Osaka is one of the main spots for tourists to see when they visit Japan. But how many of them actually know that Osaka wasn’t always called Osaka and that it is incredible old? Did you know that? No? Then I invite you for a quick journey back in time.
Remains of Naniwa-no-Miya Palace
The city of Osaka has its beginnings far in the past. The first signs of human life and habitation in the area around Osaka were buried skeletons that are dated back to the 5-6th century before Christ. During the Yayoi period, the city experienced an increase of population as the rice farming grew and the port became a greater point of trade. Because of a larger amount of bigger, richer tombs, scientists came to the conclusion that the city also was a centre for politic actions. In 645, Emperor Kōtoku built the Naniwa Nagara-Toyosaki Palace, making Naniwa – the former Name of Osaka by that time that today is still used for certain districts – the new capital of Japan. Shortly after another city became capital but Naniwa kept being a centre and connection for trade with near prefectures and countries like China and Korea.
In 1496, a Buddhist sect set its new headquarters in the strong and well fortified Ishiyama Hongan-ji temple. The government set up a siege for nearly ten years until the sect was driven out and the temple was destroyed. Instead to rebuild it, the famous Osaka Castle was built in its place. Throughout the years, Osaka grew to an economic centre and a major Japanese city. Besides economy and trade, it developed a rich art culture, bringing up ukiyo-e pictures and Kabuki theaters for example. In 1837, a samurai called Ōshio Heihachirō started a rebellion supported by the locals because the government refused to help the many poor families. It violently put the rebellion down and Ōshio committed suicide after his defeat. Thus, can be seen that even such a modern city had its problems with poverty, hunger and more. In 1888, then, Osaka was opened up for foreign trade which led to another increase of area and population.
During the 19th century, Osaka was expanded massively. The promising situation there brought in many immigrants from Korea. Since the politics were strong in the direction of industrialization and economy, the city continued to grow at fast speed and became one of the most modern cities in Japan. During the World War II, Osaka was hit several times by American air raids and suffered the destruction of wide urban areas. Since the war, the city is building itself up. Today it is a major spot for tourism. The wide variety of the culture from the past still lives on and has something to offer for every tourist that comes along.