When I first moved to Osaka, I lived near Shinsekai—a rough part of town in the south. My apartment was clean and spacious, but the area was populated with drunks, prostitutes, and gangsters.
And this weekend, it was filled with Imperial Stormtroopers.
Shinsekai is one of the stigmatized parts of Osaka. Many in North Osaka, the wealthier, more genteel part of the city, would never venture so far south. It's where you'll see old men cracking open sake at 9am, and it's often the backdrop for straight-to-video yakuza flicks.
Yet, the area is home to the Tsutenkaku Tower, one of Osaka's symbols, and there are many delicious restaurants in the area. Some of the country's best shogi players play there in clubs. It's an interesting place to visit—no wonder Darth Vader showed up.
Vader and his Imperial Stormtroopers, the Japanese Garrison of the 501st Legion, were part of a cross-country promotion to promote the 3D Star Wars flicks' theatrical release. So after the Osaka, Vader and co. are heading to Fukuoka, Nagoya, and Tokyo.
Website Gigazine was on hand for the Shinsekai arrival and snapped photos of the event. The Imperial troops and Darth Vader made their way down Shinsekai's main drag before visiting stopping in office of Tsutenkaku's management office and the enshrined Billiken.
Publicity stunts like this are great for the area, which has attempted multiple times to revive itself. During the late 1990s, Festivalgate, a small theme park with a rollercoaster, open in hopes or reviving the area. The adjacent indoor bath complex, Spa World, is still open, but the theme park is now closed. I went to Festivalgate several times on dates and with friends and have good memories of it—as well as the area itself. Happy to see Darth Vader put in an appearance, even if it's just to promote 3D Stars Wars.
Shinsekai, may the Force be with you.