Historically a merchant city, Osaka has also been known as the "nation's kitchen" and served as a center for the rice trade during the Edo period.
Some of the earliest signs of human habitation in the Osaka area at the Morinomiya ruins (森ノ宮遺跡, Morinomiya iseki) comprise shell mounds, sea oysters and buried human skeletons from the 6th–5th centuries BC. It is believed that what is today the Uehonmachi area consisted of a peninsular land with an inland sea in the east. During the Yayoi period, permanent habitation on the plains grew as rice farming became popular.
By the Kofun period, Osaka developed into a hub port connecting the region to the western part of Japan. The large numbers of increasingly larger tomb mounds found in the plains of Osaka are seen as evidence of political-power concentration, leading to the formation of a state.
The Kojiki records that during 390–430 AD there was an imperial palace located at Osumi, in what is present day Higashiyodogawa ward, but it may have been a secondary imperial residence rather than a capital.
In 645, Emperor Kōtoku built his Naniwa Nagara-Toyosaki Palace in what is now Osaka, making it the capital of Japan. The city now known as Osaka was at this time referred to as Naniwa, and this name and derivations of it are still in use for districts in central Osaka such as Naniwa (浪速) and Namba (難波). Although the capital was moved to Asuka (in Nara Prefecture today) in 655, Naniwa remained a vital connection, by land and sea, between Yamato (modern day Nara Prefecture), Korea, and China.
Naniwa was declared the capital again in 744 by order of Emperor Shōmu, and remained so until 745, when the Imperial Court moved back to Heijō-kyō (now Nara). By the end of the Nara period, Naniwa's seaport roles had been gradually taken over by neighboring areas, but it remained a lively center of river, channel, and land transportation between Heian-kyō (Kyoto today) and other destinations.
In 1496, Jōdo Shinshū Buddhists established their headquarters in the heavily fortified Ishiyama Hongan-ji, located directly on the site of the old Naniwa Imperial Palace. Oda Nobunaga began a decade-long siege campaign on the temple in 1570 which ultimately resulted in the surrender of the monks and subsequent razing of the temple. Toyotomi Hideyoshi constructed Osaka Castle in its place in 1583.
Osaka was long considered Japan's primary economic center, with a large percentage of the population belonging to the merchant class (see Four divisions of society). Over the course of the Edo period (1603–1867), Osaka grew into one of Japan's major cities and returned to its ancient role as a lively and important port. Its popular culture was closely related to ukiyo-e depictions of life in Edo. By 1780, Osaka had cultivated a vibrant arts culture, as typified by its famous Kabuki and Bunraku theaters. In 1837, Ōshio Heihachirō, a low-ranking samurai, led a peasant insurrection in response to the city's unwillingness to support the many poor and suffering families in the area. Approximately one-quarter of the city was razed before shogunal officials put down the rebellion, after which Ōshio killed himself. Osaka was opened to foreign trade by the government of the Bakufu at the same time as Hyōgo (modern Kobe) on 1 January 1868, just before the advent of the Boshin War and the Meiji Restoration.
Osaka residents were stereotyped in Edo literature from at least the 18th century. Jippensha Ikku in 1802 depicted Osakans as stingy almost beyond belief. In 1809, the derogatory term "Kamigata zeeroku" was used by Edo residents to characterize inhabitants of the Osaka region in terms of calculation, shrewdness, lack of civic spirit, and the vulgarity of Osaka dialect. Edo writers aspired to samurai culture, and saw themselves as poor but generous, chaste, and public spirited. Edo writers by contrast saw "zeeroku" as obsequious apprentices, stingy, greedy, gluttonous, and lewd. To some degree, Osaka residents are still stigmatized by Tokyo observers in the same way today, especially in terms of gluttony, evidenced in the phrase, "Residents of Osaka devour their food until they collapse" (大阪は食倒れ, "Ōsaka wa kuidaore").
The modern municipality was established in 1889 by government ordinance, with an initial area of 15 square kilometres (6 sq mi), overlapping today's Chūō and Nishi wards. Later, the city went through three major expansions to reach its current size of 223 square kilometres (86 sq mi). Osaka was the industrial center most clearly defined in the development of capitalism in Japan. It became known as the "Manchester of the Orient."
The rapid industrialization attracted many Korean immigrants, who set up a life apart for themselves. The political system was pluralistic, with a strong emphasis on promoting industrialization and modernization. Literacy was high and the educational system expanded rapidly, producing a middle class with a taste for literature and a willingness to support the arts. In 1927, General Motors operated a factory called Osaka Assembly until 1941, manufacturing Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick vehicles, operated and staffed by Japanese workers and managers. In the nearby city of Ikeda in Osaka Prefecture is the headquarters office of Daihatsu, one of Japan's oldest automobile manufacturers.
