Archive

Posts Tagged ‘building’

Umeda Kita Yard Redevelopment Project

April 21, 2010 6 comments
Firstly, I would like to thank all my readers and fellow bloggers for supporting Osaka Insider. This is officially my 50th post, and while Osaka Insider is a still a new face on the Internet, the increasing readership and lovely comments have encouraged me to keep going. Thank you!

Construction started in March 2010 in Umeda’s Kita Yard (北ヤード), an area located directly next to JR Osaka Station that has been used as a freight terminal throughout its history until now. The area has always been an eyesore in the upscale district, and the redevelopment of this area will essentially “complete” the Umeda area. According to the development project’s website, phase one is scheduled to be complete in March 2013. According to various sources, the entire redevelopment will be complete between 2020 and 2025.

Phase one consists of a series of buildings forming a district known as the “Knowledge-Capital” (inappropriate hyphen placement is their English, not mine). It will supposedly be a multi-purpose commercial-residential-research district, focusing on an international gathering of minds combined with cutting-edge technology. Cutting through all the flowery descriptions, the reality will be a mixed office-shopping-residential district, along with facilities for conferences, conventions, research, and knowledge-workers. There will also be green space modeled after Osaka’s current overarching development theme, the “city of water.”

The above is my summary of what the planners envision, but now I’d like to share my personal thoughts. The Kita Yard is a giant eyesore in Umeda, especially when going to the Umeda Sky Building or Yodobashi Camera, and it also acts as an unwelcome reminder of Osaka’s dirty, industrial past. The land in question is probably the most expensive property in Osaka, and I have high hopes that they will redevelop it in such a way as to add more originality and fun to the Umeda district.

I think the idea of a “Knowledge-Capital” will flop, and the new area will essentially be an expansion of Umeda as a shopping district, with new and extremely expensive housing added in. About a third of the area is dedicated to housing and hotel space, another third to offices, and another third to commercial facilities with a smattering of “Knowledge-Capital” commercial zoning. Throughout Japan’s modern urban development history, there have been many attempts to make technology-based districts or districts revolving around vague concepts such as knowledge or internationalization, and all of them have simply turned into upscale commercial districts in the end–I have almost no doubt that this time will be no different.

In other words, this new part of Umeda will simply be an expansion of the current upscale shopping and central business district. What is needed is some originality, something to make Umeda stand out. This cannot be accomplished by simply throwing in a few department stores, overpriced restaurants and brand-name department stores for gold-diggers and himo. Umeda is a fun place, but it has always felt a bit like a Kansai version of Tokyo’s Shinjuku rather than something uniquely Osakan, as places like Namba, Tsuruhashi and Shin-Sekai are.

Furthermore, areas in the central city north of Osaka Castle Park and Utusbo Park are severely lacking in quality parks and pleasant green space (I’m not counting the drab Yodogawa riverfront), so quality parks and open areas rather than a few sad-looking shrubs are sorely needed in Umeda. These would likely raise property values in the area even further (which must be of some interest to developers there). Osaka has some of the most well-planned parks I’ve encountered in Japan, and a new one in Umeda would be a definite plus for residents.

Finally, this development plan coincides with transportation network expansion projects, namely by JR and the Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau (public operator of subways and buses in Osaka). JR has long been considering a namboku (“north-south”–name TBD) line going underground from a new Kita-Osaka Station in Umeda, through to the existing JR Namba Station and continuing from there on current tracks to Tennoji Station. This would not only provide an alternative route for regular trains and tokkyu special express trains going north-south (they currently use the loop line), it would provide an alternative route for JR freight traffic, as well as new public transportation along Naniwa-suji (boulevard). Osaka City is considering extending its Yotsubashi Line to connect with Kita-Umeda and continue north through Juso to Shin-Osaka Station (where the shinkansen stops). Although they are still in the discussion phases, these moves could greatly improve the Osaka City and Kansai area rail networks and improve ease of movement around the city.

I have mostly commented on phase one of the plan, because that is the only one where details are clear. Only time will tell what the new Umeda will look like, but I have very high expectations that the positive direction Osaka city planning has taken will continue to pick up momentum with this project.

