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
PM Backtracks on Handout Framework
A government scheme to help children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic faced revisions this week. After drawing considerable flak from both citizens and political opponents, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced changes to his stimulus plan on Wednesday.
Previously, the government planned to distribute the 100,000 yen per child handout with a mix of cash and vouchers.
However, with Osaka’s own local government officials joining the chorus of criticism, Kishida changed tack this week.
To make things simpler, the handout will instead come as a one-off cash payment. It is, in most respects, similar to the 100,000 yen handout given to every resident of Japan back in spring 2020. However, this time, only families with children are eligible.
In Osaka, however, the plan was met with, at best, a tepid response.
Handout “Potentially Chaotic” According to Opinions
Citizens were near universal in their condemnation of the plan, for a number of reasons.
One Chuo Ward resident remarked: “I am so sick of this government thinking that they can solve all our problems by just throwing money at us. All another handout does is delay the problems, not solve them.
“What we need is root and branch reform of society, so that people feel empowered to make more money and do better for themselves.”
Another resident, from Minato Ward, was more cutting in her response. She said: “I don’t have any kids, so does that mean my financial health doesn’t matter to them?”
However, a parent I spoke too from Nishinari ward was more pragmatic. She commented: “It doesn’t fix the problem. But since I’m trying to balance working and raising two kids, the money will help.”
Politicians from a number of parties rallied together to force the PM to back down from his original plan. With most local governments still struggling to maintain social distancing protocols amidst an ongoing vaccine roll-out, the last thing they need is more paperwork to deal with. The debate remains open as to whether another cash handout is what’s needed. However, giving the handouts as a single payment, deposited into recipients’ bank accounts makes things a whole lot easier and limits the danger of viral spread.
Lab Makes Covid-19 Hamster Discovery
The ongoing covid-19 pandemic took another interesting twist this week in Osaka. Scientists working out of a laboratory in Kashihara City, Nara, discovered that hamsters of all things, could help in the fight against the virus.
Tannin from persimmon fruit, one of Japan’s most populous fruits, may, according to researchers, provoke an anti-viral response.
The lab in Kashihara tested the saliva of a group of hamsters infected with covid-19. Half of the group were given a highly concentrated dose of persimmon tannin.
Those without the tannin showed a far higher viral load, 3 days after infection. Also, none of the hamsters who took the tannin went on to develop pneumonia. All those in the other half of the group showed a high viral load and developed pneumonia.
The results of the research pave the way for human trials. It remains to be seen if persimmon tannin can be harvested to treat the virus in humans. However, in an ever evolving pandemic situation, every little helps.
After decades of loyal service, the trains that patrol Osaka’s ChuoLine will finally get a 21st century facelift.
Japan Railways unveiled designs this week for the futuristic new trains, which will debut in Osaka in mid-2023.
The trains’ unveiling is part of wider preparations across the city for the World Expo later that same year.
In addition to their octagonal design, the new carriages are made of aluminum, making them considerably lighter than their predecessors. In the fullness of time, this will also translate to greater efficiency and fuel conservation.
The new design will no doubt meet with the approval of taller residents. One notable absentee from the new trains is the advertising boards which hang from the ceiling in current carriages. For those over 180 cm tall, like myself, these boards always seem to hang just around the perfect level to cause a nasty eye injury!
Another safety boost comes in the form of a wider and longer glass frontage on the driver’s cabin. This will afford train drivers a wider view of what lies ahead on the track. One hopes this could also limit “human accidents” on the line. The wider viewing area should allow drivers to respond quicker to anything or anyone that blocks the line.
The trains will service the new Metro station currently under construction on the island of Yumeshima, Konohana Ward. Many of the World Expo’s events will take place there. Accordingly, the Chuo line will also be extended to service this new stop.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!