Shinsekai


Shinsekai

Shinsekai (新世界), "New World" in English, is an old neighbourhood located next to south Osaka City's downtown "Minami" area. Despite its negative image and commonly-held reputation as Osaka's most dangerous area, Shinsekai boasts a colourful history and unique identity. At the beginning of the 20th century the neighbourhood flourished as a local tourist attraction showcasing the city's modern image. The centrepiece of the neighbourhood was Tsutenkaku Tower (the tower reaching to heaven), which took it's inspiration from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Whether the stigma surrounding Shinsekai is deserved is open to debate. Many Osakans claim to be afraid to step foot in the area. The travel guide Lonely Planet Japan, warns visitors to "keep their wits about them" as this (Shinsekai) may be the "closest thing in Japan to a dangerous neighbourhood". However, Shinsekai's status as a dangerous area owes much to criminal activity that flourished in the decades before the 1990s. Continuing the area's chequered fortunes of recent years, in place of rampant criminality, Osaka's large permanent settlement of homeless has taken root in the areas around Shinsekai. Homeless men, often elderly, from all over Japan come to Osaka to escape the stigma of hometown societal shame and wander the streets around the area. The neighbourhood is also home to a large presence of prostitutes and a concentration Osaka's transvestite community.

However, though its elements of seediness and destitution are often high-lighted, Shinsekai is also home to a large number of legitimate business outlets. It is the scene of low-cost restaurants, cheap clothing stores, a few cinemas, shogi and mahjong clubs, and pachinko parlors.

Shinsekai has a few fugu (blowfish) restaurants, but the neighbourhood's real culinary forte is kushi-katsu. The neighbourhood abounds with cramped kushi-katsu restaurants offering various kinds of meat, fish, and vegetables all breaded and deep fried on small sticks for around 150 yen each.

Shinsekai sits next to Tennoji Zoo, Tennoji Park, and the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, to the east. To the south is Spa World and Festival Gate. The former is a spa featuring kitschy rooms decorated with the intention of resembling spas around the world. It is a great place to relax or lay out if you miss the last train as it is open all night, though perhaps it falls short of its stated desire to emulate the authentic spa experiences from around the world. Festival Gate was an attempt to create a compact amusement park to rejuvenate Osaka's most run-down area. Regrettably, instead of trying to blend the park into Shinsekai, its construction resulted in virtually barricading it from the surrounding neighborhood. It remained open for nearly 7 years but in February 2004, a joint-venture behind the operation went into bankruptcy, effectively shutting down the complex for the most part. As an amusement space, it was no match for nearby Universal Studios Japan, which opened in 2002. In early 2008,the city began calling for tenders from prospective buyers, although by this point, only a crepe shop adjoining Spa World was the only business still operating in the empty complex.

The top of Tsutenkaku Tower provides a panoramic and unobstructed view of Osaka.

Access

* JR-West Loop Line, Shinimamiya Station, East Exit (10 minute walk)
* Nankai Railway, Main Line, Shinimamiya Station, East Exit (10 minute walk)
* Nankai Railway, Koya Line, Shinimamiya Station, East Exit (10 minute walk)
* Sakaisuji Subway Line (brown line), Ebisucho Station, Exit 3 (3 minute walk)
* Midosuji Subway Line (red line), Dobutsuenmae Station, Exit 5 (10 minute walk)
* Hankai Tramway, Hankai Line, Ebisucho Station (3 minute walk)

External links

* [http://www.shinsekai.ne.jp/en/rekishi/ History of Shinsekai]
* [http://www.geocities.jp/general_sasaki/Shinsekai-and-tsuutenkaku.html Shinsekai and Tsutenkaku] Article by Hiroaki Sasaki, tour guide
* [http://www.japanfile.com/culture_and_society/history/Shin-Sekai.shtml Pleasures of Shinsekai] Article from Kansai Time-out


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