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
Organizers Fear Failure as Expo Problems Continue
Osaka’s embattled plans to host the World Expo in 2025 faced further problems this week. Already deemed a commercial failure by some, the event continues to struggle to attract exhibitors.
Initially, around 150 countries committed to some form of involvement with the event. However, as of this week, all but two of them of have failed to submit firm plans for their pavilions. So far, only South Korea and the Czech Republic have completely the draft submission process.
This fueled further anxiety amongst both critics and advocates of the expo this week, of the impending failure to complete several of the main pavilions before the event opens.
Currently, the Expo is set to open to the public in spring 2025. However, issues over pricing, a lack of clarity over what exactly people are paying to see, and a general feeling among the public that this is a vanity project and a waste of money continue to dog preparations.
To his credit, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura at least acknowledged the failure to keep on schedule. He said this week. “Some people point out that the construction of the pavilions has not gone as planned.
“We have to say that’s true.”
Failure Attributed to Multiple Factors
Osaka Expo organizers have pointed to a number of different variables as reason for their failure to stay on schedule. It is indeed true that there is a well-documented shortage of construction workers in Osaka, and across Japan as a whole at the moment. The central government wishes to loosen immigration rules to accommodate for more foreign labor. However, the more conservative elements of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party continue to oppose such plans. On the other side of the political spectrum, the likes of the Japanese Communist Party continue to raise concerns about the treatment of foreign workers and respect for their human rights.
Additionally, experts cited material costs as another reason for the seeming failure to move the expo preparations forward. Again, there is some truth to this. The ongoing unrest caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the continuing trade war between China and the US, has impacted not only fuel prices, but the cost of building materials too.
However, organizers remain resolute that they will overcome this problems.
One spokesperson said: “Simply put, failure is not an option. We are going to show the Osaka to the world, proudly, publicly and on-time.”
It remains to be seen if this somewhat optimistic appraisal of the current situation ultimately plays out.
Local Government Embarrassed Over Failure to Recover Lost Funds
Heading to the bank on payday and finding a whole lot more money in your account than expected is a dream for most of us. However, for one individual in Settsu City, Osaka Prefecture, this became a reality. Of course, there is no such thing as free money, and the source of this man’s new found wealth caused considerable embarrassment for his local government.
A simple administrative error in April 2018, led to one Settsu resident receiving 10 times his entitlement in a tax rebate. The man was entitled to a rebate of 1.6 million yen. However, the administrator put through a payment for 16.6 million yen instead.
It’s amazing the difference an extra zero can make.
Settsu authorities realized the error initially back in October of 2019. However, when they contacted the resident to demand he repay the money he said simply: “I can’t, I already spent it.”
The Osaka District Court sided with the Settsu Municipal Government in late 2022. In their ruling, they ordered the resident did, indeed, have to repay the full 15 million yen or so excess payment.
In response, the man filed for bankruptcy. This was formalized last month.
Settsu City finally announced this week, their failure to recover most of the money.
“We expect to receive about 5.5 million yen in return,” a spokesperson said. “However, we will not be able to recover the full amount.”
The mayor of Settsu and his deputy will carry the can for this failure. Both will face a 20% salary cut for the next 3 months, for their “moral responsibility” over the mishap.
Osaka’s economic rebound from the pandemic continues to gather pace. Thankfully however, the collective waistlines of the city’s residents have started to contract once again. A report issued this week by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance showed that for the first time since the beginning of 2020, the number of people reporting weight gain declined. Respondents to the survey said they felt more positive about going out and engaging in physical activity since the government downgraded Covid-19 earlier this year. However, the genesis of this trend actually goes back to 2020. Many respondents said they initially took up regular exercise during the height of the pandemic. They cited anxiety about obesity as a possible complicating factor in fatal covid cases.
The covid-19 pandemic inflicted a great deal of pain and loss across the world. However, in Japan at least, one of its lasting impacts seems to be that people now have a greater awareness of their own well-being.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!