The Osakan neighbourhood of Shinsekai was a vibrant and ambitious entertainment district that was created in the early twentieth century as a symbol of progress and modernity. Located on the south side of downtown Osaka, Shinsekai – “New World” in English- has an interesting history of its own.
The 5th National Industrial Exhibition was successfully held in 1903. With its distinctive tower at the background and the amusement park Luna Park at its center, Shinsekai represented a vision of the future. The area’s northern half was meant to reflect Parisian elegance with charming boulevards, playhouses and moving picture theaters while the southern half was modeled on the legendary Coney Island in New York.
Featuring many attractions such as an arcade, a fun house, a music hall and a theater as well as several mechanical rides, the futuristic amusement park faded a series of fires and was forced to close down 1923. After World War II, development ceased making the area look as if it was frozen in time.
Despite its negative image and bad reputation (Shinsekai was considered as one of Japan’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods), the quintaessentially old fashioned Japanese neighborhood has undergone a facelit in recent years and today exudes an undeniable charm.
With its 50s retro look, Shinsekai feels like the Osaka of olden days. Don´t miss the opportunity to visit Jan-Jan Yokocho Lane, a covered shopping arcade that runs along one side of the neon labyrinth of Shinsekai. Named after the jan jan strumming sound of Japanese banjos, Jan-Jan Yokocho Lane is the place where laborers who restored the ruins after World War II chose to gather.
The atmosphere of the 50s and 60s is still alive. Old-fashioned eateries, shops, smoky old-style mahjong game parlors and bars lined up along this vintage arcade remind me of the authentic Osaka from days gone by.
Heaven Reaching Tower
Symbolizing the birth of a New World, Tsutenkaku Tower turned into the Osaka´s symbol. Once the largest tower in Asia, Tsutenkaku or the Tower to Heaven was a blend of the designs of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe of Paris. The Eiffel Tower-inspired structure was planned to be connected to the park by aerial cable car what allowed visitors to enter the park from above.
Unfortunately, Tsutenkaku Tower fell to ruin after being disassembled due to a fire damage. Completed by the same man who designed Tokyo Tower and registered as a tangible cultural property of Japan, the present tower is 103 meters high and offers wonderful views of Osaka. The statue of a smiley Billiken is enshrined on the observation deck so don´t forget to rub his feet for good luck!!
The old retro neighbourhood is the home of kushikatsu, delicious wooden or bamboo skewers of meat, vegetales or fish, dipped in batter and deep fried. Cabbage leaves are served as a side dish. One rule to follow while taking in the iconic delicacy is NO DOUBLE DIPPING.