Is Osaka Metro destroying the sophistication of the city, or is it just the victim of a bunch of wet blankets?

About a month ago Osaka city officials were thrilled to learn that their city was chosen to host the World Expo in 2025. This of course sparked a slew of urban renewal projects to get the city all gussied up for the event.

Among them is a major overhaul of many of Osaka’s biggest subway stations by its operator Osaka Metro. The 30 billion yen project will involve giving each station a distinctive decor to match the general spirit of the area it inhabits.

For example, anyone who has been to Umeda Station (Osaka Station for other train lines), knows that it’s a confusing mess of corridors and escalators that has driven at least one grown man (me) to tears. So in that spirit, the platforms will be lined with a garbled mess of text in several different languages, in what Osaka Metro is calling an “Information Terminal” theme.

I wonder what that information is anyway. Maybe it’s useful? Computer, enhance please!

▼ “…when the stock price picks up, the flow of risk avoidance has retreated and rebounded to around 116.15 yen. The euro doll is around 1.2100 dollars. The euro yen is 129.23 yen.”

Meanwhile Shinsaibashi, known for its many high- and low-end fashion shops, will be given a jaunty look in keeping with the material girl vibe of the overall area. It is said to be a “textile” theme with various fabric patterns running along its walls and ceilings.

▼ Have you ever seen a pair of people study a shampoo ad quite as carefully as those two are?

Osakako (Osaka Harbor) Station will be transformed into a big ol’ boat compete with portholes, and the platform will feel like you’re standing on its deck.

Even the train cars will be updated and, according to this mock-up, will come equipped with a Tom Waits cover band.

That is just a few of the plans for the 15 stations that will receive makeovers in time for the Expo. However, not everyone was happy with the proposed changes. Within days of the announcement a petition was created and signed by 20,000 people requesting that “the subway of Osaka with its history be left as it is.”

Some comments include:

“It’s really noisy and hurts my eyes.”
“Can they call it an ‘improvement’ if they are clearly making it worse?”
“This isn’t freedom of expression. It’s just cheesy.”
“If they’re going to spend that much money, why not work on making it more accessible for disabled people?”
“I don’t know. It might turn out all right in the end.”
“I like my subway stations dank.”
“I think they’re ugly and don’t really capture Osaka’s identity.”
“Do Osaka people like gaudy things?”

In response to that last question, as someone who has lived here over a decade, I’d have to say that yes, Osaka people do have a soft spot for garish things. In my defense I present exhibit A: a traditional Osakan garb as modeled by our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma.


And exhibit B is one of Osaka’s popular supermarket chains, Super Tamade, found all over the city and surrounding areas.


And let’s not forget the monument created in the lead-up to the the Expo 2025 decision, a giant iron fist with a gold three-ring finger reading “2025” made by a guy called Grand Cobra that sits at the entrance to Osaka City Hall.


So heck ya, let’s camp up the Osaka subway too! I kind of like each station having a distinct look, not only for something fun to do, but because it solves a big issue I’ve had with the subway for a long time.

As it stands now, most stations along the Midosuji and Chuo lines are rather drab and identical looking. The only way to easily identify each station is by the signs, which for some reason are posted at a height that is impossible to read while standing on the trains.

This means in order to check what station I’m at I sometimes have frantically duck and weave my head around to find the name before the train gets moving again.

Announcer: “We are now arriving at [elderly salary man loudly coughs up phelgm] -tion, please exit on the left.”

Wikipedia/Luke Ma

With the new renovations, I would easily know I’m at Shinsaibashi station because of all the flowers and people staring at shampoo ads. Piece of cake! I imagine this also will be helpful for out-of-towners to make their way around the city too.

▼ A look at all the renovation plans for each station

People complaining about the large cost are probably not taking into account that most of it will be spent on the brand-new Yumeshima Station which will be built from the ground up at the site of the Expo.

▼ Those huge stacked glass cubes certainly don’t come cheap.

It’s worth noting too that these are just rough ideas of their plans and will probably end up totally different by the completion of the project. An Osaka Metro rep also said that they are taking complaints into consideration. However, they have no intention of scraping the plans.

Nor do they have to, as Osaka Metro has been a private company since April of this year and are free to do whatever they want. So petitioning for them to change their decor would be about as effective as petitioning McDonald’s to change Ronald’s “tacky” yellow jumpsuit. Heck, you might as well petition SoraNews24 to give me a raise…

I repeat: You might as well petition SoraNews24 to give me a raise.

Source: Osaka Metro, Buzzfeed News, Asahi Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Images: Osaka Metro