The Man in Rainbow

August 24th, 2012By Category: Culture, Travel

Osaka, the third largest city in Japan with a population of more than 17 million in the greater metropolitan area, has the reputation of being one of the rougher cities in Japan.  Compared to Tokyo, where millions of businessmen and woman in ubiquitous black suits and shoes ride the trains like zombies in a trance, the people of Osaka can sometimes be a little more straightforward and colorful.

It’s often said that Osaka people just like to be different.

They stand on the right side of the escalator (instead of the uniform left in Tokyo), they bump into you with uttering as many sumimasen (excuse me) and they sometimes can be a little abrasive.  The first time I ever witnessed a Japanese person shouting at someone was in Osaka’s JR Fukushima Station, where a man in casual jeans and a sweatshirt screamed at the train attendants for a good 10 minutes (he was still shouting when I boarded the train).  The train attendants just stood there without so much blinking and let the man release his energy.

An awesome hippie in Osaka

But even with that said, Osaka is still in Japan, meaning although it has a grittier vibe compared to other Japanese cities, it’s still a city brimming with people who work to death and travel to and from business in uniform fashion.  It’s a way of life everywhere in Japan.  You follow the rules.  You are on time.  You straighten your black suit or skirt and do what you are told without complaining.  Their work ethic is both admirable and maddening at times, like an entire population of people is just waiting to break free from the chains of twelve-hour per day labor.

So when I spotted a Japanese man wearing a blue baja shirt, patterned bell-bottom jeans and red shoes on an Osaka JR Loop Line train, my eyes were drawn to his colorful wardrobe.  Amid the surrounding grey of the train and passengers wearing conservative weekend clothing, he stood out like a rainbow emerging from the clouds after a rainfall.  He was probably in his early 50s and had a full head of long, stringy grey hair.  His youth was far gone in his face, but his clothes spoke another language.  The vibrant colors of his clothes seemed to scream:

I am proud of who I am!

I can’t say for certain if he thought the same thing, but I was proud of him.

Author of this article

Sheila Burt

Sheila Burt is an English teacher and journalist currently living in Toyama-ken. She loves exploring the inaka life and chatting it up with obaasans. Read more of her writing at

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  • Yeah, I prefer Osaka to Tokyo.
    Im from Manhattan, NYC and it is a lot easier to adjust than in Tokyo.I like to compare people from LA to people from Tokyo and people from SF or NYC to people from Osaka. Tokyo is more on the corporate side of things.Ive lived in Osaka for about 5 months, and have found places that can entertain a Manhattanite for 20 years.Can not say the same for Tokyo, as of yet.

  • Mandy says:

    Love it!! I see people like this all the time living here in Osaka. I’ve never been to Tokyo, but my friends from Tokyo have told me it’s nothing like here. The old women here always wear shirts with huge animal faces on them, too. Osaka definitely has character.
    v( ̄ー ̄)v

  • leslie nguyen says:

    Good read. I am eager to see Osaka for myself! 🙂

  • I have spend only 1 night in Osaka because i was visiting my friend. I want to visit there again and than i will look at these details described. But during my 1 stay i have met quite colourfull characters.


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