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Tsūtenkaku, south side, day

Shinsekai (新世界), "New World" in English, is an old neighbourhood located in the south of Osaka's downtown or "Minami" (Minami meaning south). This is an often misunderstood neighbourhood with long a history and unique identity within the city of Osaka. At the beginning of the 20th century the neighbourhood flourished as a sort of local tourist attraction showcasing the city's modern image. The centre piece of the neighbourhood was Tsutenkaku Tower (tower reaching heaven). The current stigma surrounding Shinsekai is perhaps not so well deserved. Many Osakans fear to step foot in the area while travel guides like the Lonely Planet Japan warn travellers "too keep their wits about you" as this may be the "closest thing in Japan to a dangerous neighbourhood". It would seem that Shinsekai's current status as a "bad" neighbourhood may stem from criminal activity that flourished in the decades prior to the 1990s. Today a major police station sits adjacent to the neighbourhood and it seems to be sufficiently policed.

What one actually finds in Shinsekai is perhaps a mix of truth and hype. It does have some seedy characters milling about especially at night. Many homeless wander through the area as Shinsekai sits pretty much in the middle of Osaka's most destitute area. The neighbourhood is also home to Osaka's transvestites community, which if anything adds to the interesting flavour of the neighbourhood.

If you enter the neighbourhood in the day time, especially on the weekend, you can get a good idea in a short time what the area is all about: cheap restaurants, bad albeit cheap clothing stores, a few seedy cinemas, clubs for older fellas who play a sort of board game called sho-gi, and of course pachinko parlors.

Shinsekai has a few fugu (blow fish) restaurants but the neighbourhood's real culinery forte is kushi-katsu. The neighbourhood abounds with cramped kushi-katsu restaurants offering various kinds of meat, fish and vegetables all breaded and deep fried on small sticks for around 100 yen each. Greasy but quite tasty!

Shinsekai sits next to the Tennoji Zoo, Museum and Garden to the east, 500 yen. To the south is Spa World and Festival Gate. The former is a slightly pricey (2,700 yen) spa featuring kitchy spa rooms said to resemble real spas from around the world. It is a great place to relax or lay out if you miss the last train as it is open all night, but perhaps less great in intimating authentic spa experiences from around the world. Festival Gate is a failed attempt to create a compact amusement park right smack in the middle of Osaka's most run down part of town. Instead of trying to blend the park into Shinsekai its construction pretty much resulted in barricading it from its surrounding neighborhood. It remains open, however, although is not as popular as the planners would want it to be. And of course, the Tsutenkaku Tower, 600 Yen to the top, does provide a good panoramic and unobstructed view of Osaka - however for the same price you can also go to Osaka Castle for a similar view plus a historical experience.

[edit] Access

  • JR-West Loop Line, Shinimamiya Station, East Exit (10 minute walk)
  • Nankai Railway, Main Line, Shinimamiya Station, East Exit (10 minute walk)
  • Nankai Railway, Koya Line, Shinimamiya Station, East Exit (10 minute walk)
  • Sakaisuji Subway Line (brown line), Ebisucho Station, Exit 3 (3 minute walk)
  • Midosuji Subway Line (red line), Dobutsuenmae Station, Exit 5 (10 minute walk)
  • Hankai Tramway, Hankai Line, Ebisucho Station (3 minute walk)

[edit] External links


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