Osaka is located on the main island of Honshu, roughly in the center of Japan. Osaka City, which was incorporated in 1889, has a population of 2.5 million and an area of 221 square kilometers. Osaka Prefecture, which includes Osaka City (its capital) and 42 other municipalities, has a population of 8.7 million and a total land mass of about 1,905 square kilometers. Although Osaka is Japan's second smallest prefecture by size, its population represents 7% of the entire nation, making it the second most populous prefecture after Tokyo. Furthermore, 10% of all non-Japanese residents live in Osaka.
1400 Years of Tradition
Since ancient times, Osaka has been a gathering place. Located at the confluence 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.
Osaka's Origins Go Back to the 5th Century
In the 5th century, Osaka began to flourish as the political and economic center of Japan. Naniwazu Port, the predecessor to the modern port of Osaka, became a gateway into ancient Japan for visitors from Korea, China and the Asian continent. These visitors brought with them knowledge and artifacts of advanced culture, and new technologies in ceramics, forging, construction, and engineering. They also brought with them a new religion, Buddhism, which very quickly began to spread 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 Nagaoka-kyo (Kyoto), then 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.