Introduction to Osaka


History of Osaka

It is known that humans have inhabited what is now called Osaka since more than 10,000 years ago. Around the 5th century A.D., Chinese culture was introduced to Japan via the Korean peninsula, and Osaka became the center of politics and culture of Japan.

In the 7th century, the first capital of Japan, modeled after the capital of China, was established in Osaka. Thereafter, though the capital was subsequently moved to nearby Nara and Kyoto, Osaka continued to flourish uninterruptedly, serving as the gateway of culture and trade.

Around the end of the 12th century, political power fell into the hands of the warrior class and Japan entered an age of civil strife; however, Sakai (south of present-day Osaka City) developed as a free city of the type seen in medieval Italy. Furthermore, in 1583, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who accomplished the great task of unifying the country, chose Osaka as his base and constructed the magnificent Osaka Castle, making Osaka the political and economic center of Japan.

In the 17th century, though the political center shifted to Tokyo, called Edo at the time, Osaka continued playing a vital role in managing the nation's economy and distribution of goods, and was therefore named the "Nation's Kitchen". During this period, a broad town-based culture flourished and reached maturity in Osaka. Private schools, such as Kaitokudo and Tekijuku not under the educational dictates of the government, also took root in Osaka. In this way, open-mindedness and a vigorous enterprising spirit were nurtured, forming a rich setting for a soon-to-be modern metropolis.

Then, in the 19th century, the confusion brought on by the Meiji Restoration as well as the building of a modern state dealt Osaka merchants a severe blow. However, Osaka rose from this hardship and developed into an industrial area, emerging as a modern district. Recovering again from devastation by repeated air raids during World War II, Osaka, as a commercial center of Japan, has played a major role in distribution, trade, and industry.

Osaka is now making the next leap forward to becoming an international city for the exchange of goods and information between people from all over the world.

(Picture) Dotaku

Dotaku (Habikino City)

A bronze bell used in rituals approximately 2,000 years ago. With time, it became a symbolic implement, not intended for practical use.

Ikegamisone Historic Site (Izumiotsu City / Izumi City)

Large-scale site from the Yayoi period (10th century B.C.-3rd century A.D.). In the center of the site, the remains of a massive structure whose pillars had been inserted directly into the ground were found, and a restoration of the structure was conducted on the premises.

(Picture) Ikegamisone Historic Ruins

(Picture) Nintoku Mausoleum

Nintoku Mausoleum (Sakai City)

This key hole shaped ancient burial mound is the largest of its kind in the world and is said to have been built in the 5th century for the Emperor Nintoku. Surrounded by three moats, the mound is 486m long and 35m high.


Shura is named after an ancient Indian god, Asura, who bravely challenged Taishakuten. Based on the myth, people called transport tools shura, including those for transporting heavy stones. This Y-shaped wooden sledge with a total length of 8.8 meters was unearthed from the Mitsuzuka Tumulus in 1978. It is believed to be from between the 5th and 6th century A.D. [Photo courtesy of Osaka Prefectural Board of Education]

(Picture) Shura

(Picture) Naga-hara-taka-mawari Nigo-fun, Funagata Haniwa

Naga-hara-taka-mawari Nigo-fun, Funagata Haniwa

Haniwa refers to the unglazed earthenware objects stacked on the tops of tumulus. In the Kofun (tumulus) period (3rd-7th century), Osaka was a political and economic center. This type of ship may have been used for technical and cultural exchanges with East Asian countries. Circa 5th century.

Shitennoji Temple (Osaka City)

Shitennoji temple, founded by Prince Shotoku in 539, is said to be the oldest state temple in Japan. A host of national treasures and important cultural properties are housed in it. [Photo courtesy of Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau.]

(Picture) Shitennoji Temple

(Picture) Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle (Osaka City)

Construction of Osaka Castle was started in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. With its five-layered castle tower, the castle was designed to fit the splendor of the metropolis that Hideyoshi aspired to create. The castle tower has been restored twice, first by the Tokugawa Shogunate at the beginning of the Edo Period (17th century) and then by the citizens of Osaka in 1931. Today it still stands tall as Osaka's symbol. [Photo courtesy of Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau.]

The Golden Era - Sakai

During the Warring States period (15th-16th century), Sakai experienced great prosperity as an international port city after it began to be used as a departure port for kenminsen (Japanese missions to China) in the middle of 15th century. Towns were protected by a moat and the rich merchants established their autonomy. Also, the foundations of Cha-no-Yu (tea ceremony), an important element of Japanese culture, were laid in this city. (Owned by Osaka Castle Main Tower.)

(Picture) The Golden Era - Sakai

(Picture) The Bustling -Nation's Kitchen-

The Bustling "Nation's Kitchen"

During the Edo period (17th-19th century), Osaka was known as the "Nation's Kitchen", a gathering and distribution center of numerous materials and commodities. Kurayashiki (warehouses with adjoining sales office) of feudal lords were built along the Tosaborigawa River and Edoborigawa River because of the convenient water transportation. In the Genroku period (around 1700), three big markets (the Dojima rice market, Temma vegetable market and Zakoba fish market) flourished, contributing to the further development of the city. These districts played the role of both merchandise exchange center and information center for the whole country. (Owned by Osaka Castle Main Tower.)

Tekijuku (Osaka City)

A private school founded by Ogata Koan, a scholar of rangaku (Dutch studies). Trailblazers, such as Omura Masujiro, Hashimoto Sanai and Fukuzawa Yukichi, who laid the foundation of Japan as a modern nation, were graduates of this school.

(Picture) Tekijuku

(Picture) Senpukan

Sempukan (Osaka City)

Japan's oldest Western-style building, constructed in 1871 by a British architect, was previously used as a guest house by the Mint Bureau.

Mengyo Kaikan (Osaka City)

Affected by the confusion just after the Meiji Restoration (late 19th century), Osaka experienced temporary stagnation. However, success in the spinning industry in the middle of the Meiji period revitalized Osaka, turning it into the nation's most flourishing spinning industry area. Osaka was often referred to as the "Manchester of the Orient" at that time. Mengyo Kaikan was built in 1931. Symbolizing the modernization of Osaka, the building features a magnificent and elegant design.

(Picture) Mengyo Kaikan

(Picture) 1970 World EXPO

1970 World EXPO (Suita City)

The first international exposition in Japan and in the whole of Asia was held here under the theme of "Progress and Harmony for Mankind". 116 pavilions on the 3.3 million m2 site attracted 64,220,000 visitors. (Photo courtesy of the Commemorative Association for the Japan World Exposition.)