Osaka’s Other Castle

Exploring Iimoriyama Castle ruins

Osaka is steeped in history and is fortunate to have a beautiful restored castle centered in the heart of the city. It is surrounded by beautiful parkland open year-round 24 hours a day and features the Osaka Castle Museum.

There is, however, another castle that played an important role in Osaka’s history and makes for a great moderately challenging day hike. The Iimoriyama Castle ruins are about 15 km northwest of Osaka Castle in Shijonawate, Osaka. It is easily reached by the JR Gakkentoshi Line at Kyobashi Station.

The castle is a 3 km and 250m elevation hike from the Shijonawate station. There are many shops and restaurants in Shijonawate to prepare for the hike. I walked along the winding stream flowing from the from the mountains but if you have extra time, the Shijonawate Shrine is a worthwhile detour.

Iimoriyama Mountain extends from the Kawachi Ridge connecting to Mount Ikoma to the south and descends to a low pass in the ridge to the North. Climbing the northern face is a challenging scramble but the trail does have steps and in some cases hand ropes so hikers of all levels can handle this trip.

Hikers on the steep climb on Iimori’s northern trail. Photo credit Richard Trombly

After walking about 20 minutes from the station, the trail head ascends into the woods with a shady, densely forested climb. It quickly becomes steep with double-height steps and there is commonly some erosion from heavy rains.

Trail map to Iimoriyama courtesy of © OpenStreetMap contributors

For interactive trail map click here

The climb will soon offer a vista to the north looking towards Kyoto. The main road from Kyoto passed below. The strategic value of this location is evident and even before the castle was constructed here around 1520, there were military forts commanding this spot.

The northern view across Hirakata to Kyoto. Photo credit Richard Trombly

This hike is especially popular for foliage in the fall but offers a great short hike year-round so close to Osaka city and is rarely crowded. After passing a side trail to Shijonawate Shrine, there is a final press to the castle.

Statue of Masatsura Kusunoki. Photo Credit Richard Trombly

At the top of the climb, there is a viewing deck and a statue to Masatsura Kusunoki, the hero of the Battle of Shijonawate in 1348, well before the construction of the castle.

Because of its powerful defensive nature and strategic location, the castle was torn down around 1570. All that remains today are the rock walls lining earthen defense structures.

Stone defensive walls are all that remains of the castle. Photo credit Richard Trombly

Enjoy your time at the castle grounds and explore the ruins. This was one of the larger Japanese castles with a footprint of 800 by 400 meters. and had been defended by a dry moat and other constructions. Shijonawate was connected to the Yodogawa River, another reason for the location of this fortress to command the Osaka plains.

Looking to the southwest with Osaka’s skyline in the distance. Photo credit Richard Trombly

On your way down you can ponder the history of the castle and its role in the region. It was captured by Nagayoshi Miyoshi (1522-1564) and he moved his base there in 1559. The Miyoshi clan held stable control of the economic center in Sakai to the southwest. This allowed Nagayoshi to concentrate on keeping the Shogun in Kyoto at bay.

As the Shogunate was weak at this time, some historians ponder that Nagayoshi could have made bold moves and taken Kyoto as his own. Perhaps he was too cautious but maybe he overcome by the peacefulness of the views. Whatever the reason, Nagayoshi and his lord Harumoto Hosokawa were killed in the battle of Taiheiji in 1564 marking the end of the castle’s prominence and its eventual destruction.

The climb down offers its own challenging sections and a few nice vistas. Before descending into the village of Nozaki you can view the Buddhist Jigenji Temple also known as Nozaki Kannon which can be accessed by crossing a short scenic bridge. The temple in coordination with Daito City Mountain Federation offer a downloadable detailed map (in Japanese only.)

Now you are in the village of Nozaki and it is a short trip to the JR station back to Osaka.

Under A Tsurumi Moon

Camping in Downtown Osaka

By Richard Trombly

In Japan, there are many public parks in the cities and towns where you can go for a stroll, exercise, socialize and relax. Many have a variety of facilities for sports, children’s playscapes, public swimming pools and more.

