Located where the Yodo River meets Osaka Bay, Central Osaka lies at the heart of one of Japan’s largest cities. It served as a hub for the rice trade during the Edo period, earning it the nickname of “nation’s kitchen”, but is now among the country’s major economic powerhouses.
Central Osaka is home to one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, Osaka Castle, which played a pivotal role in the unification of Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama period of the 16th century. In addition to its impressive main tower, there are numerous other culturally significant structures throughout its open-air museum, including the historic gates, turrets and the Enshogura Gunpowder Magazine, and it’s particularly popular during cherry blossom season. A more comprehensive insight into Osaka’s past, coupled with views across towards Osaka Castle, can be found at the Osaka Museum of History, or discover its wartime legacy at the Peace Osaka Museum. For those interested in traditional Japanese woodblock printing, Central Osaka’s Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum is dedicated to the craft, while visitors can experience a traditional Edo period bunraku puppetry performance at the National Bunraku Theater. Central Osaka is also home to the Shitennōji Temple, originally built in 193 AD by Emperor Suiko and largely reconstructed in the post-World War II years, as well as one of Japan’s oldest shrines at Sumiyoshi which nestles within a tranquil park to the north.
Osaka has one of the most extensive subway networks in Japan, making this the most convenient way to get almost anywhere in the city. The JR Osaka Loop Line is another good option, with a stop at Osaka Castle, while the flat terrain and availability of bike lanes mean that many opt to explore by bicycle.
While there is archaeological evidence of human occupation in the area dating back to the 6th century BC, it was during the Kofun period that the settlement evolved into an important port, linking the region with the south-west of Japan. In 645 AD, Emperor Kōtoku built his palace in what was then referred to as Naniwa, making it the capital of Japan, and this name is still used by one of Central Osaka’s districts today.