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From left: Tetsuo Takahira (scriptwriter and director of WW Hall opening show), Yoshito Toda (Cool Japan Park Preparation Co Ltd), Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura, Kenji Kinoshita (Osaka Castle Park Management Co Ltd) and Naoki Kitagawa (Cool Japan Fund Inc) Photo: KATHRYN WORTLEY
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Cool Japan Park Osaka project to take nighttime entertainment to new level

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By Kathryn Wortley

A cultural amusement park offering nighttime entertainment is to open in Osaka in February 2019 in a bid to boost tourist spending.

Named Cool Japan Park Osaka, the complex will feature three theaters of various sizes fitted with 4K-HDR recording equipment and state-of-the-art projection mapping technology. It is the brainchild of Cool Japan Park Preparation Co Ltd, a company established by the Cool Japan Fund. This fund is supported by 13 companies and the Japanese government to harness the expertise of the investors in their respective fields, with the goal of expanding inbound consumption.

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Jo-Terrace Osaka Photo: KATHRYN WORTLEY

The park is the latest in a range of activities that began in April 2015 to enhance the attractiveness of Osaka Castle Park. Last year saw the launch of retail and dining facilities Jo-Terrace Osaka and Miraiza Osaka-Jo, which have proven popular with both domestic and international tourists.

Now the priority is providing nighttime activities, to entice these visitors to stay until evening and attract others seeking evening entertainment.

It’s a move that can be seen throughout the country as local governments and businesses respond to a 2016 municipal survey that shows a lack of things to do in Japan’s cities at night is a complaint of tourists. European and North American visitors, in particular, reported that nighttime entertainment affected a destination’s attractiveness.

In fiscal 2017, the Osaka prefectural government provided subsidies to seven projects to enhance nighttime activities, including performances of ninja dancers and taiko drumming, while Tokyo’s Toshima Ward is building an outdoor theater in one of its parks. The Japan Tourism Agency, too, is supporting local efforts to promote night entertainment across Japan.

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Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura speaks at a news conference. Photo: KATHRYN WORTLEY

Speaking at a press conference about Cool Japan Park Osaka in July, Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura said nighttime entertainment in Osaka would be strengthened through the new facility. With the number of visitors to the city exceeding 10 million annually for the past five years, including a record high of 11.5 million in 2017, he believes now is an ideal time to launch the park.

“We need more nighttime entertainment for visitors and, as Osaka values history and culture, it will promote nighttime entertainment by recognizing tradition and promoting innovation,” he said.

Kenji Kinoshita, CEO of Osaka Castle Park Management Co Ltd—which is behind the revamp of Osaka Castle Park—said that its activities so far have been successful thanks to the rise in overseas visitors. This year, 2018, marks the fourth year of the company’s 20-year plan to make the area more exciting for tourists.

“We hope that this project will further increase the number of visitors to Osaka Castle Park, including foreign tourists; improve Osaka’s appeal as a global tourism and entertainment city; and contribute to the economic and industrial growth of Osaka and the Kansai region by offering world-class entertainment,” the company said in a statement.

Celebrities have been keen to offer their support. In July, comedian Sanma Akashiya named the theaters WW Hall, TT Hall and SS Hall. His reasoning was that the letters were inclusive; visitors from anywhere in the world can use them to make their own nicknames for the halls without being restricted by understanding of Japanese.

On the opening day of the new facility, each theater will offer various forms of entertainment designed to cater to both domestic and international audiences.

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An illustration of what WW Hall will look like. Photo: Cool Japan Park Osaka

WW Hall, the largest of the three halls with 1,144 seats, will host Keren, a multi-media show underpinned by the theme of Cool Japan. It is being choreographed by Baayork Lee, who received a Tony Award—the most prestigious award in US theatre—in 2017. Also supporting the production are Moment Factory, a Canada-based digital art group whose previous projects include shows at a Super Bowl and an Olympic Games, and scriptwriter and actor Tetsuo Takahira.

With 702 seats, TT Hall will be the stage for "Hana no Chuzaisan," featuring comedians Sanma Akashiya and Takashi Okamura.

Long-term, WW Hall and TT Hall are expected to host a variety of entertainment including shows, musicals, concerts, plays and midair stunts. SS Hall, meanwhile, with a capacity of 300 people seated or 500 standing, will host rakugo, traditional performing arts, plays and standing-only live entertainment.

© Japan Today

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