Each week, here at Osaka.com, we bring you a selection of some of the top stories about Osaka making the local and national news here in Japan. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always direct to you, from Osaka.
Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.
Table of Contents
Cost Increase Draws Public Ire
The Osaka World Expo is still a little under 3 years away. However, controversy continues to dog the festival this week. The Osaka pavilion, the planned centerpiece of the expo looks set to cost the public even more than previously forecast.
When the plans for the Osaka Pavillion first emerged the cost figure given in government analyses stood at 7.3 billion yen. This equates to roughly 50 million US dollars. However, a reassessment earlier this year increased the cost estimate to 10 billion yen, or 69 million US dollars.
Unfortunately, the cost of the Osaka pavilion continues to spiral out of control.
A new estimate published this week, now puts the cost at 11.5 billion yen or 80 million US dollars. As we highlighted in last week’s story about increasing poverty in Osaka, this seems like an additional cost the public can ill afford at this time.
Cost Surge Linked to Elaborate Roof Design
A visibly frustrated Hirofumi Yoshimura was left red-faced this week. The Osaka governor reassured the public as recently as last month that the cost of the pavilion would not exceed 10 billion yen. However, this week’s new cost revelation forced the governor into an embarrassing backtrack on that pledge. He now says that was a “rough estimate” not a fixed cost. However, in typically cynical political style, the Osaka Assembly this week pointed the blame squarely at a construction firm for the cost increase.
The root cause of the cost increase lies in the triangular glass panels that will form the structure’s intricate vaulted ceiling. Material costs have indeed soared in this regard in recent months. However, in their defence, Takenaka Corp, the firm given the responsibility of building the structure, said they had told the prefectural government in advance that the cost could reach 13 billion yen.
In any case, as the blame game bounces back and forth, the biggest losers in all this will once again be the Osaka public. Polling in the city consistently shows that most citizens view the Expo as a needless vanity project. They believe the cost to the city’s coffers does not match any perceived benefits in tourism or international business opportunities.
Tourists Return to Osaka, Hotels Rejoice
As of October 11th, Osaka is well and truly open for business once again. The last of the central government’s restrictions on inbound travelers to Japan ended this week. As a result, Kansai Airport saw a surge in new arrivals this week. Osaka City’s hotspots such as Dotombori and Umeda once again sported a host of new, foreign faces in the crowds.
Additionally, for those of us already in Japan, the government also launched a new domestic tourism incentive scheme this week. The scheme offers discounts to travelers on both train fares and accommodation at selected venues. The scheme covers a wide range of hotels and other businesses in the greater Osaka area. Analysts view it as a sequel of sorts to the short-lived “Go To Travel” scheme. This previous initiative closed prematurely in somewhat chaotic circumstances after the increase in tourist numbers led directly to a massive spike in Covid-19 infections around the new year holidays.
However, with 4th doses of vaccine now in full flow, and numbers across the country on the decline, hopes remain high that, this time, the government will get it right. Time will tell if this turns out to be the case.
Osaka saw widespread reports of a wildcat sighting in the city center this week. Don’t panic though, the animal in question is a harmless, though spectacular 3D image. The huge leopard forms part of a new advertising installation at the shopping mall directly above JR Osaka Station. At 3 meters high and 11 meters wide, the installation dwarfs most other advertising boards in the area.
A number of ads show on the board throughout the day. However, the leopard appears every 3 minutes or so, striking a variety of both aggressive and playful poses. At times, the huge, lifelike image seems as if it will leap out of the board right at stunned passers-by. Despite this, the leopard proved a big hit with social media commenters in Osaka this week.
West Japan Marketing Communications, the company responsible for the installation expressed hopes that the leopard may, in time, become a popular meeting spot in the city. Given the well known love many Japanese have for cats, few would be surprised if these predictions came true.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of This Week in Osaka!