Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Forgotten Ghetto & Red Light District (Osaka)

Whoever makes a ghetto visit a part of their itinerary in Japan??? Lol!  It was my last day in and I just made Brian try the delicious okonomiyaki I kept raving to him about in Osaka station.  My afternoon schedule was free and open since I didn't want to cram anything before my flight out from Nagoya that night.  But when Brian asked me to see the homeless people of Osaka, I just couldn't say no.  

Of course, nobody makes a ghetto neighborhood a part of their itinerary when they travel but I was just too much curious how the homeless street of the world's second biggest economy such as Japan looks like.

The place is called Kamagasaki, officially known as Airin-chiku (in an attempt of the government to improve its crime-ridden image - about 24 riots had happened since 1961).  A few websites also cited that Kamagasaki is not even found on any official maps of Osaka.  

I did notice that the place is home to aging inhabitants - dominated by men above 40.  My research informed me that during postwar when there was a boom in construction, many laborers flocked here for labor opportunities.  However during the economic bubble burst, a lot of these laborers never left despite the troughs in the construction industry.  Despite the fewer job opportunities, a lot of these old men line up patiently waiting for the next job to some construction sites by the Labor Welfare Center or some other jobs provided by the Yakuza.  (I didn't understood then what the old men were queueing up for, only after a few reading before I wrote this!)

They have a grim situation alright but the people are friendly, smiling at us (or maybe it was just to Brian alone) while I smile back weakly as I grip on tightly to his arms. Lol!  

Found on the east side of the main Kamagasaki area is the prostitution district of Osaka called Tobita Shinchi.  When Brian said that we might have an encounter with a yakuza (the place is rumored to be controlled by them), I got really very scared especially that there was a car who seemed to follow us around. Yaaaayyy!!! 

Say you're someone who just so happened to innocently pass by the area, you will actually fall for the architectural charm of the place.  The buildings with their wooden carvings just above the entrance hall and with traditional lanterns shows how the city is one of Osaka's best preserved area.  However, these establishments are actually registered as "restaurants" since prostitution is of course illegal in Japan.  And if you peer inside these "restaurants", you'll find a girl in a white lingerie seated on a raised platform while an old woman waves to beckon customers.  My gosh, it was a very awkward experience for me.  I don't know much about these things, it's just weird that they operate at that time of the day and I was very scared that of course they wouldn't know that Brian is interested in getting a service because of course what would I be doing with him then? Lol!  Brian said that photograph is strictly prohibited but I just couldn't taking one discreetly for blogging purposes. =))

So what else did we find in this area?  Hmmm, Brian also introduced me to this cheap grocery store called Super Tamade.  I was able to buy chocolates for my co-workers here. Hehe. :)

The second-hand shops.  Hmm when I was a kid, I'd often hear stories how you can just pick gadgets off the streets of Japan - televisions, radio, etc.  But they actually sell it here. And I made note of the prices, they're same as the brand new ones I think. Haha!

Further walking led us to this place called Shinsekai, a popular place downtown where you can find izakayas, pleasure haunts and the Tsutenkaku tower - a symbol of Osaka built to resemble the Eiffel tower in Paris.

After taking a few jumpshots (with Brian asking what is a jumpshot lol!), off we go back to Osaka station to catch  my flight which is all the way from Nagoya airport.  Lol! Tell you more about it on the next posts.  I just had to share this late #traveltuesday post with Brian as he is coming back next week to visit me here in Manila! Yay! =)

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