Favourably placed by the Bay of Osaka on southwestern Honshu, Osaka goes back a long way. It started developing into a city of trade 1,400 years ago and, despite setbacks, has continued growing. Today, Osaka is a proud city of steel and concrete, the dominating centre of western Japan with about 2.5 million inhabitants.
City of Water
Since time immemorial, Osaka has been a port for sea and river transport, and so it remains today. It has found further use for the sea as well - mainly by making it into land. Kansai airport was the first international airport in the world built offshore; it is placed on one of several man-made islands in the bay.
Osaka is also the major city in the Hanshin, a wide belt of industrial cities which also encompasses Kobe, Nishinomiya, Amagasaki, Sakai and Kishiwada. The city is a centre for transportation and banking, its main industries are steel and iron, computer and electronical equipment, medicines and textiles. Osaka has several universities, colleges, museums and theatres.
In the middle ages, Osaka was known as Naniwa. A part of the city became the capital of Japan in the middle of the 7th century. This gave it the starting signal to grow and prosper, even if the capital moved on to Nara and later to Kyoto. Instead of politics, Osaka became a centre of trade; of the arts, such as kabuki and bunraku; and of food, which it remains to this day.
A third of the town burned down in 1909, and World War II bombings brought further destruction. Because of this, most of its buildings are very modern in style. A wonderful exception to this is Osaka Castle. The original castle was built in 1583; it was destroyed and a smaller copy was erected in its place. It is still a most impressive sight. Other historical places, such as the Shitennoji Temple and the Sumiyoshi Grand Shinto Shrine, also remain.
To other Japanese, the city is known for its food delights. A symbol of Osaka is a giant plastic crab placed outside a restaurant - oh, very kawaii. The people are also known for their Kansai dialect, which uses some different words and endings from the Tokyo dialect. The most easy to identify difference is however the intonation.
gn0sis tells me that the name of Osaka means Big Hill, the O is long. Also, Osaka is more associated with merchants and big concrete offices; Kobe is the most watery city of the area.