OSAKA — Shopkeepers here are disheartened by the impact the World Cup soccer finals are having on the area’s economy.

Local merchants said foreigners who are visiting Osaka to watch the games are keeping a tight hold on their purse strings, with one restaurant owner saying, “Many foreigners order only beer, and no food.”

Osaka hosted its first of three World Cup games on Wednesday, when Nigeria and England played to a 0-0 draw. It will also be the site of Friday’s Tunisia-Japan game and a quarterfinal match on June 22.

Japan’s hooligan fears — due in part to media hype — are also adversely affecting businesses, with some local beer gardens deciding to temporarily close Wednesday as a precaution against anticipated unruly English fans.

“It would be terrible if they go wild on the roof,” one official at a beer maker said. Beer gardens are often located on rooftops.

Shin Hankyu Hotel was also disappointed by the games. A British travel agent informed the hotel of the cancellation of 720 room bookings shortly before the start of the games.

The games have also reduced the number of visitors to Universal Studios Japan, the Hollywood movie theme park that opened in Osaka in March 2001.

USJ attributed the decline in attendance to a move by travel agencies to cut the number of package tours to the theme park while the games are being held. But park visitors are pleased, as the usual two-hour wait for popular attractions has been reduced to only half an hour.

However, not all local businesses are complaining.

Kintetsu Department Store’s main outlet in Abeno, located close to Nagai Stadium, site of the games, said it made more than 7 million yen in sales from products related to the World Cup in only one month since mid-May.

“We are expecting to see bulk buying of Japan team uniforms on Friday,” a store employee said.

The games also boosted the popularity of “Shaolin Soccer,” a Hong Kong action comedy film released in Japan in June.

The 109-minute film about a sport combining soccer and a Chinese martial art form is proving extremely popular in Osaka.

Meanwhile, Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., a major entertainment company based in Osaka, said the number of customers at its Nanba Grand Kagetsu comedy theater is the same as usual.

“Maybe soccer fans and comedy fans do not overlap,” a company official said.

Free beds available

OSAKA — Only one person has stayed so far at a free accommodations facility that the city of Osaka has set up for foreigners who are visiting during the World Cup soccer finals, city officials said Thursday.

Michael Munday, a 47-year-old British citizen, on Wednesday became the first to stay at the prefabricated facility in Maishima, Konohana Ward.

Munday said Wednesday night he came to the facility because he thought youth hostels were fully booked.

Munday said he picked up a flier about the facility, which can house up to 300 visitors, outside of Nagai Stadium after Wednesday’s Nigeria-England match.

The Osaka Municipal Government has also offered free accommodations for foreign soccer fans at a facility in Sakishima, Suminoe Ward. That facility has yet to have a visitor.

The facilities will be open again Friday, after the Japan-Tunisia match at the stadium, and on June 22, when a quarterfinal match is scheduled to be held there.

Information on the accommodations facilities is available at the tourist information center on the seventh floor of Osaka-Ekimae Daini Building in front of JR Osaka Station.

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