unique religious ceremonies that represent a mixture of ancient Korean shamanism and other folk religions, along with Japanese and Korean Buddhism. Many of them were built at the western base of Mount Ikoma by first-generation Korean immigrants.

Founded 70 years ago, Reiganji Temple's tin-roofed structure could easily be mistaken for an ordinary residence but for the doorplate at its entrance. Inside, however, stands a magnificent altar decorated with lanterns in red, pink, yellow and other vivid colors.

At a recent prayer session, about 15 devotees gathered in front of the altar, surrounded by burning incense as a monk sat in the center facing a Buddhist statue, chanting a Buddhist sutra loudly and rapidly while banging intently on bells and gongs.

The ardent believers stood up and clasped their hands together in prayer, then knelt and bowed, touching the tatami floor with their foreheads. Clamor and intensity filled the room, creating an overwhelming atmosphere.

All of the temple's followers are female, and almost all are of Korean descent and in their 50s or 60s. In many cases, their mothers and grandmothers were also devotees of the temple.

"We come to pray to our ancestors, asking them to watch over our family's safety," one of the women said while nibbling homemade kimchi during recess.

Chosen-dera temples began to appear on Mount Ikoma soon after the end of World War II. It was apparently a favored location because of its proximity to Osaka's Ikuno district, which has a sizeable population of Korean residents, and also because the remote site allows the lively religious rites to be conducted without bothering any neighbors.

"Amid the harsh living conditions, it was a place for women to unleash their worries and distress," said Ko Jongja, a 65-year-old resident of Ikuno who used to visit a Chosen-dera on the mountain as a child.

According to Hizuru Miki, 54, an Osaka International University professor who is well-versed in Mount Ikoma's religious institutions, the number of temples at the site has dropped to less than half from a peak of more than 60, due partly to the aging of devotees.

The temples' role as a spiritual anchor for their Korean female followers remains unchanged, however.

"Whenever I come here, I can get any weight I am feeling off my chest," one of the believers said.

The Japan Times: Friday, Nov. 16, 2012
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13 novembre 2012 2 13 /11 /novembre /2012 01:43


“I realize as the train pulls in that the station is on fire. The platform is aflame and below the streets are empty with people running past occasionally. Something is happening. I pick up some rocks and start throwing them at a police line.”
-anonymous rioter at Kamagasaki

“You must help yourself.”
-Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS


October 2nd, 1990. The day started as any other does in Osaka’s Nishi-Nari ward, men lined up around the yoseba employment center, in the thousands, waiting for work. If it came, they would load into the cars of construction contractors in groups, with parachute pants and wrapped heads. For eight hours they might wave light wands ‘guiding pedestrians’, dig concrete roads, re-pave highways or variously break their backs in the sun. This proletarian fate was ceded by the city’s bourgeoisie over a period of thirty years of continuous unemployed unrest; all the union officials touted it as labor ‘won’ from an inhuman system. After all, without work, one does not eat, and once conditions have worsened to the point that this phrase becomes dictatorial, one works in a fervor; for work leads to ‘independence’. Work might one day lead out of the slum.

If work didn’t come, the men wait out lunch and line up for the daily workfare handout, set aside for ‘unsuccessful job-seekers’. This yoseba is in Kamagasaki, a neighborhood of poverty and celebration, a breathing lung, where the yakuza patrol day-workers with icy looks and stashed weapons; at occupied ‘triangle’ park, men, dogs and blue canvas spill out into the street sides. Udon and soba are served at improvised stool stands roofed with canvas. Women and men prepare boxed lunches, noodles and Okinawan fare at shops lining the crowded avenues. Just to the east the brothel neighborhood of Tobita sits in expectant dormancy, for the night will soon fall. The slum is quiet.
For the city hall and the construction capitalists, it was just another Tuesday.
There were multiple flashpoints, like any riot, origins that became history for the individuals and groups that experienced them. For most, the riots began with friends running past, heaving paving stones at the police. But most will point to an account of an old homeless man in the Namba theater district, north of Kamagasaki. Police on patrol had stopped at his improvised blue canvas house, berating him to leave the sidewalk. The man (known by most as ‘a bit bizarre’) unleashed his dog, which quickly sunk its teeth into a senior patrolman. After a struggle, he was surrounded by police and beaten as a crowd gathered, consisting of other homeless people and some day-workers. Hauled away and arrested, the angry crowd followed the car to the Nishinari police station.
News spread on sprinting legs to the enormous yoseba hiring hall in the south, circulating among groups of day laborers. Without any particular confrontation, a few ‘troublesome’ workers were pulled aside by the yoseba police patrol and in front of thousands, beaten. The neighborhood exploded. Yoseba day-workers, witnesses in their thousands, took their comrades back and drove the police from the hiring hall, swarming outward like blood through Kamagasaki’s lungs. Crowds formed here and there, with a general movement towards the police station, from which the police re-emerged. A rain of stones fell. After the volleys reached a temporary abatement, barricades were quickly erected, bicycles ignited with cheap lighter fluid, stacked and burned, dumpsters dragged into the street. Capital’s tendency to crisis, the proletarian form, was erupting.


