Osaka’s west side story by Eric Johnston, Japan Times, 2004
Indeed, Osaka is a pretty gritty city. Think commerce and industry. Think working-class. Walk down almost any street here and count the small warehouses and mom and pop businesses. Go for a run or walk in the early morning and expect to share the sidewalk with people headed to work. Drive a friend to the international airport KIX and pass by industrial scenes worthy of a Mad Max movie.
In Paris I orient myself around the metro stations. In Osaka I use the canals. This map of my neighborhood is from the Meiji period and, yes, the canals are still there as are many others around the city.
|1877 (Meiji 10) Map of Osaka: 1. Nagahori; 2. Shinsaibashi; 3. Dotonbori; 4. Ebisubashi from http://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/82/dotonbori-ebisubashi#.WUMH6GjyjIU|
Is Osaka a beautiful city? Not if you're looking for old architecture. Old Osaka and her inhabitants were heavily bombed by the United States (my country of origin) in 1945 and once they put out the fires and buried the dead, this is what was left:
But they rebuilt and the result is an interesting city. I run and walk the streets here at all hours and I am never ever bored. People nod and say "Good morning." They seem amused by this middle-aged American out running in the heat (or the cold). And I in turn watch them. The very attractive and well-muscled young Japanese man bidding farewell and bowing to a a lithe and lovely lady of the evening.
And then there are green spaces which are all the more magnificent for being relatively rare. There is Osaka Castle, Nagai and Nakonoshima parks and there is not a week that goes by where I don't walk one of them. And, finally, there is Utsubo Park which is a jewel with trees and paths and a rose garden so beautiful that it breaks my heart. Here, too, its existence owes something to an earlier, deadlier time: it was constructed on the site of a former U.S. army airfield. Today, it is quiet and green and has fountains and streams.
I will leave you today with a few pictures of my last visit. Bon weekend, everyone.