Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another Riot in Kamagasaki

Officially, Kamagasaki (釜ヶ崎) doesn't exist anymore and you wont find the name on a current map of Osaka, but that's what the locals still call the large slum in the northeast corner of Nishinari-ku (西成区).

Kamagasaki has traditionally been a day labor's neighborhood and the local hotels have average nightly rates of 1,500円, but the population is aging and even at this price many of them can't afford a room and sleep in the streets. The area is famous in Japan as the largest slum in the country, with high homelessness rates and a long history of intermittent rioting.

A couple weeks ago, a day laborer was picked up by police detectives in one of the local shoutengai, taken to the police station, beaten in the face and hung upside down from ropes. When he was released the next day with no charges, he went and told his friends what had happened. In response, about 300 workers surrounded the police station and demanded that the police chief apologize and that the defectives be fired.

This lead to four or five days of rioting. The other night, a friend and I decided to ride down and check it out. It was raining pretty hard that night, and the riots had quieted down.

I took these shots while I was riding, so they're pretty shaky. A few of the pictures that I thought would be the best didn't come out, because I wasn't actually looking at the view finder while I rode.

After we rode through Kamgasaki we headed back to Shinsekai, where Biliken, the god of things-as-they-ought-to-be, is always watching with his malevolent grin.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Not too sweet...

Here's some Japanese junk food that I picked up at the local convenience store. The stock in the convenience stores here is seasonal and for some reason dark chocolate is not as well stocked in the spring as in the winter. I was looking for dark chocolate so a was reading all the packages to see what they had.

These chocolate almonds aren't dark but they were still pretty good. I bought them because they have a great tag line. It's ad-speak so it's a bit tricky to translate but it basically says, "Not too sweet is too awesome" (ama-suginakute uma-sugiru, 甘すぎなくてうますぎる). Can you imagine trying to move candy with that line in North America?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

May Critical Mass

It's hard for people in Osaka to understand what Critical Mass is, or why we do it, or that it's even a thing. Jon had the idea to make a flag and this helped a bit.

He brought a flag and some supplies and before the ride they drew something up with a bike rider and I put an old school crest on it and we gave it to one of the messengers to carry.

Probably everyone still had no idea what the Mass was or why we do it, but we had the flag so they knew it was a thing. Even the cabbies kept their distance a bit and didn't lay on the horn as much. They were probably thinking, "Woa... Those guys have a flag, I guess something must be going on."

Actually, I really have no idea what the cabbies were thinking but it was the funnest Mass yet, so the flag is doing something right.