Early beginnings: Osaka is centrally placed between busy river and sea routes and has therefore always been Japan’s gateway to the rest of the world.
Naniwazu Port, the predecessor to the modern port of Osaka, was where foreigners first touched the soil of ancient Japan in the 5th century bringing with them a whole swathe of knowledge and artifacts, including a new religion, Buddhism.
Buddhism quickly spread throughout Japan and led Prince Shotoku to build the Shitenno-ji Temple (593 AD) in Osaka. Fifty years later, Osaka became the capital of Japan under Emperor Kotoku who built the Naniwanomiya Palace, which is considered to be the oldest palace in Japan.
In 794, Kyoto became Japan’s capital (after Nara) and the country began a period of unprecedented construction. Numerous fine temples were constructed and arts and crafts began to flourish in both Kyoto and Osaka. It wasn’t until almost 800 years later (!) after decades of civil war that a famous warlord built Osaka Castle (1583) in an attempt of unify Japan.
Cultural Rebirth: Osaka flourished during the Edo period (1601-1867) and as life became more comfortable for its residents, traditional performance arts and culture were reborn. Joruri puppet theater (today’s Bunraku puppet plays), Noh theater and the city’s own brand of Kabuki theater became extremely popular.
Modern Osaka: Delicious cuisine, exciting street snacks and the late night excitement of the futuristic Dotombori area are just a few of the highlights that make Osaka a must-see. Explore the city center by night and its main attractions by day. Be transported back to Japan’s ‘Golden Age’ at Osaka Castle, Shitenno-ji Temple, and the Osaka Museum of History and get a taste of contemporary Osaka at the Umeda Sky Building, Osaka Aquarium and the Zoo.
Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s Osaka tours & things to do, top Osaka attractions, and top Osaka travel recommendations. Make sure to check our Osaka Full-Day Walking Tour with Osaka River Cruise to see Osaka’s famous attractions.