A couple enjoys a walk in Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. Photo credit by Richard Trombly

Another common feature is BBQ areas, some supplying everything you need even the food while others offer the BBQ pits for the D.I.Y. crowd to bring in their own feast. While tents tend to spring up on the park lawns on any nice day, many of the parks have designated day camping facilities

Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park https://www.tsurumi-ryokuchi.jp/ ,situated between the Northeast of Osaka and Moriguchi Cities, is one of Osaka’s hidden gems. It covers over 300 acres, about half the size of New York City’s Central Park, and offers a lake, botanical gardens, a variety of recreational facilities and kilometers of trails. It is also known for Sakuya Konohana Kan, one of Japan’s largest greenhouses.

Sakuya Konohana Kan greenhouse. Photo credit© Oilstreet / WikiCommons

A surprising feature of this park is a campground featuring 10-place centered on a BBQ area and best of all, it is free. While some campgrounds are budget, most charge 2,000 and up.

I was bouncing off the wall with cabin fever because of Covid restrictions and I was eager to test out a new tent under actual conditions before taking it on longer cycling trips. During a week of rainy weather, I went directly to the office that manages the camping and BBQ and there was no problem booking an open spot. They even offered registration forms in English.

Camping at Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. Photo credit Richard Trombly

People often go to enjoy a bit or exercise or relaxation in a park, but it is an unusual experience to sleep in one. Thankfully, there was a break in the rain while I set up the tent. Even with the rain there were a few other campers who were not driven inside by the soggy weather and the happy sounds of children echoed around the crackling fire.

For being within the city limits of Osaka, the park became amazingly quiet. It is even protected from the traffic noise. By 21:00, the barbeque feasts were complete and kids were getting ready to climb into sleeping bags, exhausted from the day of playing in the park.

Moonrise over Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. Photo credit Richard Trombly

This was an evening that kindly granted us a break in the heavens to see the full moon rise. I was able to leave my tent and wander among the many people using the park even at night. Like most Japanese parks, it is open 24 hours a day. The Moon did not disappoint.

The residents of the campsite beside me also marveled at the moonrise. They were an Osaka single mother and her daughter seeking an escape before the summer holiday ended. The mother said that due to Covid restrictions, they did not get much of a chance to travel this summer so she wanted to do something special. The chance to be in a park, distanced from all the crowds of the city was a nice experience. She said it was better than going to a theme park during the ongoing emergency. Her pre-teen daughter rolled her eyes but remained silent.

The clouds soon enveloped the sky and blotting the Moon so I retreated to my tent. A park security vehicle, blue light rotating on top, did make its rounds a few times during the night. A cat yowled its disappointment at the lack of BBQ leftovers since nobody had used the two BBQ areas adjacent to the camps. I had some food in my pack that the kitty appreciated and so it was quiet for the night, as the rain began.

One of the cats that scavenges the BBQ and camping area each night. Photo credit Richard Trombly

I woke before the dawn in darkness and the rain had ceased. I was pleased to find my tent had weathered the storm quite well and my sleeping bag was dry. I quickly grabbed my camera. Life would soon be stirring in the park.

Sunrise over Tsurumi, Osaka. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The predawn golden hour was beckoning me and I wandered beyond the park to find a morning coffee. With another stormy day on the way, the morning sunrise was stunning. But this breathtaking view was short-lived, returning to leaden-grey overcast within minutes.

Birds turtles and massive carp come to the edge of the pond to enjoy the attention and food
offered by park guests. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The morning summoned people and wildlife alike to congregate in the park. This was a weekday so there were many joggers taking their dogs for a run before work. It struck me how friendly and full of life the morning was.

A morning break with his companion before work. Photo credit Richard Trombly

Even on a cloudy morning the beauty of the park was overwhelming. The gardens in the park have a variety making some flora in season year-round.

A pagoda casts its reflection on the lake. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The day was starting and a storm was threatening, so I returned to my tent and packed up my campsite. I made sure to carefully gather my my gear and to pack out the trash.

Mother and daughter bonding time. Photo credit Richard Trombly

The campsite beside me was coming to life. Mother and daughter busily preparing breakfast. I asked the shy child if she had fun. She hesitated. Her mother answered for her. “Yes, she had alot of fun.” The daughter? She did not say otherwise.

It certainly was a memorable experience. It was nice to take advantage of this park that is just a few kilometers from Osaka station and a stop on the Nagahori Tsurumi Ryokuchi subway line.

