A white guy in Osaka

Yeah, I know, there are thousands of examples of the Tokyo vs Osaka differences in pretty much everything that has come from Japan. And yes, they are contradictory.

People from Kansai (the greater Osaka region, for want of a better word) are more open, more relaxed and slightly more friendly than people from Tokyo. Except when it comes to business, in which case Tokyo-ites are more forgiving when you use the incorrect form of address with someone.

You stand on the left of escalators in Tokyo, and on the right in Osaka. You eat Takoyaki in Osaka and Soba in Tokyo.



But the one thing that is really different, and somewhat strikingly so, is the attitude to foreigners in Osaka, especially in the entertainment districts.

Tokyo, being bigger, and the main destination for tourists and businessmen alike, seems to be more accustomed to seeing foreigners in the streets, especially when looking for food or a watering hole. So when you walk around the food/drink/”entertainment” areas, you will be assaulted by any number of hawkers.

At 1800, it starts with “What food are you looking for?” or “Do you want Japanese pub?”

Come 2000, it is now “Do you want Japanese beer?” or “Do you want to drink Japanese Sake?”

Come 2200, it degrades a little further, to “You want Japanese girls?” or, simply, “Fuck? You want fuck?”

The first time this happens it is a little alarming – the borderline between the popular food/drink areas and the red-light district is a thin and imperceptible line, especially for a foreigner. After a couple of nights though, it is easy to know where to go and where not to go.



But then you come to Osaka, and you are met by…

Dotonburi, one of the main restaurant districts in Osaka, which borders the Red Light District

…no-one. In fact, the hawkers almost completely ignore your existence. They will accost the Japanese people around you, but they are well practiced a looking through foreigners, completely deleting your image from their vision.

The first time I came to Osaka I could understand about 5% of what I was hearing around me, so it didn’t initially occur to me that this was happening. But now, when I can hear the Japanese equivalent of the above questions (お客さん、居酒屋いかがでしょうか? – re you guys looking for a Japanese pub? is a very common one at dinner time), it becomes instantly obvious what is going on. And it still follows that once everyone is liquored up that that the services offered are, well, a little more salacious, but as a white guy you can walk through the throngs of pimps and publicans as if you were a ghost.


It really is an interesting thing to do, and you can see the bouncers trying to push drunken businessmen into the famed conversation bars, hassling every single Japanese man, and seeing the well-dressed and heavily made-up girls feigning ignorance in order to lure in customers, and yet be completely removed from the process.


So yeah. That, and AG 17 is out. I have also made a quick change to AG 16, because it was too much of a “Baseball” in 4LS parlance. Hopefully this way is better. Oh yeah, and I have finally hit 30,000 words (77 pages). That feels like a bit of a milestone for me.




11 thoughts on “A white guy in Osaka

  1. wow. I’d heard there was a difference between the two area’s. I didn’t realize it was that extreme. 30K Wow! you’re hedging on novel status there sir! Nicely done!

  2. As far as meeting new people go, what would the better place be? Congrats on your milestone–hope your next 30,000 is as good or better than what you’ve written!

    1. That is a tough one, as it is more activity related than location.

      Both cities are some of the most densely populated in the world though, so no issues there…

      1. Out of curiosity, how many years did you study Japanese before you went there for your first trip?

      2. About 9 months.

        It took all of about 10 minutes to lost the confidence that I had.

        To quote the foreward that I have written for my (very, very stalled Japanese travel book)L

        I will never forget the first time I travelled to Japan.
        I had been studying Japanese for about nine months, and I thought that I knew enough of the language and culture to get around. Thus, I was the “designated guide” for my party of four; a role I felt pretty confident with.

        It only took about 15 minutes for that confidence to be shattered upon the shores of reality.

        Our travel agent had booked a hotel for us to stay in for the first couple of nights. We knew it was near Hamamatsuchou station, and I figured that with my super-best-number-one Japanese skills that I would be able to get us to the hotel, no problems.

        So, in the bustle of Tokyo’s Central Station, I sauntered up to the information desk, and in my best Japanese, I asked “How do you get to Hamamatsucho Station?”
        Now, obviously I can’t remember what the nicely-dressed information booth lady said to me, but it was probably something like this (I have translated the bits that I caught into English for you):

        「はい、Hamamatsucho行き電車は、山の手線のPlatform 5から出発します。浜松町駅は2番目の駅です。」

        It was at that point that I realised that I was in trouble.

  3. Do you think being able to speak Japanese in Osaka would get them to notice you, or would they simply act deaf even though they may be fully capable of understanding what you’re saying?

    1. People that stand outside shops and try to lure you in. Similar to spruikers, but hawkers target individuals whereas spruikers just kindq stand there and yell out bargains

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