Ōsaka (大阪) is the third largest city in Japan, with a population of over 17 million people in its greater metropolitan area. It is the central metropolis of the Kansai region and the largest of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto trio.
It is a city in the Kansai region of Japan’s main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Located at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, Osaka is the third largest city by population after Tokyo (special wards) and Yokohama.
Keihanshin is the second largest area in Japan by population and one of the largest metropolitan areas highly ranked in the world, with nearly 18 million people, and by GDP the second largest area in Japan and the seventh largest area in the world.
Historically the commercial centre of Japan, Osaka functions as one of the command centers for the Japanese economy. The ratio between daytime and night time population is 141%, the highest in Japan, highlighting its status as an economic center. Its nighttime population is 2.6 million, the third in the country, but in daytime the population surges to 3.7 million, second only after Tokyo. (Totalling the Special wards of Tokyo, which is not a single incorporated city, for statistical purposes. See the Tokyo article for more information on the definition and makeup of Tokyo.) Osaka used to be referred to as the “nation’s kitchen” (天下の台所 tenka no daidokoro?) in feudal Edo period because it was the centre of trading for rice, creating the first modern future exchange market in the world.
The city of Osaka has its west side open to Osaka Bay. It is otherwise completely surrounded by more than ten smaller 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, the city occupied roughly what today are the wards of Chuo and Nishi, with only 15.27 square kilometres (3,773 acres) size, and grew into today’s 222.30 square kilometres (54,932 acres) over several expansions. The biggest leap was in 1925, when 126.01 square kilometres (31,138 acres) was claimed through an expansion. The highest point in Osaka is in Tsurumi-ku at 37.5 metres (123.0 ft) Tokyo Peil, and the lowest point is in Nishiyodogawa-ku at −2.2 metres (−7.2 ft) Tokyo Peil.
Central Osaka is often divided into two areas referred to as Kita (キタ, lit. north) and Minami (ミナミ, lit. south), at either end of the major thoroughfare Midōsuji. Kita is roughly the area surrounding the business and retail district of Umeda. Minami is home to the Namba, Shinsaibashi, and Dōtonbori shopping districts. The entertainment district around Dōtonbori Bridge with its famous giant mechanical crab, Triangle Park, and Amerikamura (“America Village”) is in Minami. In Yodoyabashi and Honmachi, between Kita and Minami, is the traditional business area where courts and national/regional headquarters of major banks are located. The newer business area is in the Osaka Business Park located nearby Osaka Castle. Business districts have also formed around the secondary rail termini, such as Tennoji Station and Kyobashi Station.
“The 808 bridges of Naniwa” was an expression in old Japan for awe and wonder, an adage known across the land. “808” was a large number which symbolized the idea of “uncountable”. In the Edo period there were only about 200 bridges. Since Osaka is crossed by a number of rivers and canals, many bridges were built with specific names, and the areas surrounding the bridges were often referred to by the names of the bridges, too. Some of the waterways, such as the Nagahori canal, have been filled in, while others still remain. In 1925, there were actually 1629 bridges in Osaka but with the filling in of canals and rivers, as of April 2003, the number has dropped to 872, 760 of which are currently managed by Osaka City.
Osaka Castle (大坂城・大阪城, Ōsaka-jō) is a Japanese castle in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Originally called Ozakajō, it is one of Japan’s most famous castles, and played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Osaka Castle is situated on a plot of land roughly one kilometer square. It is built on two raised platforms of landfill supported by sheer walls of cut rock, using a technique called Burdock piling, each overlooking a moat. The central castle building is five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, and built atop a tall stone foundation to protect its occupants from sword-bearing attackers.
Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo Disneyland. Although it wasn’t open while we were researching this guide, word has it that the park is a faithful reproduction of the American park, complete with all manner of movie-themed rides, stores and shops. To get there, take the JR loop line to Nishi-kujō Station, switch to one of the distinctively painted Universal Studio shuttle trains and get off at Universal City Station. From Osaka Station the trip costs ¥170 and takes about 20 minutes. There are also some direct trains from Osaka Station (ask at the tourist office for times; the price is the same).
The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (海遊館, Kaiyūkan, known as the KAIYUKAN) is one of the largest public aquariums in the world. It is located in the ward of Minato in Osaka, Japan, near Osaka Bay. The walk-through aquarium displays several habitats in 16 tanks, along with the marine life inside them. The habitats are from the Ring of Fire area of the Pacific Ocean. The largest tank holds 5,400 cubic metres of water, and a variety of fish including manta rays and a pair of whale sharks.
Himeji Castle (姫路城, Himeji-jō) is a flatland-mountain Japanese castle complex located in Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture and comprising 83 wooden buildings. It is occasionally known as Hakurojō or Shirasagijō (“White Heron Castle”) because of its brilliant white exterior. It was registered as the first Japanese National Cultural Treasure by UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Japanese National Cultural Treasure in December, 1993. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is one of Japan’s “Three Famous Castles”, and is the most visited castle in Japan.