The police retreated in order to barricade the neighborhoods, to shut off the arteries that connect Kamagasaki to the north, south, east and west. A classic siege strategy was put into action punctuated by sudden, violent streams of steel-shield armed police into the neighborhoods. Mobile riot squads surrounded the area with armored buses and paddy wagons, and soon lined the boulevards in columns with five foot steel shields. All the forces of government and private capital arrived to contain thousands of revolting workers and rapidly arriving allies, to circumscribe a space that was impassable for the surging rage of the rioters. Media vans pulled up and were stoned if they attempted to penetrate the riot line and ‘get the real story’. In several cases cameras were sought after and smashed. All footage of the events comes from behind police lines. Advances by the cops were met with volleys of objects flung from the parapets of apartment buildings by the unemployed, workers and housewives. At times, the riot constituted itself as a castle pocked with archers. When the first barricaded day slipped into night, the cars of the construction barons were smashed and degraded. Parks that had been evicted of squatters had their locks broken and were re-taken.
The insurrection faced its own limit, against the borders of space drawn by the state and its own projectuality. Discussions arose everywhere on where to go next. Many feared that the riotous action would blacklist the neighborhood from construction contracts, that the yoseba would close like the one in Tokyo had just a year earlier, that poverty would worsen. Most gazed over the surrounding steel buses of the riot police and saw the impossibility of expansion, of the riot spreading to other sectors. NGO workers and city hall mediators arrived urging people to ‘calm down’, that police violence could be ‘addressed’. But these particular beatings were only moments on a continuum of violent surveillance and control. There was no doubt that the situation was in fact rapidly worsening as police ran wild in the streets, smashing skulls and faces with steel pipes and shields. The Kamagasaki population was at open revolt with the organs of repression, most saw no way back to ‘normality’. Buses and sound-cars of the unions and organizations of the unemployed mobilized from their garages and circled the neighborhood, providing a temporary barrier; they eventually moving through police lines, broadcasting messages to a wider portion of the city. Night fell again.

“I edged back to the crowd. From behind me, someone yelled ‘Aim for the lights!’. Stones were thrown aiming towards the lights of TV cameras stationed behind the riot squad.
I entered the crowd. No one took any notice of the camera that I held in my hand.
After a while, a man spoke to me.
‘Are you from the news papers?’ When I answered no, he said,
‘If you are, you are going to get killed.’”

-anonymous observer at Kamagasaki

As the riot entered into its third, fourth day the city’s strategy was in continual escalation. The rioting, unarmed workers were meat for the mobile riot squads. Largely defensive formations changed into charges, five-foot steel shields were leveled against the flesh of the disgusted. Barricades collapsed or were extinguished, and the police made real progress into the neighborhoods. If the streets could be cleared, then the tear-gas buses and paddy wagons could move in. Hundreds of the most militant were chased south into a union building where the insurrection made its last, unarmed stand. Concurrently and further south, partly in inspiration from the Kamagasaki rebellion, a youth revolt had exploded, spearheaded by ‘speed tribe’ gangs on motorcycles who fought the police in skirmishes. This rebellion was contained even quicker, and most of the young rioters found themselves chased into the same building with the older workers. There would be no cavalry for Kamagasaki.
The building was taken with tremendous violence. The 22nd riot in the neighborhood’s 30 year history had ended.
Despite the arrest and imprisonment of many, over the next four years there would be more small riots, sporadically, where the police or contractors were targeted. When unrest broke out, other workers would come running; construction contractors dodging back-wages found themselves at the mercy of mobs. People took inspiration from the riots that raged through the neighborhoods throughout the 1960s, contestation, above all was the agenda!
The strategy against the riot by the city and the bourgeoisie was drawn from every lesson learned in the past forty years of class struggle in post-fordist Japan. Initial direct force, followed by the deployment of mediators, the deployment of advanced technological means of repression, filtering of news about the riots, news blackouts, concluding in total geographical isolation of the proletarian ferment. Riots can not be permitted to spread to other sectors, and therefore Japanese capital’s only strategy against the eruption of its own contradictions is containment.