Like its European and American counterparts, Osaka displayed slums, unemployment, and poverty. In Japan it was here that municipal government first introduced a comprehensive system of poverty relief, copied in part from British models. Osaka policymakers stressed the importance of family formation and mutual assistance as the best way to combat poverty. This minimized the cost of welfare programs.
During World War II, Osaka came under air attacks in 1945 by the United States Army Air Forces as part of the air raids on Japan. On March 13, 1945, a total of 329 Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers took part in the raid against Osaka. According to an American prisoner of war who was held in the city, the air raid took almost the entire night and destroyed 25 square miles (65 km2) of the city. The U.S. bombed the city again twice in June 1945 and again on August 14, a day before Japan's surrender.
"Osaka" literally means "large hill" or "large slope". It is unclear when this name gained prominence over Naniwa, but the oldest written evidence for the name dates back to 1496.
The name is now written 大阪 in kanji, but it was written 大坂 until 1870, when the partisans for the Meiji Restoration changed it, apparently to avoid the second kanji being misinterpreted as 士反, meaning "samurai rebellion". The older kanji is still in very limited use, usually in historical contexts, but in Japanese the kanji 阪—pronounced han when standing alone—now refers exclusively to Osaka City or Osaka Prefecture.
The city's west side is open to Osaka Bay, and is otherwise completely surrounded by more than ten satellite cities, all of them in Osaka Prefecture, with one exception: the city of Amagasaki, belonging to Hyōgo Prefecture, in the northwest. The city occupies a larger area (about 13%) than any other city or village within Osaka Prefecture. When the city was established in 1889, it occupied roughly the area known today as the Chuo and Nishi wards, only 15.27 square kilometres (3,773 acres) that would eventually grow into today's 222.30 square kilometres (54,932 acres) via incremental expansions, the largest of which being a single 126.01 square kilometres (31,138 acres) expansion in 1925. Osaka's highest point is 37.5 metres (123.0 ft) Tokyo Peil in Tsurumi-ku, and the lowest point is in Nishiyodogawa-ku at −2.2 metres (−7.2 ft) Tokyo Peil.
Osaka is located in the humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen Cfa), with four distinct seasons. Its winters are generally mild, with January being the coldest month having an average high of 9.3 °C (49 °F). The city rarely sees snowfall during the winter. Spring in Osaka starts off mild, but ends up being hot and humid. It also tends to be Osaka's wettest season, with the tsuyu (梅雨, tsuyu, "plum rain") — the rainy season — occurring between early June (average:Jun.7) to late July (average:Jul.21). Summers are very hot and humid. In August, the hottest month, the average daily high temperature reaches 33.5 °C (92 °F), while average nighttime low temperatures typically hover around 25.5 °C (78 °F). Fall in Osaka sees a cooling trend, with the early part of the season resembling summer while the latter part of fall resembles winter. Precipitation is abundant, with winter being the driest season, while monthly rainfall peaks in June with the "tsuyu" rainy season, which typically ends in mid to late July. From late July through the end of August, summer's heat and humidity peaks, and rainfall decreases some. Osaka experiences a second rainy period in September and early October, when tropical weather systems, including typhoons, coming from the south or southwest are possible.
According to the census in 2005, there were 2,628,811 residents in Osaka, an increase of 30,037 or 1.2% from 2000. There were 1,280,325 households with approximately 2.1 persons per household. The population density was 11,836 persons per km². The Great Kantō earthquake caused a mass migration to Osaka between 1920 and 1930, and the city became Japan's largest city in 1930 with 2,453,573 people, outnumbering even Tokyo, which had a population of 2,070,913. The population peaked at 3,252,340 in 1940, and had a post-war peak of 3,156,222 in 1965, but continued to decrease since, as the residents moved out to the suburbs.
There were 99,775.5 registered foreigners, the two largest groups being Korean (71,015) and Chinese (11,848). Ikuno, with its Tsuruhashi district, is the home to one of the largest population of Korean residents in Japan, with 27,466 registered Zainichi Koreans.
The commonly spoken dialect of this area is Osaka-ben, a typical sub-dialect of Kansai-ben. Of the many other particularities that characterize Osaka-ben, examples include using the copula ya instead of da, and the suffix -hen instead of -nai in the negative of verbs.