Take a look at the development project’s website if you are interested in learning more.

Photos by Wikimedia Commons.
Advertisements

Nakanoshima Club

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Nakanoshima Club is inside the Chuo Kokaido

Nakanoshima Club (中之島倶楽部) is a Western cuisine restaurant located in the Chuo Kokaido building, which was built in 1918 in the elegant yet flamboyant European-influenced style that became popular in the early part of Japan’s modern period. The building is one of the most beautiful of the historic buildings in the Nakanoshima/Kitahama area, and it has been designated as an Important Cultural Property by the government. While dinners here average out to around 3,500 yen per person, which is a little more than the average diner may want to pay, lunch is an easily-affordable 680 yen (average) per person. Although the lunch menu is more limited, the low price gives you a chance to experience the tasty food and Showa-Period atmosphere of Nakanoshima Club without emptying your wallet. Plus, if you’ve never had a chance to walk around Nakanoshima Island, you make an afternoon out of it!

It is only a few steps to Nakanoshima Club from Naniwabashi Station (Keihan Nakanoshima Line), and only 3 min. on foot from Yodoyabashi Station (Midosuji Subway Line and Keihan Main Line). Simply walk around the side of the Chuo Kokaido building and go in through the basement-level entryway. Restaurant hours are 9:30 am to 9:30 pm (closed on the 4th Tue. of the month and during the New Year’s holiday period). English menus are available for those who don’t read Japanese—menu and further information are also available here. Nomihodai is also available. You can contact them at 06-6233-3580.

A Google Maps access map can be viewed here.

Osaka Insider Progress Report 2

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s come time to make my second progress report on the status of the Osaka Insider website.

But first I would like to call attention to two new features I have added to this blog: the e-mail subscription and RSS feed subscription buttons near the top of the sidebar. Using either (or both) of these features, you can conveniently monitor updates to my blog. The subscription function for individual post comments is still available as before. You can also find me on Twitter (username: osakainsider). I hope these features will make it easier for you, the reader, to follow and enjoy Osaka Insider.

The Osaka Insider website has not progressed as fast as I’d like, but that is mostly because I am not willing to cut corners and leave out information that may be useful to potential readers. The number of sightseeing spots and facilities to be included on the site at launch is approximately 120, which includes not only individual facilities and sites, but large sites comprising various facilities within (Banpaku Memorial Park, Namba underground shopping, etc). I have completed about 95% the pages for these sightseeing spots. Further, I have scrapped the labor-intensive idea of trying to make my own access maps for each place, and instead decided to use customized Google Maps for this feature–the folks over at Google obviously make way better maps than I can. I am starting to focus more on the gourmet and nightlife sections now, which is the bulk of the work remaining for the site. Speaking of nightlife and gourmet, I welcome any recommendations by Osaka residents or former residents, as I believe word of mouth is one of the best ways to get good information.

The purpose of my website is to provide a comprehensive database of information that can be easily accessed and utilized anytime by those who are in, plan to visit, or have interest in Osaka. I took much of my inspiration for this from japan-guide.com, which is an excellent site that provides concise and useful tourist information. This blog will become part of that site, providing a dynamic and flexible forum to report new things, write articles about Osaka and Japan in general, and supply fresh information. By combining the dynamic format of this blog with the extensive information provided by the website, I hope to create the best source of information. There is a tremendous lack of information regarding Osaka in English, and I hope to be the one who changes that. The site will, of course, expand beyond its already wide scope once I get the beast online. I have more than 100 other spots that I am not currently using at the site because there is not information available on them, I have not physically visited them, or because I am still evaluating them to see if they meet standards (I refuse to post poor recommendations just to inflate my sightseeing list).

I am also putting more effort into increasing traffic on this blog, and researching SEO stuff in preparation for my future site launch. One of the best resources for not only increasing blog readership but gaining inspiration and just entertaining myself throughout the week has been my fellow bloggers, whose links who can find in my blogroll on the right-hand side. It is these people who establish standards of quality to strive for, and who make the online community such a rich place.

You can read all website progress reports here.

As always, suggestions, comments, or ideas for what you want to see on this blog or on the website are welcome.

osakainsider AT gmail DOT com