According to an entry in an official record of criminal cases in the early Edo Era, an itinerant professional storyteller was caught in Osaka praising Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the warlord who unified Japan after the turbulent Warring States period and made Osaka his capital, and badmouthing Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Shogun who eliminated the Toyotomi clan and and inaugurated the three and a half century Tokugawa regime. Dissing the Tokugawas apparently went down well with the people of Naniwa. After all, as the old commercial and financial center of Japan whose glory days stretch back at least one and a half millennia, Osaka had even more reason to hold a grudge against the upstart samurai who lorded over them from the new capital in Edo.
This was eased only in part as Osaka caught up to and passed the pre-WW II city of Tokyo during the heady years of economic expansion. But the postwar years saw a steady draining of its economic might, as banks and trading companies transferred their headquarters to Tokyo. Now, Osaka ranks behind Yokohama in population, and a resurgent Nagoya is hard on its heels. The prefecture of Osaka has shared the city’s fate; the prefectural government has resorted to creative, if legal, accounting to balance its books while Tokyo is wallowing in so much cash that the national government has dipped its hands into Tokyo coffers to subsidize less fortunate prefectures. All this, needless to say, only exacerbates the four-century Osaka resentment of the Kantō upstarts…
The entire Japanese media was up in arms because Ichirō Ozawa dared to skip Friday’s Lower House revote on the new anti-terrorism bill. The reason? A prior commitment to campaign in Osaka for the DPJ gubernatorial candidate. Mr. Ozawa, as is often his wont, refused to explain the act of disrespect. Even his faithful deputy Yukio Hatoyama was at a loss for words over this snub.
At this point, it is important to remember that Mr. Ozawa has always emphasized the importance of the campaign, never missing a chance to tell his people that the battle is won in the trenches. So it would not have been an easy thing in the first place to lose the entire afternoon of pressing flesh in what promised to be a hard-fought campaign to cast a vote where the opposition was certain to lose anyway.
As for flipping the bird at Tokyo? Do you think that the good people of Osaka mind that Mr. Ozawa cares more about them than what Tokyo and its talking heads think about him?
The following day, Mr. Ozawa attended the funeral of Takashi Yamamoto, elected to the Upper House last July from the DPJ while terminally ill with cancer, the funeral being an event prominently featured in the national news. Imagine how widely it played in Osaka.
Whatever the Tokyo-centric media says, Mr. Ozawa has been spending a productive weekend so far, in Osaka.
The itinerant storyteller was banished from Osaka and suffered other punishment which I no longer can recall after reading about it so many years ago.