Japan, an island nation in the far east of Asia, is shaped like a bow and Osaka is located approximately at the center of this bow. It neighbors Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, and these cities together comprise the region known as "Kansai". The total area of Osaka is only 0.5% of the total land area of Japan, making it the second smallest prefecture (local government unit), however it accounts for 7% (approximately 8.4 million) of the total Japanese population. It the third largest prefecture in Japan in terms of population after Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. There are also more than 200,000 foreigners living in Osaka.
The climate is generally mild, with four distinct seasons. The average annual temperature is 17 deg C. Summer (July – September) is very hot and humid, with the daytime temperature on many days exceeding 30 deg C and the daily low no lower than 25 deg C. Winters (December – March) are cold, with daytime temperatures generally below 10 deg C, however the temperature never drops below freezing and snowfall is extremely rare. Spring and autumn are very comfortable, and are the most popular seasons for sightseeing.
During and before the Warring States Period, the imperial capital was twice moved to Osaka. Osaka's other name "Naniwa" is the name of the capital from that time.
From the Warring States Period to the Edo Period, Hideyoshi Toyotomi carried on the ambition of Nobunaga Oda and it was in Osaka that he succeeded in uniting Japan. Hideyoshi constructed Osaka Castle, and around it built the city of Osaka, which was the political and economic center of his rule. He was later defeated by Tokugawa, and for a time Osaka descended into chaos. It was rebuilt by the Tokugawa Edo Shogunate, and recovered as a city of commerce. It was during the Edo Period that the city became known as Osaka. Rivers, canals, and bridges were constructed, and Osaka acquire the name "Water Capital" because of its excellent system of water transportation. At the same time, the city prospered as a key center of distribution for a wide variety of goods from all over the country. The wealth of grains, vegetables, and marine produce that was collected here gave Osaka another of its names, "the kitchen of Japan".
Culture among the city residents flourished during this period, and Osaka also became a center of learning with the formation of the Teki Juku and other private schools. It nurtured an open atmosphere and entrepreneurial spirit which became the foundation for the modern city of Osaka.
Osaka is a city where the "craftsman's spirit" still lives, with small and mid-sized business accounting for more than 60% of industrial production. At the same time, it is also a city with tremendous enterprising spirit that has produced innovative and unique products and new businesses. Osaka is famous for being the city where the world's first instant ramen and instant ramen in a plastic cup were marketed. Osaka was also the first to install moving walkways and also automatic ticket vending machines at train stations. A number of big projects are underway in Osaka and the greater Kansai area. One recent project is the "RoboCity CoRE" concept urban laboratory project. Located in the Umeda district in the center of Osaka, this project is aimed at developing a future where humans and robots coexist.
Osaka is also famous as a city of performance art and comedy. Popular traditional performance arts include Bunraku puppet theater and Kabuki, the theater for common people that has continued since the Edo Period. Rakugo and Manzai, the two most well-known forms of comedic narration theater, are also popular. Ordinary persons also incorporate this comedy into their daily lives as a means of smooth communication, so much so in fact that it is said that putting any two persons from Osaka together produces a stand-up comedy team. The people of Osaka are known for their open, friendly, and down-to-earth nature.
As the "kitchen of Japan", Osaka is home to many food delights and known for its extravagant cuisine. You can enjoy a broad variety of tastes, from more serious dishes such as shabu-shabu, kaiseki-ryori, tecchiri (blowfish stew), udon sukiyaki, and Osaka sushi (hakozushi box sushi and oshizushi pressed sushi) to simpler takoyaki octopus balls, okonomiyaki pancakes, kushikatsu deep-fried meat and vegetable skewers, and ikayaki fried squid.
In particular, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and ikayaki all use flour and are famous across Japan as the three great konamon, or flour-based foods, of Osaka. Takoyaki can be enjoyed as a snack, and there are many okonomiyaki shops where customers can grill their own pancakes. For ikayaki, the basement shops underneath the Hanshin Department Store in Umeda are well-known, and the semi-automated process by which the fried squid are produced one after another is a sight worth seeing.
Photo : © The Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau www.osaka-info.jp/en/