The Osaka City Council is the city's local government formed under the Local Autonomy Law. The Council has eighty-nine seats, allocated to the twenty-four wards proportional to their population and re-elected by the citizens every four years. The Council elects its President and Vice President. Toshifumi Tagaya (LDP) is the current and 104th President since May 2008. The Mayor of the city is directly elected by the citizens every four years as well, in accordance with the Local Autonomy Law. Tōru Hashimoto, former governor of Osaka Prefecture is the 19th mayor of Osaka since 2011. The mayor is supported by two Vice Mayors, currently Akira Morishita and Takashi Kashiwagi, who are appointed by him in accordance with the city bylaw.
Osaka also houses several agencies of the Japanese Government. Below is a list of Governmental Offices housed in Osaka.
In July 2012, a joint multi-party bill was submitted to the Diet that would allow for implementation of the Osaka Metropolis plan as pursued by the mayor of Osaka city, the governor of Osaka and their party. If implemented, Osaka City, neighbouring Sakai City and possibly other surrounding municipalities would dissolve and be reorganized as special wards of Osaka prefecture – similar to former Tokyo City's successor wards within Tokyo prefecture. Special wards are municipal-level administrative units that leave some otherwise municipal administrative responsibilities and revenues to the prefectural administration.
On February 27, 2012 three Kansai cities, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, jointly asked Kansai Electric Power Company to break its dependence on nuclear power. In a letter to KEPCO they also requested to disclose information on the demand and supply of electricity, and for lower and stable prices. The three cities were stockholders of the plant: Osaka owned 9% of the shares, while Kobe had 3% and Kyoto 0.45%. Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, announced a proposal to minimize the dependence on nuclear power for the shareholders meeting in June 2012.
On March 18, 2012 the city of Osaka decided as largest shareholder of Kansai Electric Power Co, that at the next shareholders-meeting in June 2012 it would demand a series of changes:
In this action Osaka had secured the support of two other cities and shareholders: Kyoto and Kobe, but with their combined voting-rights of 12.5 percent they were not certain of the ultimate outcome, because for this two-thirds of the shareholders would be needed to agree to revise the corporate charter.
At a meeting held on April 10, 2012 by the "energy strategy council", formed by the city of Osaka and the governments of the prefectures, it became clear that at the end of the fiscal year 2011 some 69 employees of Kansai Electric Power Company were former public servants. "Amakudari" was the Japanese name for this practice of rewarding by hiring officials that formerly controlled and supervised the firm. Such people included the following:
Besides this, it became known that Kansai Electric had done about 600 external financial donations, to a total sum of about 1.695 billion yen:
During this meeting some 8 conditions were compiled, that needed to be fulfilled before a restart of the No.3 and No.4 reactors Oi Nuclear Power Plant:
The gross city product of Osaka in fiscal year 2004 was ¥21.3 trillion, an increase of 1.2% over the previous year. The figure accounts for about 55% of the total output in the Osaka Prefecture and 26.5% in the Kinki region. In 2004, commerce, services, and manufacturing have been the three major industries, accounting for 30%, 26%, and 11% of the total, respectively. The per capita income in the city was about ¥3.3 million, 10% higher than that of the Osaka Prefecture. MasterCard Worldwide reported that Osaka ranks 19th among the world's leading cities and plays an important role in the global economy.
The GDP in the greater Osaka area (Osaka and Kobe) is $341 billion. Osaka, along with Paris and London, has one of the most productive hinterlands in the world.
Historically, Osaka was the center of commerce in Japan, especially in the middle and pre-modern ages. Nomura Securities, the first brokerage firm in Japan, was founded in the city in 1925, and Osaka still houses a leading futures exchange. Many major companies have since moved their main offices to Tokyo. However, several major companies, such as Panasonic, Sharp, and Sanyo, are still headquartered in Osaka. Recently, the city began a program, headed by mayor Junichi Seki, to attract domestic and foreign investment. In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Osaka was ranked as having the 15th most competitive financial center in the world and fifth most competitive in Asia (after Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai).
The Osaka Securities Exchange, specializing in derivatives such as Nikkei 225 futures, is based in Osaka. The merger with JASDAQ will help the Osaka Securities Exchange become the largest exchange in Japan for start-up companies.
According to global consulting firm Mercer, Osaka was the second most expensive city for expatriate employees in the world in 2009. It jumped up nine places from 11th place in 2008 and was the eighth most expensive city in 2007. However, it was not ranked in the top ten places of the list in 2013. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked Osaka as the second most expensive city in the world in its 2013 Cost of Living study.