Resources:

Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park https://www.tsurumi-ryokuchi.jp/

Free campsites & Cheap campsites information in Japan – A listing of select free or low-cost campsites, mostly provided by local municipalities. https://camp.tabinchuya.com/en.html

Convention and Tourism Bureaus for cities or regions will often have listings of interesting tourism sites including campgrounds and day camping sites provided supported by the towns or local businesses.

Notes:

Camping is still not a large industry in Japan so when searching for campgrounds assure that overnight camping is allowed and what facilities are offered.

Reserve ahead. Japan campgrounds, even if they have a vacancy, often will not rent spaces on the same day. Unplanned wandering is not advised. Make your plan and reservations well in advance.

Creating “Burgerholics”

By Richard Trombly

If you find yourself in Yao, a small suburban community on the east side of Osaka, then it is worth dropping by the Kintestsu Yao station to grab a bite at Pedro’s Burger. Of course, Yao does not have many attractions to bring in tourists, so even though Pedro’s Burger only holds about 12 people, you will probably find a seat.

Last call at Pedro’s Burger Photo credit Richard Trombly

Yao, founded in 1948, is a rapidly-growing industrial town at the foot of Mount Takayasu with about 270,000 residents. It is centered around a general aviation airport which was founded as Hanshin Avaiation School in 1938. It remains a great place to catch a scenic flight.

Yao airport, Osaka Photo courtesy of Yinlei.org

Mount Takayasu, itself is perhaps the strongest draw to visit Yao. There is well-preserved historical architecture in slope-side villages and many paths along this peak which is a part of the ridge dividing Nara and Osaka prefectures. The most interesting feature of this mountain is the Takayasu Senzuka Kofungun, a series of hundreds of burial mounds that hikers can visit.

After exploring Yao, there are many local cuisines that are featured in the local restaurants, especially the locally-grown green soy beans. But “Pedro”, who opened Pedro’s Burger in 2016, is undertaking a mission to make Yao, and the world, better through burgers. He says burgers are addictive and he is creating “burgerholics” one burger at a time. The restaurant welcomes visitors with a unique mix of knick-knacks reflecting American and Australian pop culture.

Pedro’s decor is an eclectic mix Photo credit Richard Trombly

Pedro, who is now 40 years old, is an Osakan native with a past as eclectic as his restaurant. He backpacked to over 20 countries in North America, Europe and Asia and took an extended work holiday. He has learned the food industry from the ground up with experience at Japanese restaurants, ramen houses and American diners.

The burgers are well-made with a larger-than-expected patty of quality beef and a satisfying order of fries. There is a variety of burgers to suit various tastes, but the signature Pedro Burger is a must, coming in at under 800 yen. It features a solid patty of lean beef resting atop a garden fresh and welcoming pile of crisp lettuce, a house-special sauce and a layer of pickled ginger to make this a distinctly Asian burger experience.

The signature Pedro Burger Photo credit Richard Trombly

Like most Japanese burgers, the sauce is laid on heavily enough it will drip so the burger is served on foil. Thankfully the menu has pictorial descriptions of how best to fold the foil to enjoy the burger while trapping the flow of sauces.

When leaving, the proprietor will mention a burger that you should try next time. He is confident that you will be hooked.

How to get there:

Address: 14 3 4丁目, 3 Higashihonmachi, Yao, Osaka 581-0004 (about 5 min. walk east from Kintetsu Yao Station)

Opening hours: Daily 11:00-20:00 (Closed on Mondays and public holidays)

Phone: None

Website: None

Nearest station: Kintetsu Railway Yao Station (from Tsuruhashi Station)

Honoring The Happy God

Kick off a successful New Year by celebrating Ebisu, Osaka-style.

By Richard Trombly

11 Jan. 2020 – Osaka The Toka Ebisu Festival or Ebbesan, as the locals call it, recently filled the streets of central Osaka’s Naniwa Ward in an annual celebration. The event is centered on the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in the Shadow of Shin Sekai’s Tsutenkaku Tower from 9-11 January each year. On January 10th, alone, nearly 1 million worshipers passed through the temple gates seeking this god’s blessing for the new year, according to shrine officials. The coincidence of the full Moon this year made attending the event in the evening even more alluring.