The riots of the 1990s took place amid the massive restructuring of the 1980s and the economic crisis of 1989 as the investment ‘bubble’ burst and the promise of a Japanese ‘prosperity’ proved hollow. Already migrant workers from Okinawa and Tokyo had taken up park occupations all over Osaka, not to mention Nishi-nari ward and the Kamagasaki neighborhood. Improvised huts, roofed with blue tarp, decorated with paint, junk, sometimes city free jazz schedules and at the very least posters of famous female crooners holding beer mugs, sprung up all over the city. The huts were statements of autonomy, arising from the immediate inability of newly-arrived workers to afford housing; as a strategy the ‘tent villages’ blanketed the city, in order to stake out an existence independent of the welfare state’s institutionalization. Out of the riots, the workers’ movement in Kamagasaki re-composed into union coalitions. NGOs replaced the direct discipline of police batons as their mediating roles were appreciated by the city in halting unrest. 16 surveillance cameras at major intersections and shopping streets were installed in Kamagasaki alone. Over 1990-1995, the men at city hall dumped all the previous strategies, and Kamagasaki moved from a zone of discipline to one of control, from containment of outburst to total regulation; the unemployed were channeled, mediated and surveilled like never before; what could once communicate itself as a struggle of autonomy against the control apparatus was now more and more forced to speak the language of social peace. Park occupations were slowly apologized for as a response to the poverty of the city’s institutional shelters as well as the lack of viable jobs, instead of their obvious essence, areas autonomous from capitalist time, characterized by relaxation, karaoke songs and games like go and shogi. The occupations were attempts to attain a moderately bourgeois standard of living, actualizing in motion, against an ocean of industrial poverty. Continual violence and harassment by yakuza and police managed to dull the direct-action strategy of spiteful day-workers as well as the heaviest strategies by newly radicalized unions, who quickly transformed into facilitators of ritual action: such as protest marches completely surrounded by police, food handouts and supplication to city officials at any level of struggle.

“As real subsumption advanced it appeared that the mediations of the existence of the class in the capitalist mode of production, far from being exterior to the ‘being’ of the class which must affirm itself against them, were nothing but this being in movement, in its necessary implication with the other pole of society, capital.”
- Theorie Communiste


Outside of Kamagasaki and Osaka, across the social terrain of Japan, the neo-liberal project had been advancing at least since the collapse of the new left in the late 1970s. A near collapse of the social safety net ensued: previous welfare guarantees were transformed increasingly into workfare, an entire landlord class was born atop workfare-registered workers struggling to pay ‘discounted’ rents on yoseba wages. The retirement age was officially moved from 60 to 65 for most businesses in 2005, completing an already unofficial shift planned long-term by the LDP; a whole generation of parents suddenly found themselves working longer and harder and by desperation turning their children’s’ schools into factories for the production of workers who could support them post-retirement, as pension guarantees seemed bound for an irreversible crisis. Elderly workers who laid-off in the crisis often found themselves on the street with no employment prospects. Among the bourgeoisie, support for privatization and the gradual wearing away of the ‘welfare state’ gained steam.
Nothing characterized the period more than speed-up. With the unification in the late 60s of train lines around the country under the JR Company and the rapid acceleration of bullet train technology, capital smoothed space towards a white plane, one with no resistance to the circulation of raw materials, labor power and surplus value. Highways brought the same changes, and inside the workplace a collapse of the labor movement ensured human beings snared in 60-70 hour weeks became the norm for full-time employees. The individual experience of labor became more and more an endless conveyor belt between home, transit and the workplace. A metropolitan factory modeled on assembly lines, bound by its very constitution, to disaster.


