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
Serial Store Thieves Caught
A gang of thieves who targeted shops in Osaka and across Japan were detained this week. Police in Fukuoka arrested two men and two women. They stand accused of stealing more than 5,000 items, from dozens of Uniqlo shops over a 5 year period. The 4 suspects hail from Vietnam but were based in Japan for most of the time in question.
Police also issued a warrant for a woman currently living in Vietnam. They believe she may have been the architect of the string of shop thefts. The total value of items stolen has been pegged at around 20 million yen.
Police sources confirmed that the suspects have admitted to two counts of theft and one count of house-breaking. They claimed that financial difficulties compelled them to steal from the shops.
Self-Checkouts made Store a Prime Target
According to police investigations thus far, the gang specifically targeted stores in Japan due to their perceived lax security. The prevalence of self-checkout cash registers allegedly made thefts easier in Japan than in the gang’s native Vietnam.
Self-checkouts negate the need for staff to be present at each register, making sneaking past them far easier than conventional store checkouts.
Recovery of the items is unlikely. Investigations suggest that most of them have already been sold on Vietnamese online shopping sites. In recent years, the Uniqlo brand expanded its presence in Vietnam with the opening of several new stores. However, store prices are high for consumers due to Vietnam’s lower average wages. This has, in turn, created a burgeoning black market in items taken from Uniqlo stores.
Further arrests are possible as the investigation continues. Although they were arrested in Kyushu, evidence collected shows the majority of store thefts took place in Osaka. Police from Osaka and Tokyo continue to cooperate with their Fukuoka counterparts as the case builds.
More Pain in Store for Expo Organizers as Costs Surge Yet Again
The estimated operating costs of Osaka’s 2025 Expo jumped a further 40% this week, event leaders announced.
In a media briefing earlier this week, Expo Chairman Masakazu Tokura said that labor costs were the primary cause of this further financial drain. This brings the total estimated operating costs for the event, due to kick off in April next year, to a whopping 116 billion yen.
Tokura expressed optimism however that the monies would be recovered. “We estimate we will bring in 97 billion yen from ticket sales, and the remainder from other sources.”
He declined to comment when asked what exactly these “other sources” are.
In his statement, Tokura also brushed aside concerns that excessive spending on the Expo could hamper relief efforts for victims of January 1st’s Noto Earthquake.
Experts said that demand for building materials for the Expo could push up prices for those same materials in Noto. Again, Tokura declined to give specifics, simply saying that his organization will “advance preparations for the Expo in a way that will not affect disaster recovery.”
Meanwhile disillusioned residents of Osaka wonder what lies in store next for an event that just seems to stagger from one crisis to another.
“I just don’t see the point in this,” said one exasperated Chuo Ward resident. “I certainly won’t go and nobody I know plans to go either. They are hopelessly optimistic when they say they plan to bring in 97 billion from ticket sales.”
Another resident was more brutally direct in their assessment. “It’s simply too expensive and we still don’t really know what we are paying for. I’ll take the kids to USJ instead.”
Osaka’s premier gaming developer, Capcom asked for fan feedback this week. The developer of the hugely successful Street Fighter and Resident Evil games series’ asked fans on their “captown” website which games they want to see Capcom work on next. Many fans simply want more Resident Evil and Street Fighter. However, a number of fans also want the developer to revisit beloved franchises of yesteryear, with current-gen technologies.
Franchises like Onimusha, which hasn’t seen a new game since 2006, and Strider, which last graced consoles in 2014, remain popular among fans. Meanwhile, rumors continue to circulate that Resident Evil 9 will be announced any day now.
Whatever Capcom has in store for fans over the next few years, fans remain upbeat and hopeful, as Osaka’s favourite game company continues to go from strength to strength.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!