I live in Juso, a place whose name can be written shorthand as 13. When I moved from Ubuyama, I wanted to live in a place that was the polar opposite of where I spent my first two years in Japan. I really couldn’t have found a place that was so foreign to the Japan I had gotten to know intimately within the same country.
It is interesting to note that a good number of people, even those who live near Juso or who regularly transfer trains in the Hankyu hub, have never been out and about in this area that?s just across the river from Umeda. They have a mostly negative view of the place. Juso is associated with lewdness, strange or handicapped people, danger, and dirtiness. Make no mistake, these things do exist here, but it’s pretty tame if you’ve been traveling anywhere outside of Japan.
It’s strange to see how the seasons affect people around here. The crazy people and perverts seem to be warded off by the cold, so the girls who live in my apartment haven’t come by and asked if they can chill in my apartment for a while because some strange man was following them home (this happened quite frequently during spring and summer).
It’s strange to see how skirt lengths get shorter despite the freezing winds whipping through the street.
It’s amusing to see the teenage guitarists and their fan girls hanging out under the tracks of the Juso eki, and drunken salarymen occasionally drop a few thousand yen to play a request.
It’s cool to see how well the homeless are getting along without any help from the outside world.
It’s annoying to see 10 cops standing on a side street with whistles in mouth and pens in hand, ambushing passing cars to ticket drivers.
It’s nice to hear the high school band practice next to the Yodogawa as the sun sinks into the West.
It makes you realize just how cold it is when you see the plumes of smoke coming out of the vents of the restaurants, stalls, and off of grilling takoyaki in the morning and at night. Oh, and the snow makes it abundantly clear too.
It’s cool to know that if you want to buy a specific type of egg from a specific type of chicken, quail, or even duck, there is a store at the end of the shotengai where you can probably find exactly what you?re looking for.
It’s an especially good sign to see that many of the izakayas and eating establishments are regularly crowded with blue collar workers, enjoying their food and drink after work to the point where you aren’t always guarenteed a seat. It’s also a good sign that not many young people come to these restaraunts- they go to the fancier, more expensive ones in Umeda or Minami instead. They don?t know what they?re missing.
It’s nice to exchange “Ohayogozaimasu”, “Ittarashai”, and “Ittekimasu” with the old lady who lives in the house next to my apartment every morning on my way to work.
It’s gratifying to hear people say that they like Juso, after actually coming down here and spending some time and getting to know it. It isn’t a touristy area, nor is it a really happening place to be, but it has a nice balance hidden below a scruffy, slightly notorious surface. It is surprisingly quiet at nighttime.
Sure, there are some unpleasant or provocative things about Juso, but at least it is advertised clearly out in the open. It’s no more a corrupt or dirty place than the surrounding areas, it’s just more honest.