As an island chain along major fault lines, Japanese civilization is fraught with constant disaster. The 1995 earthquake in Kobe was only the most recent massive demonstration of the power of continental plates (5,273 people were killed, most crushed to death in the collapse of their houses or consumed by the fires that followed the earthquake, 96.3 billion dollars of damage were assessed). Earthquakes are phantoms, haunting all considerations of the future. Last December, a scandal broke in the news media; Hidetsugu Aneha, a 48 year old architect working at a construction firm called Hyuza in Tokyo had, under pressure from his superiors to cut costs on the buildings he was designing, reduced steel reinforcements in building skeletons and falsified data to cover his tracks. As his actions were uncovered and an investigation was launched by the city, it came out that the building for which design statistics had been falsified was not a lone example; the number quickly mushroomed, resulted in the implication of 78 hotels and buildings as being at 30-80% of minimal earthquake preparedness, meaning likely collapse during a strong earthquake. In his defense Aneha protested that when he raised these issues to his superiors they told him the firm would simply lose the contract to other firms if proper costs were covered, and so he must cut expenses any way he could; Aneha’s comments therefore implicate not only himself and his corporation, but the construction industry as a whole. These vast, condensed metropolises of the Japanese islands contain millions of bodies on foundations increasingly precarious, and despite the spectacular efforts by city governments at reform and revision, thousands will not survive the next earthquake (as many were killed in recent Niigata prefecture earthquakes). Capitalism has developed all formalized dwellings, all massive dormitories of the exploited that stretch from the city to suburbia, into potential coffins.
In ironic contrast stand the humble hut-dwelling day-workers of Osaka whose low-impact ‘outside dwellings’ are in no danger of killing them during a disaster.
In 1987, Japan’s nationalized train lines were divided into west and east and privatized. Adding a profit motive to trains, already circulating on the rhythm of breakneck post-Fordist Japanese capitalism, guaranteed the narrowing of bottom lines and an amplified pursuit of speed between stations. In 2005, a rush-hour train derailed between Amagasaki station and Takaradsuka station north of Osaka. The young train driver had been berated repeatedly by supervisors and his supervising senior driver to cut seven minutes off of the recommended transit time for the 25 km between these two stations. The train derailed, traveling at a tremendous speed and collided with a large apartment building, destroying part of its foundation and causing the building to collapse on top of the train car. 105 people died either instantly or before rescue workers could reach them. Unfortunately for the bureaucrats and company officials rolled out to the scene to beg apology (and for all who ride these trains) no uptake of individual responsibility for this massacre can erase the obvious but unspeakable culpability of the economy, cloud of massified instrumental necessity, which by shearing away life-time from the individual worker according to its internal pressure, must constantly flirt with cheap materials and disastrous speed. The reaction of the individual: ‘Where is my train? My son is waiting.’ gives form to this pressure. Universal demand for the reduction of transit time, born out of the stubborn intransigence of work time, pushes the trains faster and faster. The social pressure of work time against life time produces derailments, just as the concrete capitalist organization of geography ensures this acceleratory dynamic across space. Crisis is therefore implicit in the accumulated forms of capitalist working class subsumption. To which again, capital can only respond with containment.

“When the ship goes down, so too do the first class passengers… The ruling class, for its part incapable of struggling against the devil of business activity, superproduction and superconstruction for its own skin, thus demonstrates the end of its control over society, and it is foolish to expect that, in the name of a progress with its trail indicated by bloodstains, it can produce safer (trains) than those of the past…”
-Amadeo Bordiga, Murdering the Dead


During the neo-liberal wave, an expansion of ‘irregular employment’ brought about the birth of a precarious class of workers that would precede Europe’s ‘precariat’ in conditions if not consciousness. It would also create new forms of social labor that were ‘out’, roving the cities.
Inside workplaces, an increasing concentration of fixed capital within factories accompanied by off-shoring meant that Japanese government had a mostly idle labor force, steadily being undermined in its real conditions of subsistence by welfare reform, one that could be put to work in entirely new ‘service’ industries. Jobs were invented. Escalator girls, elevator girls, kyaku-hiki (customer pullers), street megaphones, flyering, etc. new ‘services’ that were above all ‘out and about’, social forms that seized forms of inter-human sociality, the tap on the shoulder, the kind holding of the elevator door, the smile, amplifying them, valorizing what had been mostly unwaged action. Population shifts led to the unavoidable importation of foreign labor, causing a gradual cosmopolitanization that has thrown the idea of a ‘Japanese’ identity into crisis, while also strengthening reactionary ideologies that take strength from it. The growth of an English education industry brought thousands of temporary workers to Japan, and with them, historical methods of class struggle that clashed strongly with Japanese welfare state compromises of the 70s and 80s. As capitalists continually sought to preclude the ability of foreign labor to organize itself, the workplace form quickly dissolved from private schools to dispatch offices, private lessons in libraries, citizen halls, cafes everywhere. In a unique way, this foreign labor also became ‘out’, dislocated, social.

To contain these new socialities arising across old geographies, the police and city planners are continuously at work. In late 2003, the already barricaded and privatized Tennoji Park in Osaka was invaded by 300 riot police who had come to evict what was known as the ‘karaoke village’, a large area of the park taken over by karaoke carts, venders and crooners, gathering point for hundreds of day-workers daily who belted out song classics after work. For forty years the plaza was a hot-spot, even tourist attraction known as the ‘soul of Osaka’, a musical space occupied by the downtrodden, who sunk into song and drink, dulling the pain, remembering more riotous times. In December 2003 the riot police moved in and barricaded the park for ‘construction purposes’. Vendors and crooners showed up in hundreds to watch the demolition and vent their rage. Barricades were thrown at the police, but the disobedients were quickly arrested. There would be no repeat of October 1990. All that is left of the karaoke village now is a steel fence, wrapping a completely empty lot. The park is silent.

