Namba Parks


The grand canyon of shopping centers ...

The grand canyon of shopping centers …

Osaka Ali enjoys a prime shopping experience as much as the next lad. Although not yet having the pleasure, he was tempted to peruse the shops and gardens of the enticing downtown complex known as “Namba Parks”. Envisioned and planned by world famous shopping mall designer John Jerde of Venice, California, the marquee advertisement at the Nankai train station concourse made for attractive thoughts of a visit.

The shopping mall is built on the former grounds of Osaka stadium. The image is of an curvaceous, multi-level space. The curves and colors remind one of the undulating surfaces of a Southwestern American canyon, carved by ancient watercourse. But this is no ancient geological marvel. It is the result of an architecture and construction project that came to fruition in 2002.

Since its completion, the Namba Parks shopping center seems to have lost none of its charm. It boasts a rich collection of fashion boutiques, shops, cinemas and food galore. It seems the Namba Parks restaurant collection includes a Kua’aina (クア・アイナ) franchise, rumored to serve up a mean hawaiian-style burger.

But the main attraction for O.A. is the babylon-style roof gardens accessible to the public. It seems the designers wanted to bring nature into the congested city. That is a welcomed move as far as Osaka Ali is concerned. Nature, shopping, entertainment and food all in one elegantly crafted package is what Namba Parks is for you to enjoy.

Has anyone visited this lovely place?

To find Namba Parks, take the train to Namba Station, Nankai Line (難波駅 [南海] 大阪府). From the station head southeast. Take the crosswalk, then the access path and finally up the pedestrian overpass escalator.



Mic Checks, Groovy Sounds, and Good Vibrations …

In various locales throughout the Kansai region, construction is proceeding to change the landscape of many neighborhoods. While the results of construction can make the places we live, learn, work and relax much better, the process can be painful and inconvenient for everyone who has to be near the project. Of course, construction makes noise … a lot of noise.

But Japan displays a continuing commitment to providing another level of service and consideration to all of the people who will have to live with the demolition, repair and building. The exhibit shown below is one example of this. It is a large display of a machine that measures noise and vibrations generated by a road construction project. Not far from this mechanism is a public school, a library and many residences. The machine has a microphone and vibration detector. The LED display shows the decibel level and vibration level for the whole day. Anyone can see the monitor from almost any direction.

If the noise level goes too high, the construction foreman can make corrections. If the vibration level goes too high, the neighborhood residents and workers can make a complaint to the same foreman and construction company.

Osaka Ali doesn’t know if such a system is widespread in other places in the world, but it seems very in character for Japanese society. Care and consideration of others is an artform here. And the Japanese are always seeking ways to improve service so that disturbances to the fabric of life are minimal.

What do you think of this noise and vibration monitor? Do they have this kind of system in your town? If not, would you want it to be used where you live and work? Why or why not?

の騷音 Full Noise level today only

只今の振動 Full vibration today only

Monitor and shielded microphone with stand ...

Monitor and shielded microphone with stand …


A Message from Urano-san …

Japancasters, I’d like to introduce to you my good friend Mr. Akihito Urano. I met him over a year ago in Osaka, striking up a conversation while waiting for a friend outside a train station during rush hour. Urano-san is a well traveled former executive and polyglot who made me feel at home in Kansai. He is an expert in building International VIP groups and guiding and teaching newcomers about the hidden treasures of Japan. Please enjoy his introduction:

Hello everyone, my name is Akihito Urano. I was born in Japan on September 11th 1941, thus making me soon to be 72 years old. In my life I’ve observed many important historical events and my early life was no exception. In fact, a few months after I was born, the great Pacific War began between Japan and the allied powers. Of course, my birthday was marked by an unfortunate tragedy in 2001 as well.

The day before the World Trade Center attack coincided with my approaching 60th birthday and my mandatory retirement. I had been planning to take my wife to London in the UK to thank her for her many years of dutiful support and her contribution to me and our family. Unfortunately, those plans were nixed because of the travel warnings. Now, every birthday of mine brings memories of shared and personal loss.

These days, I have been thinking a lot about what Japan and being Japanese means. Over 2500 years ago, the first Japanese emperor (Jinmu-Tenno) is said to have assumed the throne of Japan. At about this time, various races, both native and foreign, were arriving at different areas within Japan. The mixture of blood and cultures over the centuries forged the Japan that exists today.

When I compare Japan to other nations, I observe that it has three unique characteristics:

First, it is the one country that has not had the experience of being invaded or colonized by peoples from outside its borders (except for the short occupation by the US following the Second World War).

Second, the same imperial family has ruled Japan for over 2500 years. Interestingly, during the entire time of their combined rule, the emperors have exercised little to no political power. In most periods, they have actually been symbolic sources of authority. In fact, for the most part other persons or entities have wielded the true political power, sometimes using the name of the emperor for legitimacy.

Third, religion has had hardly any influence on Japanese politics. So, therefore, almost no conflict has arisen on account of religion.

The two major religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto is Japan’s native religion which originated 2,500 years ago and Buddhism came to us from India via China in around the 6th century C.E.. Over time, both religions have mixed. It can often be observed that Shinto shrines co-exist with Buddhist temples.

Oftentimes, wedding ceremonies are conducted at Shinto shrines while funeral services are conducted at Buddhist temples.

From this point on, I’d like to introduce Japanese traditions to you while revealing the currents of daily life so that you’ll be able to understand Japan better. I want you to have a real insight into Japan.

For now, I only have two images to show you of a festival called “Mihune-matsuri”. This festival is held in Kyoto on the 19th of May (every year on the same day). [Mihune is the name of a famous local shrine / Matsuri means festival]. I hope that you find Japan to be a beautiful and peaceful country as well as a welcoming place to visit. Yokoso! (ようこそ!)

Riverine Procession

Riverine Procession

Heavenly retinue

Heavenly retinue