Yes, even during the World Cup.

This certainly is shaping up to be an exciting World Cup for Japan. Going into the international tournament in a state of relative disarray and low expectations, the national team has performed rather well so far, beating Colombia and getting a draw against Senegal.

With the Samurai Blue chances to advance to the next round improving, municipal officials in Osaka are becoming increasingly concerned that more people will jump off the Ebisu Bridge in the heart of the city.

You see, jumping off the Ebisu Bridge is a long-standing sports tradition in Osaka. Mainly linked to the performance of not-so-local-but-local baseball team the Hanshin Tigers, impromptu parties are often held on the bridge to celebrate sporting achievements.

▼ A 2014 bridge party celebrating the Tigers reaching the Japan series for the first time in nine years

Since the bridge isn’t so high above the Dotonbori River, which runs through downtown Osaka and across its famous Glico sign, people aren’t seriously injured…usually. But there have been deaths and it’s not unheard of for someone to pick up some nasty germs such as E. coli in the urban waterway.

Still, its hard to break with tradition so victories continue to brings fans out to the bridge, and the World Cup has been no exception. In the early hours of June 25 about 500 soccer fans descended on the Dotonbori to express their joy over a tie with Senegal.

During this party, about 20 people jumped into the Dotonbori river. No one was seriously hurt, but a few people needed assistance making it back to land as life preservers were tossed into the murky river to recover them.

In response, the city of Osaka issued a warning against jumping off the bridge, along with a cute graphic of a little referee holding up a red card.

▼ “The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has been underway from June 14, but jumping into rivers is extremely dangerous. Let’s stop it altogether!”

Image: Osaka City Website

Surely all those young folks regularly check their municipal government’s website, so that should be the end of all that nasty business. But before we go wiping our hands together out of satisfaction of a job well done, there’s another problem.

After the Senegal match, the hundreds of party-goers could be seen jumping in unison and shouting, “NIPPON!” While this is a lovely display of national pride, it has also caused the Ebisu Bridge to begin wavering.

Since this bridge is mainly intended for pedestrians, it isn’t designed to withstand such a heavy pounding. One person drowning in the river is certainly a tragedy, but scores dying in a bridge collapse is a whole other level. So, Osaka’s Mayor Yoshimura personally tweeted a warning for all to stop.

“The bridge isn’t designed with the assumption that 500 people will jump on it. It is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Please stop.”

Of course, Osaka isn’t just relying on the Internet to spread their message of responsible partying. Signs are also put up around the bridge that are bright yellow so they are visible at night and printed in four languages with the simple message: “Please do not jump.”

That humble request might not convey the urgency of the situation, but therein lies the dilemma.

A warning along the lines of, “Hey, there’s E. coli in that river!” would probably be more dissuasive. However, this stretch of the Dotonbori is also a major tourist area, so such a sign would also be tantamount to “Hey, look at our big poison river!”

Somehow, the city will have to thread that tricky needle of getting through to rowdy revelers while also maintaining the dignity of the face of the city. And they better think of something quick, because tonight’s match against Poland is looking like a foregone conclusion.

It might not be too late to convince people to go back to tossing statues of Colonel Sanders into the river instead. Ronald McDonald too? Sure what the heck, the World Cup only comes along once every four years.

Source: Daily Sports, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Tokumeigakarinoaoshima