Osaka city now plans a wave of evictions of squatters from parks all over its map. The first of the year is already underway in mid-city, and the park’s residents are crouched down, preparing to resist the riot squads. The proletarians of Osaka’s wards must learn the lessons of the past: against the brutal technological barricades of the riot police, surveillance and containment, they must adapt an improvised, mobile capability. The riots around Clichy-sous-bois provide a possible source of inspiration, totally mobile, skirmish-based attack, no commitments, no demands as such. No gathering points and thus no encirclement, no containment. Also in question is how social space can be re-worked and decelerated, how an autonomous space can develop against the crushing weight of capitalism, while simultaneously understanding its own limitations, how we might ‘help ourselves’ to a future that doubtlessly awaits us if we seek it. The strange new crisis-ridden social geographies of post-fordist capitalism offer gates for the fleeing proletariat, which now finds itself everywhere.


1 It was revealed earlier that week that the police chief in Nishinari had been taking bribes from Yakuza gangs for a variety of ‘favors’.
2 Except for the Yakuza gangs who had all run away from the scene.
3 The information sharing grid between media, yakuza and government is well known in most parts of the islands.
4 Some of these older workers had cut their teeth on the anti-Yakuza struggles of the 1980s in Tokyo’s Sanya district, some who were ex-members of militant groups like the red army, some who had served prison time for throwing bombs at police in the 60s. Incidentally, the Kamagasaki revolt was a big inspiration for Otomo Katsuhiro’s Akira.
5 NGO workers can now be seen every day on the winding employment lines, monitoring workers with friendly armbands that say ‘safety patrol’!
6 Some hut plots in the autonomous parks have gorgeous gardens growing in them, in one case an occupant had improvised a permaculture system, with over-arching grape vines shading greens below and tomatoes flanking.
7 Many factory jobs were also shipped to East Asia at this time.
8 One phenomenon that may offer inspiration on this point: in Tennoji park, the same park that has been fenced and barricaded, robbed of most autonomy, two homeless men living in the lower part of the park have set out before their home five comfortable leather chairs, apparently open to anyone to sit in, chat or play go. The path on which these men live and on which their chairs are situated is a vital walking path for commuters, who everyday gaze curiously or longingly at these lounging non-workers, these jesters of the free community.

URL to article: http://datacide.c8.com/you-must-help-yourself/

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30 septembre 2012 7 30 /09 /septembre /2012 04:21


Je commence ici une petite description des plus importants typhons à avoir touché Osaka au XXe siècle.


En ajoutant d’autres informations trouvées sur internet, je m’inspire principalement de la plaquette en anglais que j’ai reçue lors de ma visite de la « Tsunami/Storm Surge Disater Prevention Station » (津波・高潮ステーショ), un petit musée gratuit d’Osaka dont je recommande la visite ; ce n’est pas très loin du parc Utsubo. 



(PS : je recommande l’article Wikipédia Cyclone tropical pour comprendre ce qu’est un typhon, et pourquoi ça s’appelle ainsi au Japon).



21/9/1934 : Typhon Muroto (室戸台)[1] 

Autre nom: 関西風水 (Kansai Fuusuigai)

Dans la Préfecture d’Osaka, on compte 17.898 morts ou blessés, 166.720 maisons inondées. En tout, 4.921 hectares y furent submergés. La pression atmosphérique atteignit 912 hPa, la plus haute jamais enregistrée au monde à l’époque. La marée fut 4.20 m plus haute que la normale. Les vents atteignirent 42 m/sec. Les eaux atteignirent le château d’Osaka. Il y eut beaucoup de victimes dans les écoles construites en bois par rapport à celles construites en béton.



Dégats au sanctuaire Shitennoji

(Source : Wikimedia Commons)




Toujours le sanctuaire Shitennoji

(Source : http://www.oldphotosjapan.com/en/photos/9/osaka-1880s-shitennoji-temple)



A ship sent ashore
at the Osaka Chikko
Harbor by the Muroto
Typhoon In September 21,

(Source: http://www.geocities.jp/general_sasaki/bridge-akashi-eng.html)



Damage caused to Osaka Port by the devastating Muroto Typhoon of September 21, 1934 (Showa 9). Some 3,036 people died or went missing.”

Source: http://www.meijishowa.com/photography/650/70307-0007-muroto-typhoon  (2 autres photos de la catastrope à Osaka) 






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23 septembre 2012 7 23 /09 /septembre /2012 04:46
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