This Week in Osaka: June 27th to July 3rd 2020

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Each week, here at Osaka.com, we will 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

Human Vaccine Trials Begin in Osaka

Could Osaka be the first place in Japan to produce a working Covid vaccine?

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that the biochemical firm Anges Inc was set to begin human trials of their vaccine for the Covid-19 Novel Coronavirus, which this week claimed its 500,000th victim worldwide.

Well, the last of the regulatory hurdles was cleared this week, as the Osaka based start-up announced on Wednesday that the human trials had begun.

For the initial trial, 30 volunteers will be injected with the vaccine. To test the effectiveness and probable required dosage of the vaccine, the subjects will be divided into two groups of 15, with one of these groups receiving two doses of the vaccine, while the other receives just one.

Whilst there are currently several dozen vaccine candidates in development globally, the Anges vaccine is one of the first to make it into human clinical trials.

Given the worldwide nature of the pandemic, it is highly likely that multiple vaccines will be required to ensure everyone is covered.

This particular vaccine has passed in a mere matter of weeks, stages that in many cases can take years to meet regulatory approval.

This is largely down to the fact that, working in conjunction with Osaka University, who will also oversee the human trials, this vaccine candidate is based on DNA, rather than on utilizing a dead or inert version of the virus, as is the case with other typical vaccines.

The science behind this new vaccine may be cutting edge, but it also quite remarkably simple.

The DNA-based vaccine encourages your body to produce “spike proteins” like those seen on the outer layers of a Coronavirus. In essence, this “tricks” your body’s immune system into thinking the virus is already in your body, causing your body’s defenses to produce an immune response without any of the dangerous effects of actually being infected with the virus itself.

The trial will last for 8 weeks, however participants will continue to be monitored for one year to ensure there are no long term side effects.

If all goes well, the vaccine could be ready for distribution by the spring of next year.

University Naming Debate Takes Sinister Turn

Osaka University Campus

Two university campuses in Osaka had to be evacuated this week after a bomb threat was made.

The threat was in response to last week’s announced plan to rename the current Osaka City University and Osaka Prefectural University when they formally merge in 2022.

The would-be bomber (more likely an internet troll with too much time on his hands) said in delivering his threat that it was “retribution against the English name” of the proposed new university, The University of Osaka. He had threated to detonate sarin gas canisters in the campuses on Wednesday of this week.

Of course, nothing happened and no canisters have been found as of the time of writing. However, in the name of public safety the universities did evacuate students just to be on the safe side.

The renaming plan itself has provoked both confusion and controversy since it was first announced last week.

As it stands, the plan is to rename the newly merged university as “The University of Osaka”. However, as this new institution would be in direct competition with the far-higher ranked Osaka University, academics and students both home and abroad have said the new name would be confusing both for potential students and for potential employers once they complete their degree.

However, in the typically obstinate style this reporter has come to expect from covering Japanese politicians over the years, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said the new name would not cause confusion, nor would he consider changing it.

However, critics have been quick to point out that not only is “University of Osaka” easily confused with the far more prestigious Osaka University (which sits 49 places above Osaka City University in the current national rankings), it’s also an inaccurate translation of the proposed Japanese name for the new institution.

Written in Japanese as 大阪公立大学 (Osaka Koritsu Daigaku) a more accurate translation would be the far more distinctive “Osaka Metropolitan University”.

With a vote on a possible merger of Osaka’s City and Prefectural governments set to take place in November, perhaps the governor will find “Metropolitan” more to his liking if his proposed reforms are approved by voters in the autumn.

And Finally…

The Ninja: A Japanese cultural icon

Do you think you have what it takes to be a ninja, the costumed, acrobatic, assassins from Japan’s feudal past?

One student this week from Mie Prefecture, which borders Osaka, finally got his certification as an expert on the Ninja.

Genichi Mitsuhashi completed his two year Master’s Degree course from the University of Mie on the topic of “Ninja Studies”.

Iga, in Mie Prefecture, is long thought to be the ancestral home of these mystical warriors, and now, some 500 years after their heyday, their legacy lives on.

Mitsuhashi, 45, is also a keen martial artist, proficient in Kempo and Kung Fu.

He divides his time between teaching Ninja classes and also running a local inn.

Whilst his achievement is remarkable, his teacher had a word of caution for any budding Shinobis out there.

Professor Yuji Yamada, a teacher of Japanese history at the university said: “We get many enquiries from overseas, but I have to say that this is a course to learn about the Ninja, not to become one!”

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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