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Osaka Stadium’s Housing Expo

Where the magnificent Namba Parks stand today at Naniwa-ku, in Osaka, Japan, once stood Osaka’s baseball stadium. Opened in 1950 with a capacity of 32,000 people, the stadium was home to the Nankai Hawks baseball team, but when the Hawks moved to Heiwadai Stadium in 1988, the stadium was sold to Fukuoka City. For the next two years, Osaka Stadium became the temporary home of the Kintetsu Buffaloes, who played about a dozen games here. The last official baseball game was held on August 2, 1990. Despite being a weekday, some 29,000 visitors came to watch the final game.

Long before the stadium was sold to Fukuoka City, it had been decided that the sporting venue had to go as part of the Namba district redevelopment project. But the inevitable was delayed until the late 1990s. During this time, the bowl-shaped stadium continued to function as a venue for baseball—amateur, this time. The National High School Baseball Championship was held here, and as many as 72 games were played during the season.

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A residential neighborhood inside Osaka Stadium. Photo credit: Naoya Hatakeyama, 1998

One of the most interesting repurposing of the stadium happened in 1991. A trade group leased the venue and used it to showcase various model homes from several construction companies. The entire playing arena was transformed into a mini residential neighborhood with fake streets, street lights and with cars parked outside homes. Houses were neatly arranged in rows, and lights were turned on to create the illusion of occupancy. It was a strange sight.

Years later, photographs of this expo began circulating through emails and social media incorrectly captioned as “a baseball stadium that was repurposed as a residential neighborhood.”

According to another photographer, Ned Bunnell, who remembers going to the stadium with his boys to watch the Hawks play, the housing expo was a failure because the Japanese were not interested in western style housing and the quality of construction was not up to their expectations.

Ned Bunnell’s comment seems odd to me, because judging from the dates the pictures were taken, the expo lasted at least 8 years—an awfully long time for something that wasn’t successful.

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Photo credit: kenichi.huang

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Photo credit: Naoya Hatakeyama

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Photo credit: fudoki

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