Greater Osaka has an extensive network of railway lines, comparable to that of Greater Tokyo. Major stations within the city include Umeda (梅田), Namba (難波), Shinsaibashi (心斎橋), Tennōji (天王寺), Kyōbashi (京橋), and Yodoyabashi (淀屋橋).
Osaka connects to its surrounding cities and suburbs via the JR West Urban Network as well as numerous private lines such as Keihan Electric Railway, Hankyu Railway, Hanshin Electric Railway, Kintetsu Railway, and Nankai Electric Railway.
The Osaka Municipal Subway system alone ranks 8th in the world by annual passenger ridership, serving over 912 million people annually (a quarter of Greater Osaka Rail System's 4 billion annual riders), despite being only 8 of more than 70 lines in the metro area.
All Shinkansen trains including Nozomi stop at Shin-Osaka Station and provide access to other major cities in Japan, such as Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Tokyo.
Regular bus services are provided by Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau (the City Bus), as well Hankyu, Hanshin and Kintetsu, providing a dense network covering most parts of the city.
Osaka is served by two airports outside of the city, Kansai International Airport (IATA: KIX) which handles primarily international passenger flights and Osaka International Airport (IATA:ITM) which handles mostly domestic services and some international cargo flights.
Due to its geographical position, Osaka's international ferry connections are far greater than that of Tokyo, with international service to Shanghai, Tianjin, Korea along with domestic routes to Kitakyushu, Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Okinawa.
Osaka has a large number of wholesalers and retail shops: 25,228 and 34,707 respectively in 2004, according to the city statistics. Many of them are concentrated in the wards of Chuō (10,468 shops) and Kita (6,335 shops). Types of shops vary from malls to conventional shōtengai shopping arcades, built both above- and underground. Shōtengai are seen across Japan, and Osaka has the longest one in the country. The Tenjinbashi-suji arcade stretches from the road approaching the Tenmangū shrine and continues for 2.6 km (1.6 miles) going north to south. The stores along the arcade include commodities, clothing, and catering outlets.
Other shopping areas include Den Den Town, the electronic and manga/anime district, which is comparable to Akihabara; the Umeda district, which has the Hankyu Sanbangai shopping mall and Yodobashi Camera, a huge electrical appliance store that offers a vast range of fashion stores, restaurants, and a Shonen Jump store.
Osaka is known for its food, in Japan and abroad. Author Michael Booth and food critic François Simon of Le Figaro have suggested that Osaka is the food capital of the world. Osakans' love for the culinary is made apparent in the old saying "Kyotoites are financially ruined by overspending on clothing, Osakans are ruined by spending on food." Regional cuisine includes okonomiyaki (お好み焼き, pan-fried batter cake), takoyaki (たこ焼き, octopus in fried batter), udon (うどん, a noodle dish), as well as the traditional oshizushi (押し寿司, pressed sushi), particularly battera (バッテラ, pressed mackerel sushi).
Osaka is known for its fine sake, which is made with fresh water from the prefecture's mountains. Osaka's culinary prevalence is the result of a location that has provided access to high quality ingredients, a high population of merchants, and proximity to the ocean and waterway trade. In recent years, Osaka has started to garner more attention from foreigners with the increased popularity of cooking and dining in popular culture.
Other shopping districts include:
One of the most famous festivals held in Osaka, the Tenjin Matsuri, is held on July 24 and 25 (Ikukunitama Shrine). Other festivals in Osaka include the Aizen Matsuri (June 30–July 2, Shouman'in Temple), the Sumiyoshi Matsuri (July 30–August 1, Sumiyoshi Taisha), Shōryō-e (April 22, Shitennō-ji) and Tōka-Ebisu (January 9–10, Imamiya Ebisu Jinja). The annual Osaka Asian Film Festival takes place in Osaka every March.
The National Museum of Art (NMAO) is a subterranean Japanese and international art museum, housing mainly collections from the post-war era and regularly welcoming temporary exhibitions. Osaka Science Museum is in a five storied building next to the National Museum of Art, with a planetarium and an OMNIMAX theatre. The Museum of Oriental Ceramics holds more than 2,000 pieces of ceramics, from China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, featuring displays of some of their Korean celadon under natural light. Osaka Municipal Museum of Art is inside Tennōji park, housing over 8,000 pieces of Japanese and Chinese paintings and sculptures. The Osaka Museum of History, opened in 2001, is located in a 13-story modern building providing a view of Osaka Castle. Its exhibits cover the history of Osaka from pre-history to the present day. Osaka Museum of Natural History houses a collection related to natural history and life.
