Osaka Photo Journal 1
I spend some of my down time getting to better know my city. Now you can too!
Major Japanese cities love towers, and this is Osaka’s, a few minutes south of my house. In the 1910s, this area was a theme park, and the tower was the centerpiece. The park closed in the ’20s, but the tower remained until a fire damaged it in 1943.
The wreck was scrapped for war materiel- ironically, a casualty of Japan’s war campaign rather than the massive American bombing which came later. Rebuilt in 1956, it endures as an old-timey symbol of south side Osaka.
Billiken- what an odd story. I saw this figure all over the busy marketplaces of the south side, but the name suggested an origin more American than Japanese. Perhaps related to an American player for the Hanshin Tigers, I thought.
What I discovered was that it was a figurine that debuted in America in 1908 as a briefly popular collector’s item and idol of fortune. When Osaka’s aforementioned theme park opened up, a big statue of this guy was a centerpiece. Billiken had vanished from the American consciousness by the 1950s, but at the same time he became more emblematic in Osaka.
Now he has almost become a god of commerce and fortune in the south side, like the more traditional figures Daikoku-Ten or Ebisu.
Somehow, some way, traces of the old city sometimes emerge between the concrete.
SECRET NAZI STORE! Well, not so secret. They’re almost right next to my apartment building, and they sell pots and pans. I’m pretty sure they’re not Nazis. Remember, a version of the swastika is a commonly recognized symbol of Buddhism over here.