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Tsutenkaku Tower is a prominent landmark in Shinsekai
Tsutenkaku Tower is a prominent landmark in Shinsekai
Coordinates: 34°39′08″N 135°30′22″E / 34.65222°N 135.50611°E / 34.65222; 135.50611Coordinates: 34°39′08″N 135°30′22″E / 34.65222°N 135.50611°E / 34.65222; 135.50611

Shinsekai (新世界, lit. New World) is an old neighbourhood located next to south Osaka City's downtown "Minami" area. The neighbourhood was created in 1912 with New York (specifically, Coney Island) as a model for its southern half and Paris for its northern half. At this location, a Luna Park amusement park operated from 1912 until it closed in 1923.[1][2] The centrepiece of the neighbourhood was Tsutenkaku Tower (the "tower reaching to heaven").

As a result of minimal redevelopment after World War II, the area has become one of Japan's poorest.[3]

History and reputation[edit]

Shinsekai Luna Park, ca. 1912. An aerial tramway connected the amusement park with the original Tsutenaku Tower. The park closed in 1923; the tower was dismantled in 1943.
Original Tsutenkaku Tower, with Shinsekai Luna Park in the foreground, c. 1912
An aerial tramway connected the amusement park with the original Tsutenaku Tower. The park closed in 1923; the tower was dismantled in 1943.
Aerial tramway connecting the original Tsutenkaku Tower with Luna Park, Osaka in Shinsekai, in the 1910s

Despite its negative image and commonly held reputation as Osaka's most dangerous area, Shinsekai boasts a colourful history and unique identity. At the beginning of the 20th century the neighbourhood flourished as a local tourist attraction showcasing the city's modern image. After World War II, the area served to entertain the laborers who were rebuilding Osaka.[4] Shinsekai's status as a dangerous area owes much to criminal activity that flourished in the decades before the 1990s.

Whether the stigma surrounding Shinsekai is deserved is open to debate. Many Osakans claim to be afraid to set foot in the area. The travel guide Lonely Planet Japan, warns visitors to "keep their wits about them" as Shinsekai may be the "closest thing in Japan to a dangerous neighbourhood". Although in the 15th edition of this travel guide, published in 2017, this is not mentioned anymore.

Continuing the area's chequered fortunes of recent years, in place of rampant criminality, Osaka's large permanent settlement of homeless has taken root in the areas around Shinsekai. Homeless men, often elderly, from all over Japan come to Osaka to escape the stigma of hometown societal shame and wander the streets around the area. The neighbourhood is also home to a large presence of prostitutes and a concentration of Osaka's cross-dressing community.


Lantern advertising fugu restaurant Zubora-ya [ja] in Shinsekai
Shops in Shinsekai

Though its elements of seediness and destitution are often highlighted, Shinsekai is also home to a large number of legitimate business outlets. It is the scene of low-cost restaurants, cheap clothing stores, cinemas, shogi and mahjong clubs, and pachinko parlours.

Shinsekai has several fugu (blowfish) restaurants, but the neighbourhood's real culinary forte is kushi-katsu. The neighbourhood abounds with kushi-katsu restaurants offering various kinds of meat, fish, and vegetables all breaded and deep fried on small sticks for around ¥150 each.

Shinsekai lies west of Tennoji Zoo, Tennoji Park, and the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. To the south is Spa World and the now-closed Festival Gate, a compact amusement park built to rejuvenate Osaka's most run-down area. Instead of trying to blend the park into Shinsekai, its construction resulted in virtually barricading it from the surrounding neighbourhood. It remained open for nearly seven years but in February 2004 a joint-venture behind the operation went into bankruptcy, effectively shutting down the complex for the most part. As an amusement space, it was no match for nearby Universal Studios Japan, which opened in 2002. In early 2008, the city began calling for tenders from prospective buyers although, by this point, a crepe shop adjoining Spa World was the only business still operating in the empty complex.

Tsūtenkaku, south side

The top of Tsutenkaku Tower provides a panoramic and unobstructed view of Osaka. The original Tsutenkaku Tower, completed in 1912 and 64 metres (210 ft) tall, was designed to resemble both the Eiffel Tower (at the top) and the Arc de Triomphe (at the base), and was one end of a tramway connecting the neighborhood with the Luna Park grounds. It was damaged by fire in 1943 and disassembled, then replaced in 1956 with the current structure, which is 103 m (338 ft) tall and designed by Tachū Naitō (also known for the design of Tokyo Tower).[5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From Kansas to Osaka:The Evolution of the Billiken" (PDF). St Louis University High School news. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 28, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "History of Shinsekai". Archived from the original on August 29, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu (October 16, 2008). "Japan's New World Offers a Slice of the Past". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Thomson, D.J. "Visit Shinsekai: Osaka's retro futuristic old town". JR Pass. Retrieved 27 November 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Shinsekai and the Tsutenkaku Tower". Osaka Station. Retrieved 27 November 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

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