Posts Tagged ‘Osaka’

City dumps dog tax for yellow cards to deal with lazy owners

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

dogdoo

Just doo it: Cleaning up after Fido

About a year ago we reported on a proposed dog tax in the city of Izumisano in Osaka Prefecture. The purpose of the levy was to pay for patrols to enforce a local law mandating that dog owners clean up after their pets. The city’s mayor, Hiroyasu Chiyomatsu, says that because Izumisano is close to Kansai International Airport, the city is a “gateway to Japan” and thus it is embarrassing if the first thing visitors see is dog doo all over the streets.

As it happens, the tax was never passed, since dog owners complained that it was only a minority who broke the law and thus was unfair to punish all of them for the sins of a few. In addition, once it was announced that the patrols were going into effect, the problem actually got worse, since some dog owners misinterpreted the measure to mean that they could leave the droppings behind because the city would be cleaning it up.

So in February the city announced a new strategy. Pairs of inu no fun G-men (dog feces government men) would patrol the city in public vehicles three days a week and whenever they saw droppings on the ground they would place a yellow card on them and leave it there.

If the droppings weren’t picked up for a month, then the G-men would clean it up. The idea is that dog owners tend to walk their pets along the same routes and so will likely see the yellow card and feel guilty enough to clean it up themselves. Only ¥4.6 million has been budgeted for the program, so in order to save money the patrols will be made up of individuals from the local Retired Persons Human Resource Center, whose average age is 75.

So far, the plan seems to be working. In the month before it went into effect, patrols counted 1,736 spots where droppings were left behind, and in the month after it went into effect the number of spots numbered 1,030. Fines will likely go into effect in July.

The ¥1,000 penalty, however, can only be issued when a dog owner is caught in the act — or non-act, in this case. Such issuances may be even be rarer since the patrols only go out in the early morning and late evening. As it stands, many local governments throughout Japan have similar fines for negligent dog owners but few actually collect any money.

There are also other pet problems that the town wants to address, including non-registration of dogs — estimated to be about half — and people who walk their dogs without leashes. About 4,400 people are bitten by dogs every year in Japan.

Tattoos are forever, which is why they cost so much to remove

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

On second thought…

The weekly magazine Aera recently discussed tattoos, which became a contentious issue in Osaka after Mayor Toru Hashimoto not only prohibited city employees from gettting them but suggested that any who already had tattoos resign. Hashimoto believes that Osaka citizens are offended by tattoos, which tend to be associated with gangsters and other lowlifes. Many young people get tattoos for reasons having to do with fashion, but the majority of citizens don’t make such a distinction. Public baths and onsen (hot springs) tend to prohibit patrons with tattoos, even if it’s just a tiny reproduction of a butterfly.

The mayor’s pronouncement met with complaints from some corners, which grumbled about personal freedom and human rights, but the Aera article implies that it had the desired effect. One young man in his late 20s told the magazine that after high school he became a construction worker and got a fairly large tattoo on his back because all his construction worker friends had tattoos. But now he wants to take a test to become a civil servant and wonders if having a tattoo will be a liability, and is therefore seriously thinking of having it removed. When told that no one can notice the tattoo when he has his shirt on, the young man says that he figures if he does get a public job he will have to undergo a physical examination, and so the doctor will see the tattoo and may report it to his supervisor.

In the context of the article, this isn’t presented as paranoia but more like common sense. In any case, tattoos are painfully permanent, and having them removed involves a hefty investment and even more pain. Aera says that you can assume that whatever your tattoo cost to apply, it will cost 10 times as much to erase. The magazine reports that the number of people in Osaka who are having tattoos removed has increased noticeably since Hashimoto made his stand. But it’s not just in Osaka. One Tokyo cosmetic surgery service, Isea Clinic, says that since the beginning of the year the number of inquiries it receives about tattoo removal has gone from about 100 a month to 125. Most are from the people who have tattoos themselves, but quite a few are from people whose children have tattoos. The reason isn’t just employment. Some parents think their children have less of a chance of finding a marriage partner if they have a tattoo.

