Osaka is the capital of the Osaka region. Situated along the delta of the Yodo River and centre of the Kinki region, it comprises of Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama, Shiga and Mie, the city developed around the Great Castle constructed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583. It is one of the nation’s busiest ports.
The history of Osaka dates from AD 300 when the city was known as Naniwa. The change of name occurred in the fourteenth century. In 1496 a fortress temple was built where the Great Castle of Osaka can be found today. The site was selected by Rennyo, a chief priest of the militant True Pure Land, a sect of Buddhism. The fortress was destroyed in a decade long siege with Nobunaga Oda in 1580. However, in 1583, Toyotomi Hideyoshi constructed the Great castle. Under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s rule, Osaka developed into a commercial district. The expansion of water transport contributed to Osaka’s economic growth but the city went into decline after the death of Hideyoshi in 1598.
The excavation of canals under the direction of Edo (1603–1868) improved the transportation of rice and led to the way to Osaka becoming the ‘kitchen of the nation’.
The Genroku period (1680–1710) favoured the performing arts such as Bunraku (Japanese puppet theatre) and kabuki, a style of theatre. Whilst Japan adopted the closed door policy to Westerners in the nineteenth century, the Japanese in Osaka studied the Dutch language and Western Science. Osaka then gained a reputation as the educational centre of Japan.
In 1889, the city was established as a modern municipality and further improvements were made to water supply, drainage and harbour construction.
Osaka remained prosperous until World War II. Trade links with China went out with the Communist Revolution and were not reinstated until the early 1970s. Recovery was slow as economic growth was concentrated in the Tokyo–Yokohama region.
Natural disasters slowed down growth. In Jan. 1995, a severe earthquake struck the Osaka–Kobe region causing major structural damage and great loss of life. The Hanshin expressway, the main road connecting Osaka and Kobe collapsed.
Osaka is served by the bullet train and has an intricate subway system expanded in the 1980s. Many of the streets and expressways are one way, allowing for heavy commuting through the city each day. Located in Osaka Bay, Kansai International Airport opened in 1992 and is the world’s largest 24 h airport on the sea. It can be reached by JR kanku special express train or Nankai Railways.
Chief industries are the production of machinery, electrical equipment, metals such as iron and steel, textiles, chemical and processed foods.
Places of Interest
Notable landmarks include the Shitennoji Buddhist temple and Temmangu, a Shinto shrine founded in 593 and 949 respectively.
Osaka is home to several universities: Osaka University (1931); Kansai University (1886) and Osaka City University (1949).