A full Moon rises over Tsutenkaku Tower as seen from Ebisuchou metro station. Photo credit Richard Trombly

Ebisu is one of Japan’s seven god’s of fortune but, unlike the other six, Ebisu’s origins are entirely Japanese. As the god of fishermen, he is portrayed as bearded, chubby and jovial with a fishing pole and a large red sea bream fish that is emblematic of his fruitful labors. Also, unlike the other deities, Ebisu is said to have been born crippled and tossed into the sea by his parents. He did not die and, instead, overcame his disability and learned how to work hard fishing for a living.

Ebisu, wood block print, 1795, by Toshusai Sharaku

The origins of the temple were as a gateway to Osaka’s greater Shitennoji temple in about 600 C.E. At the time, Osaka was still mostly a fishing and farming town but it rapidly became a bustling commerce center. Over the years, the Imamiya Shrine has taken on fame in its own rights and Ebisu’s fortune also smiles on commerce as well as fishermen and farmers.

While other gods of fortune represent good luck, Ebisu was not born lucky. He worked hard and the fish represents the bountiful rewards of good fortune favoring hard work. Perhaps that is why so many people come as they seek reassurance that their hard work will pay off in the new year.

Ebisu Festival Osaka crowd
A stream of visitors awaits entry to the Imamaya Shrine Photo Credit Richard Trombly

The press of visitors carrying dried bamboo stalks is shoulder-to-shoulder but everyone seems to be happy and move along in an orderly fashion. Many buy lucky charms as tokens of good fortune as the endless stream of visitors moves slowly forward. This is a friendly and casual event but one man dressed in business attire purchases a token representing a bar of gold. “I own a company and come here every year,” said the man surnamed Kawakami. “I hope my business will do well so I can prosper.”

Ebisu images and tokens flank this vendor. Photo credit Richard Trombly

Once finally passing the temple gates, there are friendly faces of volunteer temple staff to greet the newcomers helping them to make a sacrifice of the brown, dried stalks of bamboo. The afternoon of the 10th is special because there is a parade and 50 special temple maids called fukumusume are chosen from among thousands of applicants will cheerfully hand out token gifts to lucky fortune-seekers.

Temple maidens attach tokens to the signature bamboo branches. Photo credit Richard Trombly

These tokens or charms are also available for purchase from the temple if you are not fortunate enough to be honored by the fukumusume. Participants will each be given a branch of bamboo to sacrifice the following year along with the charms. There are many smiling temple maidens to attach the tokens to your bamboo branch.

Despite the scale of this event, it still has the friendly feel of a neighborhood gathering with everyone sharing in good cheer. In this crowd of many thousands there are chance greetings and random reunions happening everywhere. In the spirit of coincidence and good fortune, I even heard my name called out and found the familiar face of a friend from another district of the city greeting me from the booth he was staffing as a volunteer.

Kishihara Shu (L.) is a local film actor participating in this community event. photo credit Richard Trombly

For an event based around a shrine, there were very few strict aspects of religion. No sermons or strict ceremonies. Just people happily making their offerings including tossing coins into the temple coffers, getting their bamboo and charms, and then learning their fortunes. For 50 yen, you can get a printed fortune based on your birthday or you can visit one of the many booths where sooth-sayers predict your coming year’s luck.

A moving bamboo forest of Ebisu celebrants. Photo credit Richard Trombly

But the celebrants are reluctant to leave after making their devotions. They stay and have fun at the carnival-like atmosphere of the celebration whose stalls and vendors spread for several blocks to the north and west from the grounds of the shrine.

Pathway to Shinto Shrine 境内社 赤土稲荷社. Photo credit Richard Trombly

There are actually several other temples and shrines, such as the Hirota Shrine, are located within the festival and are swarmed by the crowds of people and merchant stalls, arcade games and endless selection of sweets and snack being sold. In the midst of it all is one small and quiet Shinto shrine.

A Shinto shrine remains quiet amidst the Ebbesan crowds. Photo credit Richard Trombly

境内社 赤土稲荷社remains nearly undisturbed as the crowds flow past the red lamp posts of its entry lane. The only sound piercing the tiny temple grounds is the occasional ringing of the shrine’s bell tolling from the rare visitor.

