This Week in Osaka: May 29th to June 5th 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

Impromptu Fireworks Bring Cheer to Osaka and Rest of Japan

Fireworks in Osaka last year

It’s no secret that many people in Japan have been feeling a bit glum recently. The ongoing fallout from the global Covid-19 Pandemic and the accompanying economic destruction it has wrought has left many people anxious, fearful and worried for their futures.

However, all that was forgotten this week, for five minutes at least, as fireworks erupted not just in Osaka, but across Japan, in a coordinated, but largely unannounced, show of positivity.

The “Cheer Up Hanabi” (hanabi means “fireworks” in Japanese) was first mooted more than a month ago, but the exact date and time was not disclosed. There were two reasons for this, according to organizer Kouhei Ogatsu, a craftsman based in Tokyo.

“On one hand, we didn’t want to announce the time and place for the display, because we are still practicing social distancing, so the last thing we want is large groups gathering together now.

“There was also the element of surprise. We, the organizers, thought it would be a nice surprise for the people of Japan, and we hope it cheered them up, at least a little.”

With a number of summer festivals, the focal point of which are often elaborate fireworks displays, cancelled this year due to the pandemic, not only was there an excess of leftover fireworks stockpiled across Japan, but those who design these controlled explosives and who plan the displays were left at something of a loose end.

And so the “Cheer Up Hanabi” initiative was born. In total more than 160 different firework manufacturers took part, with several dozen displays taking place up and down the country.

There was also a spiritual aspect to this however, as Mr Ogatsu further elaborated:

“Historically, fireworks have been launched in Japan to pray for the eradication of plagues and to console the souls of the deceased.”

Certainly, these are sentiments shared by many of us, not just in Osaka but around the world, in these troubling times.

Osaka-born Tennis Star Lends Support to Protests

The BLM movement continues to gather momentum worldwide

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island for the past week or so, you’ve probably seen and heard the mass protests that have erupted in the US over the latest in a long line of police murders of unarmed black people.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, recently confirmed as the highest paid female athlete in the world over the past year, earning 34.7 million dollars, has added her voice to the growing crescendo across the world, demanding justice, accountability and fundamental change to the way black people are treated in the US.

“Just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at all” said the 22 year old native of Osaka’s Chuo Ward.

Osaka, who is herself of mixed Haitian-Japanese heritage, elaborated further, singling out for criticism those who are happy to make use of black culture, but go strangely quiet when it comes time to take a stand.

She continued: “It’s funny to me that the people who want to wear chains, blast hip-hop in the gym, attempt to get dapped up and talk in slang are suddenly quiet now.”

This isn’t the first time Osaka has spoken out on issues of race. Since her rise to prominence a little over two years ago, she has regularly been critical of those in the Japanese press who have criticized her for speaking English rather than Japanese during interviews. Osaka has spoken in recent years of her hopes to expand the idea of “what it means to be Japanese”, but has also had to renounce her US dual citizenship in order to represent Japan at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Japanese law currently states that Japanese nationals are only allowed to hold one nationality and if they wish to take Japanese citizenship then they must choose to do so by age 22.

And Finally…

Online weddings could soon become commonplace

Weddings are big business in Japan. Having attended a few here in Japan over the years, I can say that the level of expense, attention to detail and glitzy glamour of the ceremony and accompanying party takes some beating.

However, current world events mean that elaborate banquets for two or three hundred people are no longer an option, and the wedding market, like many other aspects of Japan’s economy has had to innovate and adapt.

Enter “Rimoto Kekkon Shiki” (Remote Wedding).

This new company organizes wedding ceremonies to be delivered online, with as many guests as you like logging in via Zoom to be a part of the proceedings. The company even offers a wedding meals and gifts service, with the option of having a mini wedding banquet delivered to each of your invited guests before the ceremony begins.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to say: “ten out of ten for creativity!”

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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