Books about Osaka?
December 26, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books about Osaka.

That's it. Not travel books, but a great non-fiction book about the history of this incredible city, or a rich novel set there that really uses the place as a character.
posted by Bobby Bittman to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's not quite what you're asking for, but I recommend the Kenji Mizoguchi film Osaka Eleji. It is a great film and captures the spirit of the city in 1936.

There's an edited volume of essays called Osaka: The Merchants' Capital of Early Modern Japan by James L. McClain and Wakita Osamu. The essays are of varying quality. See also Visions of Virtue by Tetsuo Najita and Jennifer Robertson's Takarazuka about the Takarazuka Theater if you want more academic books.

I do not think it is translated, but the greatest stories about Osaka I can think of based in true stories are collected in the manga series Naniwa Kinyudo (The way of old Osaka finance). It's about a young gangster-loan shark learning the trade.

A lot of yakuza stories are set in Osaka because the yakuza are based between Osaka and Kobe.

Burakumin/eta settlements are also concentrated in the region, so work on them will feature Osaka prominently.

I got my M.A. at Osaka University and lived in the city for a long while before I returned to the US and continued with graduated school.

I really can't think of good non-fiction about Osaka. None of these suggestions really meets your criteria. Hopefully someone comes along with better stuff.
posted by vincele at 8:08 AM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you want to learn more about the homeless population and the movement of day laborers in Osaka, do a youtube search for "nishinari ku (ward)" or "kamagasaki".

There are some fine short films on youtube about the troubles Kamagasaki/Nishinari ku day laborers face. A lot of the unrest occurs in front of the Nishinari ku police station, and has for decades.

Nishinari ku is also the location of Tengachaya, the neighborhood which is the location of Mizoguchi's film Osaka Eleji.

The ward is also home to Tobita Shinchi, an old-style red light district controlled by gangsters, where sex is sold to customers in fifteen or thirty minute increments. No condom, no bathroom access. The Wikipedia article and the first few hits about it on google are worthless.

Tobita is unlike all but a few other red light districts, which are all in the Kansai area. When you enter the area you know it. Women in cheap Japanese robes sit on tatami behind an older woman (a yarite basan) who sits on a stool in the doorway.

If you like what you see, you strike a price with the yarite basan and go upstairs to do your business.

The women working in Tobita Shinchi generally in up there due to debt racked up as hostesses to hostess bars or to loan sharks (see Naniwa Kinyudo, or dig around on fuzoku forums on the Japanese net).

The best nonfiction is probably found on good blogs using keywords I've mentioned here.

If there's a particular aspect of Osaka you're interested in, post a reply and I'll try to think up a keyword for you.
posted by vincele at 9:53 AM on December 26, 2010

Miyamoto Teru writes a lot about Osaka. Amazon has one of his books, Kinshu, translated into English, although it appears to be set both overseas (from Japan) and in Kyoto.

Although Miyamoto's most famous book set in Osaka would have to be Doro no Kawa (it seems to be on some Chinese Flash streaming sites), his book "Maboroshi no Hikari" was adapted into a movie back in the 90s, and it's set partially in Osaka but mostly on the Noto Peninsula (near where I used to live!).

As mentioned above, Naniwa Kin'yudo (ナニワ金融道) is great, although very little of the manga has been translated into English (although it reads best in Japanese anyway).

One challenge you may have is that there isn't a lot of stuff about Japan published by the popular press these days, and the books that do exist cover pretty generic topics.

However, if your local college or university has a good Japan or Asian Studies program, you could always check out their stacks for more scholarly books.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 AM on December 26, 2010

There's a collection of Oda Sakunosuke stories translated by Burton Watson (iirc) called "Stories of Osaka Life." I haven't read it and can't remember what's in it but if they put Osaka in the title the selection probably reflects that.

You might be interested in Ihara Saikaku's "The Eternal Storehouse of Japan" too, I'm sure at least excerpts are available in some Tuttle book...
posted by No-sword at 2:31 PM on December 26, 2010

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