There are three removal methods: laser, surgery and skin grafting. The laser method is the cheapest, at about ¥10,000 per square centimeter of skin. However, depending on the tattoo, it is likely that a shadow of the original pattern will be left behind, so others will know that the individual used to have a tattoo. Surgery, which means basically gouging out the skin and then sewing up the wound, costs about ¥30,000 per sq. cm. The tattoo is gone completely, but a scar remains. A skin graft, which involves cutting a chunk of flesh from another part of the body and using it to cover the tattoo, runs anywhere from ¥700,000 to ¥1,000,000. As the Isea doctor says, it’s too easy to get a tattoo, which is why so many people regret it in the morning, so to speak. In the end they want it removed regardless of the cost. “They always tell me it’s OK to leave a scar,” he says. The price you pay is more than just money.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Noblestone

Back to business as usual for condominium developers?

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Construction activity in the old North Yards near Osaka Station, December 2010

Last month a model room opened for a new condominium complex in Osaka with the revealing name Owner’s Tower. Part of the new Grand Front development project situated in the huge tract of land near Osaka Station that once was home to the Japan National Railways Umeda North Yard cargo terminal, the new residence is a forthrightly upscale facility that targets high-income buyers, in particular foreigners who are looking for a second home in Japan’s second biggest city. The building is 48 stories comprising 525 units, the smallest of which is 90 sq. meters. Prices start at ¥3 million per tsubo (3.3 sq. meters). In the first sales phase, apartments on floors 40 through 48 will be made available at prices ranging from ¥83.5 million to ¥415 million. The projection is that residents will be able to start moving in in August 2013.

The developer Sekisui House emphasizes that Owners Tower is very different from the “family-type” condos that tend to dominate the urban housing market, but in fact central Osaka will soon see a lot of new family-type tower condos going on sale in the coming months. Several buildings are now going up in Kita Ward offering a total of 400 units, and in Tennoji Ward, which is considered the heart of Osaka’s business district, about 260 units are under construction. The average prices are slightly less than ¥2 million per tsubo, or about 30 percent higher than prices in areas outside the city center.

Why are families moving to the center of the city? The main reason seems to be that while these condos are expensive, they are still much cheaper than they were, say, four years ago. Ever since the so-called Lehman shock of 2008, real estate in all the major cities has dropped in value as large companies unloaded properties to raise cash. Those developers that managed to stay in business cut back on new projects, but now they’re taking advantage of the lower land prices and building again.

Continue to read about the return of high-rise condos →

Finders keeper . . . except on the job

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Earlier this month, the city of Osaka punished 27 municipal employees for “embezzlement” (chakufuku). Usually, embezzlement is the purview of white collar miscreants, but these people all worked for the city’s sanitation bureau cleaning rivers and other publicly run properties. The city says these workers found cash while cleaning 10 rivers and canals and instead of handing the money in to their supervisors they pocketed it.

Famous Glico Man, who overlooks famous Dotonbori Canal in Osaka

Out of 42 employees investigated, six were fired and 21 were suspended without pay. The amounts weren’t particularly large. For instance, between July and October 2009, five people are said to have pocketed a total of ¥150,000 among them. The largest windfall at one time was ¥105,000, which was found and kept by two men who were cleaning the famous Dotonbori Canal. In fact, it was this incident that set off the whole investigation. A third employee who was with the two men recorded the find secretly with his camcorder and then reported it to his superiors. Though this individual might have been celebrated as a whistleblower, he ended up as one of the workers fired since, according to media reports, during subsequent questioning he made verbal threats to company investigators.

Osaka officials did not elaborate on the legal or ethical principles behind the disciplinary measure. Presumably, because the money was found in publicly maintained rivers, it is considered the property of the city unless the owners of the money can be located. But if a person who is not a municipal employee found the money by accident there is no legal recourse for compelling that person to hand the money over to the authorities. Ethically, of course, the person is expected to do so, and the normal procedure is that if no one comes forward to claim the money within a predetermined period of time, the finder gets to keep it. In these circumstances, however, the finders were city employees who found the money while they were on city time, so the money belonged to the city unless someone claimed it. Osaka, it should be noted, is pretty deep in debt, and every little bit helps.

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