Brings new meaning to the phrase “slumming it.”

A couple years ago we reported on the ongoing gentrification of Osaka’s Nishinari Ward, more specifically the Airin district within it, which was once a focal point for homeless people, day laborers, prostitutes, and mobsters.

It still kind of is, but not nearly as much as in decades past, especially due to steps by the Osaka government to clean up the area and make it more tourist friendly. One way was by permitting Hoshino Resorts to set up an upscale hotel called OMO7 right on the edge of Nishinari Ward.

▼ A grand tour of OMO7 Osaka

Hoshino Resorts is famous for their dreamlike amenities like their Sea of Clouds Terrace and Ice Village in Hokkaido or elegant paper lantern social distancing pods in Tokyo. So it’s a little surprising that they set up their newest facility right next to an area that less diplomatic people might refer to as a “slum.”

In advance of OMO7’s grand opening on 22 April, Hoshino Resorts president Yoshiharu Hoshino said that hotel’s location “expresses the deep culture of Osaka and Osaka-ness in general, and it’s a meaningful place to stay.”

He’s definitely not wrong, and one could argue that the Airin district is THE place to get a crash course in Japanese class conflict. Since the mid 20th century there have been periodic large-scale clashes in the area between the low-income residents and police, often over accusations of unfair treatment and abuse.

▼ This news report starts off with a montage of past conflicts in Airin

OMO7 is also conveniently located right by Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line, which can whisk guests away to any of the city’s hot spots like USJ or the big fist. Incidentally, Shin-Imamiya Station was also set ablaze by rioters in 1990.

South-facing rooms will have a view of the entire area, and you might even catch a stand-off between police and demonstrators. Although, not quite as violent as they used to be, they can still get quite heated and big.

▼ This clash took place in 2019

These incidents are all absolutely important pieces of this city’s history and culture, so in a way the construction of OMO7 is doing a good thing by helping raise awareness of them. That of course, didn’t stop netizens from making wry comments about it all.

“So, do they charge 2,000 yen [US$16] a night?”
“How far is it to the red light district on foot?”
“I plan to stay on the top floor and sip brandy while looking down on all the commoners.”
“Isn’t setting up a huge hotel kind of destroying this ‘deep culture’ they speak of?”
“There aren’t nearly as many interesting things to see there as there used to be. Most of the workers are getting kicked out.”
“All the major areas have become tourist traps, and there isn’t much ‘deep culture’ left anywhere in Osaka. I remember getting off at Shin-Imamiya and being greeted with the smell of urine.”

Although the juxtaposition is stark at the moment, in all likelihood Hoshino Resorts noticed that in recent years the smell of urine around Shin-Imamiya has been replaced by the scent of prime real estate opportunities. In setting up shop now, they’re simply getting in on the ground floor of an inevitable and even bigger overhaul of Nishinari in the coming years, for better or worse.

For the time being however, they’ll have some stiff competition, because we know a few places right by there where you can spend the night for about the same price as a Big Mac combo.

Source: Kyodo,
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