History of Osaka
Osaka was formerly known as Naniwa. Before the Nara Period, when the capital used to be moved with the reign of each new emperor, Naniwa was once Japan’s capital city, the first one to be established.
In the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi chose Osaka as the location for his castle, and the city may have become Japan’s capital if Tokugawa Ieyasu had not terminated the Toyotomi lineage after Hideyoshi’s death and moved his government to distant Edo (Tokyo).
During the Meiji era, Osaka’s fearless entrepreneurs took the lead in industrial development, making it the equivalent of Manchester in the U.K. A thorough drubbing in World War 2 left little evidence of this glorious past — even the castle is a ferroconcrete reconstruction — but to this day, while unappealing and gruff on the surface, Osaka remains Japan’s best place to eat, drink and party, and in legend (if not in practice) Osakans still greet each other with mōkarimakka?, “Are you making money?”.
Historically the commercial capital of Japan, Osaka functions as one of the command centres for the Japanese economy. The ratio between daytime and night time population is 141%, the highest in Japan, highlighting its status as an economic centre.
Its nighttime population is 2.6 million, the third in the country, but in daytime the population surges to 3.7 million, second only after Tokyo. Osaka used to be referred to as the “nation’s kitchen” (tenka no daidokoroin) in the feudal Edo period because it was the centre of trading for rice, creating the first modern futures exchange market in the world.
Osaka is famous for the number and variety of its restaurants – the largest concentration being in the Kitasinchi area around Osaka Station.
The main central shopping streets are Shinsaibashi-suji and Dotonbori. For the latest in electronics or fashion, try Nipponbashi, On The Town or Amerikamura stores.
For families with children, Universal Studios Japan, Hirakate Theme Park or Festival Gate are recommended.
Osaka Castle, although not a UNESCO World Heritage site, has many features designated Important Cultural Assets by the Japanese government. The building dates from 1583, and has been extensively rebuilt after sustaining damage in World War II. It is a popular spot during festival seasons, and especially during cherry blossom time, with food vendors and taiko drummers in the extensive castle grounds.
Umeda and Namba
Osaka is divided into two main districts: Umeda and Namba.
Umeda is the central area with Osaka Station as its hub. The modern cityscape of huge office buildings and shopping centres shows the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the vigourous, friendly Osaka peoeple.
Namba in the south of the city, has large shopping malls and designer boutiques, selling teenage fashions and the latest in clothing. The place to go to experience young, fashionable Osaka.
- From Tokyo Station to Shin Osaka Station by Bullet train (560km)(2h40min) or domestic flights from Haneda Airport to Kansai International Airport (KIX)
- on our Google map