Revelers feast at one of the canteens that spring up during Ebbessan. Photo credit Richard Trombly

Ebisu is a character that enjoys feasting on the bounty of his hard work. Likewise, all of the celebration is hungry work. Aside from the endless snack stalls, a proper Osakan feast comprised of a wide range of local street food delicacies can be had at one of the many vast tent canteens that spring up for the festival. The din of joyous dinner conversations go on long into the night.

Ebisu, Hand-painting on silk, 華堂 喜田 Kadou Kida (1802-1879)

If you ever get the chance to visit Osaka around the new year, take the chance to participate in the Imamaya festival. Like Ebisu grappling his mighty fish, you might get a hold on good fortune for the coming year.

Spirited Away

Children hold a special place on Mount Ikoma

By Richard Trombly

With additional reporting by Jude Jiang

While tourists seek out the hustle and bustle of Namba markets, the historic sites at Osaka Castle or day trips braving the crowds to see the deer in Nara, they overlook the natural and cultural wonders that exist in-between. From anywhere in Osaka, you can look eastward and see an inviting ridgeline centered on the 642-meter-tall Mount Ikoma which divides Nara and Osaka.

Mount Ikoma, Osaka

It is worthy simply as a nice day hike with the family or friends but it has added treasures. On top of Mount Ikoma, the summit holds the Ikoma Sanjo Amusement Park that was built in 1929. The park rides are really only for young kids, but since the park entry is free, it is a great place to stroll about and the park has had a recent face lift that did not destroy its historic charm. There is also a cat and dog petting zoo that claims to house various furry friends from around the world. Hours are seasonal so it is best to call ahead.

Kintetsu Ikoma Cable Car 1918

If climbing up those 600 meters does not sound fun, there is another bonus. Just a short walk from the Ikoma Station of the Chou-line metro and Kintetsu railway is a cable car to the summit and amusement park. The Kintetsu Ikoma Cable Car, opened in 1928, is the oldest commercial cable car line in Japan running from Toriimae station up the mountain to Ikoma Sanjo. Some of the cars retain a classic look while some have been tailored to look like a dog or cat for the younger park guests. Kids will often ask the conductor to make the animals “talk” so as the dog and cat cable cars cross each other the cat calls out “nyao nyao” and the dog responds “won won.” After passing through the Ikoma hillside community and up to Hosan-ji, you must transfer to reach the top.

View of Nara with a dog-shaped Kintetsu Ikoma Cable Car

Long before the temple was built, Mt Ikoma was already venerated by the local people. It became a training site for Buddhist monks as early as 665. The temple, dating back to the Edo Period, is dedicated to Kangiten. This god is usually depicted as an elephant figure similar to the Hindu Ganesha, and is known for wisdom, joy and prosperity which made Kangiten popular amongst merchants and entertainers.

Small pilgrimages from Osaka or Nara brought worshipers here, so there developed a hillside village and a variety of  shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and guesthouses along the slopes that have been serving religious pilgrims and visitors ever since. However, unlike some crowded tourist sites, the shops are low key and there are no tour buses discharging throngs of temple visitors. On most days you will only meet a few other climbers, many taking a rest over a cup of coffee or a meal.

Climbing through the community, the lanes are very narrow and steep and even become a staircase in places. There are some traditional buildings maintaining echoes of historical architecture and the view of the Osaka cityscape is impressive. Soon you rise above the last outpost of civilization alongside the Hozanji station of the cable car line.

Ascending to the temple, there is a broad stairway but there are also winding forest paths which lead to the temple grounds. There are some unique features here. While the dark wooden framed structures with white stucco walls and grey ceramic kawara-tiled roofs are of typical Japanese temple construction, the altar and prayer halls are constructed from brown wooden walls with bark roofs which are indicative of Shinto shrines. A seated Buddha commands an alcove in the cliff behind the main hall. There is an outlook over the valley as well.

Hozanji Shrine on Mount Ikoma

A trail rising up behind the main hall leads through the peaceful forests on its winding way up to the summit. It is a steep climb through thick groves of bamboo or tall cedars with the silence only broken by bird calls and the cheerful murmurs of mountain springs tumbling down the slopes.

