Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bizarro Tokyo: Osaka

Like this, but with escalators

From the outside, Japan might seem the same wherever in the country you go, but there are cultural differences across the different regions in Japan.

One of the more well known is the straightforward and direct to the point Kansai culture (compared to the more vague and avoidance of getting to any point at all costs Tokyo-culture). Back in the good 'ol days the emperor and/or shogunate nested in Tokyo with the court, entertaining themselves with Nou theatre and other boring stuff, poor as dirt, but enjoying being the highest social class. Meanwhile, back in Kansai, the merchants reigned, lowest on the social ladder but loaded with cash and access to Kabuki theatre, booze and women of ill repute.
I guess I don't have to mention that I prefer the Kansai style...

When getting off the shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka, the first sign that things are not completely right is the escalators... For some reason, Osaka and Kyoto people have taken to standing on the right side of the escalator with walkers passing by on the left while the opposite goes for Tokyo and the rest of civilised Japan. On the shinkansen Shin-Osaka station chaos reigns supreme on the escalators though as the Tokyoites are coming in to try and bargain with the sly business savvy Osaka merchants. The people coming from Tokyo and the people returning home can easily be identified by which side on the escalator they stand on.

Sometimes I take some minor pleasure in standing the right side in Osaka knowing that I adapt to the odd local customs and melt in more than most Tokyoites.

At one point I tried to find out why Osaka people chose to stand on the right side of escalators and the answer I got was that they hold their valuables in their right hand and are afraid that people might steal it or bump into it and accidentally ruin it. But as this was told to me by a Tokyoite I have some doubt about the truth fullness of this. Still, now you know on which side of the escalator you should stand on, great, huh? 


Chris said...

Either side and I'm facing backwards so no one can take a picture under the edge of my jeans....I hear about pervs taking pantie pics on those escalators...usually is with that?

If the "Up jeans/surf shorts " pics of white guys boom ever comes I'll be ready!!

Rose said...

ummh.. actual truth is, that they adopted the foreign way of standing on the right side when some international sports event was held.
Just can´t remember which one but I´ll ask my hub about it.. he should know.
It was in order to make the stay in Osaka more comfortable for the foreign people and there were lots of signs that reminded on which side you have to stay and how rude it is to ignore.
Somehow this custom stayed even after the event - and People from Osaka feel a bit proud about it since it makes them different from the rest of Japan.

btw, I love reading your blog!

Martin said...

Rose´s conclusion might be the official version.

The truth is more likely the Osakians didn´t want the "internationals" to steel or ruin their valuables.

D. said...

My studies in architecture say that's because of the World Fair held in Osaka in 1970. As it was already said, to make foreigners more comfortable and circulation less chaotic.

Osaka sound like a comfortable, lively, friendly city: I would love to visit it.

kamo said...

Frankly I'd take either version. In my neck of the woods they like to stand two-abreast and then look all pissed off if you have the temerity to ask one to stand aside.

They also like to just stop once they've got off, as if they've forgotten the moving conveyor belt of people directly behind them. Never mind me nicking stuff from whichever hand, I've come close enough to flattening a fair few. Less chaotic circulation would certainly be nice.

Corinne said...

As a proud Osakan I have to say that Tokyo is 100 percent in the wrong, and cold! No feelings those people!!!

Ms.Godzilla said...

Seriously, Kansai is awesome (both Kyotoites and Kobe-ians stand on the right as well)...Tokyo is nice, but Kansai is a lot more fun ;p

TheOctopus said...

I'd swap Hashimoto with Ishihara, just for the entertainment value.

kathrynoh said...

Doesn't the rest of the world stand on the left side? Or maybe it's just Australia.

Also wasn't the emperor in Kyoto not Tokyo?

But Osaka is pretty cool.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Chris - Haha, yeah, those cops in Japan must have a lot of stress built up and a funny way of releasing it! You can never be too careful, I'm sure there's an "up-jeans/shorts shots" market out there somewhere!

Rose - It seems like you, D and some other people have your facts straight! That sounds a lot more likely than the, probably, "made up on the spot" explanation that I heard before! Glad to hear you liked the blog.

Martin - As always, you think one step ahead of the rest!

D - There you go, mystery solved! Osaka is a nice place, people are friendly but not that interesting sights perhaps in the middle of the city compared to Tokyo.

Kamo - Well, apparently no fair of any kind reach your heck of the woods! Maybe you should try and organize something?

Corinne - I'm actually not gonna argue with you there, Tokyoites a lot more boring than the Kansai folks!

Ms. Godzilla - Again, no argument, I would actually love to live in Kansai (at least for a few years) but unfortunately all the foreign business insist on center around Tokyo...

Octopus - Well, nice to see you come up from under the coconut! I actually probably hate Hashimoto more, just seeing his face really annoys me as he reminds me of a former narcissistic boss...

Kathryn - Yep the rest of the world stands on the right side so the Kansai people are a bit more international in that respect. And yeah, back in the really good 'ol days the court was in Kyoto, but they moved to Edo/Tokyo several hundred years ago

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