Osaka is located 500 km west of Tokyo, roughly in the center of Japan. Osaka City, which was incorporated in 1889, has a population of 2.6 million and an area of 221 square kilometers.
From Ancient times to Middle Ages
Since ancient times, Osaka has been a gathering place. Located at the concourse of a vast web of busy river and sea routes, it naturally grew into a flourishing economic center and became the gateway to Japan for travelers and traders from all over Asia. In the 5th century, Osaka began to flourish as the political and economic center of Japan. Many foreign visitors brought (with them) knowledge and artifacts of advanced culture, and new technologies in ceramics, forging, construction, and engineering. They also brought a new religion, Buddhism, which began to spread very quickly to the rest of the country.
As Buddhism spread, Prince Shotoku constructed Shitennoji Temple in Osaka in 593 A.D., and the city became a base for international exchange with the Asian continent. In 645 A.D., the Emperor Kotoku moved the capital from Asuka (Nara) to Osaka. He built the Naniwanomiya Palace, which is considered to be the oldest palace in Japan. Even though the national government later moved to Heijo-kyo (the city of Nara), then Heian-kyo (Kyoto), then Kamakura, and finally to Edo (Tokyo), Osaka has continued to serve as a sub-capital, and to play a crucial role as a major gateway for foreign culture and trade.
During the 14th century, Osaka was largely devastated by a series of wars. Then in 1496, Rennyo, a high-ranking priest, began construction of Ishiyama temple and the monk's quarters on Osaka's Uemachi Daichi heights. This temple later came to be called Ishiyama Hongan-ji, and the area around it as Osaka. Thereafter, Ishiyama Hongan-ji functioned as an invulnerable fort to defend against attack by warlords. In the end of 16th century, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi controlled all over Japan and placed the central government.
An Economic & Cultural Hub in Edo Era
As Japan entered the Edo Period (1601-1867) controlled by Tokugawa family, when the political capital was moved north to Edo (present-day Tokyo) and the country was completely isolated from the rest of the world, Osaka was restored from the ashes of civil war and quickly grew into a thriving economic hub. It became known as "Japan's kitchen" because essential goods including rice, the staple food of the East, were sent to Osaka from all over Japan for shipment to other parts of the country. Osaka was also contributed to the development of Japanese education. Schools established in Osaka turned out many scholars who strongly influenced their times. One school, the Tekijyuku, was established for the study of Western sciences and medicines. Its students included some men who became instrumental in reforming Japan's government when, in the mid-19th century, the nation began to move out of isolation and into the modern age.
The Manchester of the Orient
After the Meiji Restoration (1868), enormous social change, far-reaching reforms to the economic system, and the moving of the capital to Tokyo contributed to a decline in Osaka's prosperity. This caused the city to go through a transformation from a base of trade and finance to a factory zone. So much smoke began spewing from factory smokestacks that by the end of the 19th century Osaka was being called the "smoky city." It was even nicknamed the "Manchester of the Orient."
Devastation during the War and Today
Continuous air raids by American bombers during World War II leveled(knocked down) almost one third of Osaka, destroying many of its commercial, industrial and public facilities. But after the war, Osaka's positive thinking citizens restored the city to an economic prosperity exceeding prewar levels. Today, the city is home to scores of companies across the sectors of industry, commerce and business. These have helped make Osaka the economic heart of western Japan.
This writing and pictures were quoted from the internet