Osaka: My Kind of Town (with apologies to Frank Sinatra)


Osaka: My Kind of Town (with apologies to Frank Sinatra)

This time, Mr. Stephen Jones, who served as the founding general manager of the Osaka Branch of Barclays de Zoete Wedd Securities (or BZW Securities), and later worked at the British Consulate-General Osaka, described how attractive Osaka is.

As a former long-term resident of Japan (21 years in total) I have been lucky enough to have lived in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Sumoto, Awaji Island (from east to west). As a place to live I certainly favour the Kansai Region and, within this, Osaka is definitely “My Kind of Town”. Why?

I should start with the people. Chatty, impetuous, humorous and with a healthy disdain for bureaucratic control the average Osaka native is not constrained from giving an honest opinion, or from sharing valuable information. Business, not politics, is what drives Osaka’s success and a shrewd and distinctive mercantile culture has grown up. This could be mistakenly interpreted as crass, but it is not. Osaka is blessed with a long history – the former Naniwa was the nation’s capital on two separate occasions before that role was superseded by ancient Nara – making its citizens sensitive to and respectful of their long traditions.

Food comes next. Osaka is well known as “The nation’s kitchen” and its cuisine is noted for its diversity, sophistication and also for its value for money. From the most exclusive ryotei to the humblest ramen stall, food in Osaka is always a very enjoyable experience and often a revelation. Osaka street food is carefully prepared from the freshest ingredients and is invariably delicious. One can eat well cheaply as well as expensively in this gourmet metropolis.

My third point is Fun. In Osaka people work hard and play hard. As a predominantly business city financial acumen and innovation are highly prized. But the traditional arts of Japan are well represented too – Bunraku, the classical puppet theatre, is one example – and nightlife in Osaka is vibrant and diverse. Food (see above) is part of the Fun in Osaka where everybody is keen on having a good time.

Without doubt Osaka has improved in an architectural sense. Although I first passed through the city in 1973 I got to know it better as a student at Osaka University of Foreign Studies and at Kyoto University between 1976-78. Back then it was obviously a city with a heart, but it was scruffy to look at and the air was polluted. Later I was fortunate enough to work in Kitahama from 1990-1993 when more attention was clearly being paid to the city’s environment and architectural style. The Tenpozan area was being redeveloped at this time. Most recently I spent 2012-13 working at the British Consulate-General in Shinsaibashi and was astounded at the physical improvements made to Osaka’s cityscape. The JR Osaka Station area was almost unrecognisable and now presents a state-of-the-art shopping, dining and transportation hub. More recently the adjacent Grand Front Osaka complex has developed Osaka’s northern retail and business facilities even further. As part of the ‘Umekita’ redevelopment project further new construction is planned up to 2025 in which year the World Expo is scheduled to be held in Osaka. The scruffiness of 50 years earlier has entirely disappeared and has been replaced with a world-class urban centre, still under development.

I now live in London, my original home town, but on my at least annual visits to Japan I always visit Osaka to enjoy its people, food and fun. It’s definitely “My Kind of Town”.

私の好きな大阪 (フランク・シナトラの詞を借りて)

今回はバークレイズ証券初代大阪支店長を務め、後年英国総領事館にお勤めであったMr.Stephen Jones氏に大阪の魅力について語っていただいた。