Osaka hosts four professional sport teams: one of them is the Orix Buffaloes, a Nippon Professional Baseball team, playing its home games at Kyocera Dome Osaka. Another baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers, although based in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo, plays a part of its home games in Kyocera Dome Osaka as well, when their homeground Koshien Stadium is occupied with the annual National High School Baseball Championship games during summer season. There are two J.League clubs, Gamba Osaka, plays its home games at Suita City Football Stadium. Another club Cerezo Osaka, plays its home games at Kincho Stadium. The city is home to Osaka Evessa, a basketball team that plays in the B.League. Evessa has won the first three championships of the league since its establishment. Kintetsu Liners, a rugby union team, play in the Top League. After winning promotion in 2008-09, they will again remain in the competition for the 2009-10 season. Their base is the Hanazono Rugby Stadium.
The Haru Basho (春場所, "Spring Tournament"), one of the six regular tournaments of professional sumo, is held annually in Osaka at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.
Another major annual sporting event that takes place is Osaka is Osaka International Ladies Marathon. Held usually at the end of January every year, the 42.195 km (26.219 miles) race starts from Nagai Stadium, runs through Nakanoshima, Midōsuji and Osaka castle park, and returns to the stadium. Another yearly event held at Nagai Stadium is the Osaka Gran Prix Athletics games operated by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in May. The Osaka GP is the only IAAF games annually held in Japan.
Osaka was one of the host cities of the official Women's Volleyball World Championship for its 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions.
Osaka is the home of the 2011 created Japan Bandy Federation and the introduction of bandy, in the form of rink bandy, was made in the city. In July 2012 the first Japan Bandy Festival was organised.
Osaka serves as one of the media hubs for Japan, housing headquarters of many media-related companies. Abundant television production takes place in the city and every nationwide TV network (with the exception of TXN network) registers its secondary-key station in Osaka. All five nationwide newspaper majors also house their regional headquarters, and most local newspapers nationwide have branches in Osaka. However major film productions are uncommon in the city. Most major films are produced in nearby Kyoto or in Tokyo. The Ad Council Japan is based in Osaka.
All the five nationwide newspaper majors of Japan, the Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun, have their regional headquarters in Osaka and issue their regional editions. Furthermore, Osaka houses Osaka Nichi-nichi Shimbun, its newspaper press. Other newspaper related companies located in Osaka include, the regional headquarters of FujiSankei Business i.;Houchi Shimbunsha; Nikkan Sports; Sports Nippon, and offices of Kyodo News Jiji Press; Reuters; Bloomberg L.P..
The five TV networks are represented by Asahi Broadcasting Corporation (ANN), Kansai Telecasting Corporation (FNN), Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc. (JNN), Television Osaka, Inc. (TXN) and Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation (NNN), headquartered in Osaka. NHK has also its regional station based in the city. AM Radio services are provided by NHK as well as the ABC Radio (Asahi Broadcasting Corporation), MBS Radio (Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc.) and Radio Osaka (Osaka Broadcasting Corporation) and headquartered in the city. FM services are available from NHK, FM OSAKA, FM802 and FM Cocolo, the last providing programs in multiple languages including English.
As of February 2009, the city is fully covered by terrestrial digital TV broadcasts
Osaka is home to many publishing companies including: Examina, Izumi Shoin, Kaihou Shuppansha, Keihanshin Elmagazine, Seibundo Shuppan, Sougensha, and Toho Shuppan.
Tourist attractions include:
Public elementary and junior high schools in Osaka are operated by the city of Osaka. Its supervisory organization on educational matters is Osaka City Board of Education. Likewise, public high schools are operated by the Osaka Prefectural Board of Education.
Osaka city once had a large number of universities and high schools, but because of growing campuses and the need for larger area, many chose to move to the suburbs, including Osaka University.
Historically foreign expatriates in the Kansai region preferred to live in Kobe rather than Osaka. As a result, until 1991 the Osaka area has no schools catering to expatriate children. Osaka International School of Kwansei Gakuin, founded in 1991, is located in nearby Minoh, and it was the first international school in the Osaka area. The Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake of 1995 caused a decline in demand for international schools, as there were about 2,500 U.S. nationals resident in Osaka after the earthquake while the pre-earthquake number was about 5,000. American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Kansai chapter president Norman Solberg stated that since 2002 the numbers of expatriates in Kansai were recovering "but the fact is there is still a persistent exodus to Tokyo." In 2001 the city of Osaka and YMCA established the Osaka YMCA International School.
Colleges and universities include: