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
70% Price Hike for Tourist Passes Leaves Customers and Businesses Confused, Angry
Osaka’s business community reacted with a mix of anger and distress at an announcement from Japan Railways this week. The Rail Network owners announced a massive price increase for their flagship Japan Rail Pass. The pass is only available to tourists, not residents of Japan. As of October 1st, the most popular pass, the 14 day unlimited travel pass, will almost double in price. The previous, longstanding price for the 14 day pass was 47,250 yen. However, the new price, for the same pass, is 80,000 yen.
JR senior management used the “weak yen” and “surging post-pandemic demand as justification for the huge price hike.
However, local business owners and members of the public are unimpressed. In Osaka this week, a city which relies more on tourism income than most other parts of Japan, JR faced allegations of price gouging and corporate greed.
Price Increase Has Implications Far Beyond Train Fares
One Osaka resident, who owns a restaurant in Nishi Ward said: “I get that the price may have to go up now and again, but this is crazy. How can you justify charging 70% more for exactly the same product?”
He continued “Honestly, I think this will hurt my business and many others like me who depend on visitors from abroad. The majority of tourists to Japan enter through Tokyo. Osaka is 3 hours away, even by Shinkansen. Before, the price seemed reasonable, since if you made 2 or more round trips from Tokyo, the ticket basically paid for itself already.
“JR are playing a dangerous game here. If I suddenly announced that the price of a bowl of ramen in my place was going to go up by 70%, customers would, rightly, expect a much bigger portion.
Perhaps the business owner’s final point was the most salient. He concluded:
“It’s never a good business strategy to increase price without adding value for the customer.”
Unfortunately, so long as demand for the pass remains high, it seems unlikely JR will reverse this price increase anytime soon.
The Price of Bullying Hits Home with Shocking New Figures
Bullying is a horrific, yet some would say inevitable part of school life. However, according to statistics announced this week, an increasing number of kids in Osaka, and across Japan have reached their breaking point.
Across elementary and junior high schools nationally, the number of students taking long term absence (30 days or more) increased by 22%. The figure was 18% in Osaka. Anxiety and lethargy, common symptoms for bullying victims, were cited reasons in more than 50% of reported cases. There was also a worrying spike in reported instances of online bullying. The national figure of 23,920 represented a 30% increase on last year.
However there may be a silver lining in all this. Experts have cited the rise in reported cases as a sign that more and more students are speaking out about bullying and no longer suffering in silence.
Osaka has tried a number of different anti-bullying initiatives over the years, Unfortunately, the inability of teachers to adequately penalize bad behavior in the classroom or exclude disruptive students, remains a major roadblock to serious progress. The Education Ministry’s somewhat obtuse interpretation of Japan’s constitution means that teachers cannot single out students in any way. This renders most common forms of individual discipline utilized in other countries functionally useless.
Rugby fever continues to grip Osaka this week, as fans look forward to the thrilling climax of the 2023 Rugby World Cup group stages. Despite an earlier loss to tournament heavyweights England, Japan remain in contention for a quarter final place. Victory over Argentina on Sunday night will guarantee the Brave Blossoms a place in the last 8 for the second tournament in a row. The Argentine Pumas will be no pushovers however. They gave England a rough time in their opening fixture, and will look to utilize their speedy wingers and powerful forwards against what has, at times, looked like a vulnerable Japanese defense. However, fans in and around Osaka remain hopeful this week that once again, Japan will emerge triumphant.
One fan, who lives near Hanazono Stadium, Osaka’s premier rugby venue, said: “We beat Ireland and Scotland 4 years ago. Both of those teams are better than Argentina.
“Our biggest strength is teamwork. If we all work together and move the ball well, we will win.”
Considering that Scotland need a minor miracle against Ireland in their last match to go through, this reporter hopes Japan will maintain his interest in the tournament beyond the group stages.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!
A note from the writer:
Thank you for once again joining us for this week’s Osaka News round-up. If you’ll indulge me, I have a small favor to ask of you all.
October is mental health awareness month in several countries across the globe. As many will be aware, mental health provision remains a very difficult issue in Japan. So, in conjuction with the Australia based charity The Black Dog Institute, I have pledged to walk 300km over the course of this month to raise money for mental health care provision. I am a mental health survivor, as are several of my family and friends. I am honored to support this cause, and I hope you can too.
For more information, please visit my fundraising homepage.
Even the smallest amount can make a big difference.
Thank you, and stay safe everyone.