Jizo statues on Mount Ikoma

If you ascend the trail you will pass many smaller shrines and there are many statues of Jizo and other Buddhist figures. Jizo are usually stone-carved statues of a bodhisattva that is a spirit protecting known for travelers so they are often located at pilgrimage destinations and boundaries, both physical and spiritual. These figures are also often depicted with children or even holding an infant because they are seen as protectors of children, especially the spirits of those children who passed away young. You will see hats, gloves or bibs on many of the Jizo. Women make these clothes, often carefully knitted, as religious devotion however several of the Jizo here are wearing a sweater or hat, from a departed child, placed with care by grieving parents. There are offerings not only of fruits but also of children’s’ beloved toys.

On September 23 each year, the hillside and village is filled with worshipers, revelers and vendors celebrating the Ikoma Shoten Equinox Lantern Ceremony. A vast array of lanterns and candles adorn the mountain steps and paths lighting the autumn night in celebration.

Osaka ain’t no party, It ain’t no disco, It ain’t no foolin’ around

By Richard Trombly

Osaka, 13 October 2019 – I was strolling through Nishinari Ward near DoubutsenMae (the zoo area), my neighborhood in Osaka, tonight enjoying the autumn scent encroaching into the air mixed with the rich smells coming from the many small restaurants in the close-packed store fronts. Admittedly, this is the low budget end of town despite being just blocks from the tallest building in Japan and the brand malls and boutiques of the prosperous Tennoji area, it is home to a notorious area of prostitution and dubious karaoke bars where 100 yen (USD $1) gets you one song and a bar maiden to be your audience, as well as homeless elderly folks camped under the eaves of a warehouse across from the Shin Imamiya railway station. So amidst the din of mealtime conversation spilling from these restaurants and the alcohol-fueled warbling rising out of these KTV, I came across and incredible, yet very common, find. It was a concert hall of about 12 square meters with a jamming guitar playing acoustic solo and heart-felt lyrics being belted out in a rich voice, gravelly with too many cigarettes and lost hopes. The lyrics of “Life During Wartime” by The Talking Heads came to mind.

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,
This ain’t no fooling around
This ain’t no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B.,
I ain’t got time for that now.”

Earth Music Cafe in Nishinari, Osaka

Osaka actually does have time for that, though, I thought. It really runs at a different pace than other places, especially compared to fast-paced Shanghai, where I have spend most of my past two decades, or Tokyo. As the second-largest city in the island nation, it is the very antithesis of the capital. There is very little outdoor advertising here because people here are hard to market to. They seem to have little use for status symbols of consumerism. And there is an underground culture and art movement here that is quiet yet pervasive.

A concert hall? Not really, but it is a music cafe called EARTH that barely functions as a business. It is a gathering point for the proprietor, Daichi Terakawa’s friends, for music makers, and perhaps a dozen music lovers at a time. But that does not matter, because it is a place to perform. Here, art matters. It reminded me of that club CBGB in the Bowery, a rather impoverished area of New York City, or at least it was back in the day that bands like The Talking Heads,The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Police, and other bands got a chance to be heard in an ever-narrowing music industry.

CBGB was a pioneering music club in the Bowery, New York City

I am not saying that this bar is going to launch stars like Hilly Kristol did, but CBGB was created for performance, not for fame. This hole-in-the-wall is just that, a performance space. It is a place free of the studio-perfect meter and pitch and recorded perfection that destroys the very sense of the concert experience today, as most bands perform to a pre-canned music track and just do a stage performance, perfectly choreographed to death of any art.

It is so much more rewarding to see an earnest artist perform an imperfect and beautifully raw and flawed performance in a venue like this, or the famed Iron Horse performance space in the old stomping grounds of my youth in the western end of Massachusetts. The experience to see bands in a venue where you are one of less than 100 people packed into a venue is priceless. The performance there is genuine and the energy of the performers is powerful.

traditional Rakugo performers are “sit-down comedians”

Osaka is rich with this sort of art sensibility. Currently the city ward is in the midst of the Shin Imamiya Festival featuring traditional folk drama in non-traditional venues, concerts on the street, and even Rakugo, (literally “fallen words”), but it means a “sit-down” comedian, performing folk comic routines dressed in traditional attire. Osaka just hosted a citywide vibrant month-long celebration of this art that pushes the edge with the Fringe Festival https://osakafringe.com/home-english/. Venues across the city and even parks held a wide variety or concerts, stage plays and performance art but the energy and feel of this underground art culture is there year-round.

Richard Trombly is a writer living in Osaka and Shanghai. Email Richard@trombly.com