Osaka, as the seat of the nation's oldest capital and a hub of marine transportation, has been an economic and cultural center of the nation since ancient times. Many historical and cultural properties remain in this prefecture, as well as highly skilled traditional performing arts known as the "kamigata culture" along with numerous shrine, temple and community festivals and other customs passed on from generation to generation.
Bunraku was declared Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003. Story telling by a tayu (reciter), music played on the traditional three-stringed futozao shamisen, and puppetry are combined to create a performing art unique in the world. "Shinju-mono" (suicide stories) written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon depicted human nature tortured by worldly obligations.
Rakugo is a sophisticated comic story telling performing art born in Osaka. Classic rakugo based on stories that strike a universal chord still brings down the house after centuries of recounting.
[Katsura Beicho on stage: Photo courtesy of Beicho Co., Ltd].
People say that any conversation between two Osakans constitutes manzai: a form of stage performance of comedy pairs (or trios) born in Osaka, the city of merchants. Stand-up comedians are heroes amongst the youth of Osaka.
Today, Dotombori is still a center of theatrical arts. At its peak, five leading theaters were built within close proximity and kabuki underwent dynamic development in this area. Citizens forget everyday life in a theater stall.
[Sakata Tojuro: Photo courtesy of Narikomaya Office.]
Traditionally, Osaka is known as the capital of theatrical arts. A myriad of unique drama companies rich in originality and vitality are constantly being formed.
[Photo courtesy of Minamikawachi Banzai Ichiza.]
Sakai was the wealthiest city during the Warring States period (late-15th and 16th centuries). Ironically, Sen no Rikyu brought Wabicha (the simple style of tea) to its perfection in this period when people placed value on magnificence and extravagance. Rikyu found beauty in existence without decoration or intentional design and has left us that unrivaled sense of beauty.
[Photo courtesy of Sakai City Museum.]
With the whole nation's wealth concentrated in Osaka, the city was a stage of various love and hate dramas fuelled by desire. Saikaku's works vividly depicted the joy, sorrow, anger and laughter of the characters. [Portrait from private collection; Nihon eitaigura: courtesy of Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library.]
An able merchant, Banto was a thorough rationalist. No field was too obscure or distant for his penetrating insights, and his achievements encompassed a vast range of academic fields such as astronomy, geography, history and economy. Banto's daring macrocosmic theory was propounded in his work Yume-no-shiro. Commemorating his achievements, the Osaka Prefectural Government founded the Yamagata Banto Prize to award overseas research on, and researchers of, Japanese culture. [Courtesy of Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library.]
Yosano Akiko expressed the fervent feelings of love and adolescence in her first anthology Midaregami. This poetess of passions was born in Sakai City.
[Photo:courtesy of Bunka Gakuin.]