Local Anger as Expo Targets Wealthy: This Week in Osaka March 15th to 22nd 2024

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.

Expo Organizers Enrage Local Populace with Focus on Wealthy

Like its much-maligned mascot Myaku-Myaku, many local citizens call the 2025 Expo a monstrous waste of money.

Once again it seems that Osaka’s troubled 2025 Expo has caused a local outrage. Citizens in Osaka reacted with fury this week at the news that the Expo’s organizers launched a campaign to target affluent travelers. Travel company representatives from a host of Southeast Asian nations attended a 5 day tour touting rural areas to visit alongside the Expo itself.

The stated goal of the event was to attract wealthy Southeast Asian travelers. Taken in isolation this seems innocuous. However, against the backdrop of an Expo that has already alienated many local residents with its pricing and its spiraling budget, this isn’t a good look.

Also, the tour was organized and financed by the Kansai Branch of the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry. So, Expo skeptics among the local citizenry also raised the question of how much public money this exercise used. Overall, this seems to be yet another avoidable match being thrown on the unrelenting gasoline fire that is Osaka Expo 2025.


Amid Local Anger, Ministry Touts Economic Benefits

Last year’s Amazing Thailand festival encouraged Osaka residents to visit Thailand. The Ministry of Trade now hopes the opposite also applies.

Despite strong local opposition, the Kansai Bureau of the Ministry pushed the economic benefits of the tour this week. Statistics showed that Thailand especially has shown considerable growth in Kansai’s tourism industry in recent times.

Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, which decimated Osaka’s tourism industry, 2019 welcomed a record 1.3 million visitors to the region from Thailand. By last year, this number rebounded to just over 1 million. The ministry believes that, using the Expo as an attractor, they could break the 1.3 million record in 2025.

The ministry and Expo organizers still face an uphill struggle, however, to improve the events international image. Just one year ahead of the planned opening, travel agency HIS, the primary seller of tickets to visitors from outside Japan acknowledged that sales had been “slow.”

An HIS spokesperson said: “We occasionally receive international calls regarding the Expo, but tickets are not selling well.” Osaka Expo 2025 runs from April until September next year.

Local Icon Put Out to Pasture

The “cursed” Colonel Sanders statue, shorty after its 2009 recovery.

The 39 year odyssey of one of Osaka’s most famous statues finally came to an end this week. Representatives of fast food chain KFC confirmed that the famous statute of Colonel Sanders, the company’s founder, has been disposed of.

Many KFC around the world have similar images of the Colonel, in his white suit, outside their restaurants. However, this particular statue held great reverence in Osaka. The statue originally stood outside a KFC restaurant in the city’s Dotombori waterfront area.

In 1985, jubilant fans of baseball side The Hanshin Tigers, threw the statue into the Dotombori Canal whilst celebrating the Tigers Japan Series win. This led to the infamous “Curse of the Colonel.” Amidst a series of close-run disappointments, The Tigers didn’t win another championship until 2023. Many fans blamed the loss of the statue bearing the Colonel’s visage for this run of bad luck. However, the statue was actually recovered from the canal in 2009. Since then, the statue, minus its left hand and glasses which were lost in the water, has played a part in a series of promotional campaigns and photo ops.

However, following a ritual to cleanse it at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine this week, the statue has now been destroyed. The Hanshin Tigers, meanwhile, have high hopes going into the new season.

And Finally…

Takerufuji in action earlier this week.

The title of Grand Champion at Osaka’s Annual Sumo Tournament looks to be heading to an unlikely recipient. In a surprising turn of events, newcomer Takerufuji recorded his 11th straight victory on Wednesday. This puts him 2 wins clear of this closest rival with the tournament set to conclude this weekend.

The last time any debuting sumo recorded such a streak in the sport’s top tier was in 1960. The debutant at that time was Taiho, who went on to become one of sumo’s most decorated Yokozuna. Takerufuji has the chance to not only wrap up the title in the next two days, but also to surpass Taiho’s record debut winning streak. However, he still has quite a way to go to equal the legendary grand champion’s 32 Emperor’s Cup wins.

That being said, the young Maegashira’s fledgling career in Sumo’s top division is off to a great start.

That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!


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