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Osaka History

Buddhism, battling warlords and booming industry have all played their part in Osaka’s story.

The city has been a gateway for international commerce and exchange since the fifth century, when it was known as Naniwa, and traded with China and Korea.

As well as bringing a wealth of goods and knowledge, Osaka’s foreign visitors introduced Buddhism to the town, and the religion rapidly spread across Japan.

In 645AD, Emperor Kotoku made Osaka his new capital, building Naniwa-no-Miya Palace, the oldest palace in the country. The capital moved to Asuka in 655AD and then later to Kyoto, but by then Osaka was flourishing, with new temples popping up and a thriving cultural scene.

For much of the 14th century, wars ravaged Osaka. But the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, built in 1496 and constructed as a fortress, served to keep the warlords at bay.

Nearly a century later, Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded in unifying Japan, constructing Osaka Castle in 1583 and making it his power base.

The entire town burnt to a cinder in 1615, but things calmed down after that and, though no longer the capital, Osaka began to prosper, sending rice and other foodstuffs to the rest of Japan.

The city became renowned as a hub for culture and education, and by the 19th century, it had transformed into a modern, industrial powerhouse.

During WWII, Osaka was almost decimated by Allied bombing, which explains the abundance of modern buildings and enormous skyscrapers dominating the city’s skyline today.

Post-war Osaka saw meticulous city planning and a return to prosperity. Osaka has become the economic centre of western Japan, attracting multinational companies.

Its rich cultural past is still evident in the local culture through the continued enjoyment of culinary pleasures, the performing arts and the city’s large entertainment areas.

Did you know?
• Around the end of the 19th century, Osaka was nicknamed the ‘Manchester of the Orient’, owing to its successful spinning industry.
• Osaka hosted Expo ’70, the first world exposition held in Asia.
• The first Universal Studios in Asia opened in Osaka in 2001.

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Featured Hotels


Hilton Osaka Hotel

With its excellent location just outside JR Osaka Station, the Hilton Osaka offers convenience as well as luxury to its guests. There are four restaurants serving a variety of international cuisines, including Windows on the World, which boasts great views of the city from the 35th floor and live music every evening. The hotel has a business centre, a beauty salon, swimming pool and fitness room.

Imperial Hotel Osaka

This opulent hotel is in a pleasant location overlooking the Okawa River in the north of Osaka, and is just as luxurious as its famous Tokyo cousin. Purified air is pumped into the rooms, the service is extremely attentive and there's also a golf driving range. The Imperial Hotel's elegant in-house restaurants serve French, Chinese and a range of Japanese cuisines, including teppanyaki and sushi.

Hotel Nikko Osaka

Hotel Nikko Osaka is a top-class hotel in Osaka, close to the main nightlife and shopping arcades of the Minami area. The spacious rooms are supremely comfortable and decorated in a sleek, modern style, with the upper floors offering views of Mt Ikoma. There's a good range of restaurants, including three offering breakfast. There's also a business centre in the hotel.

Swissôtel Nankai Osaka

Swissôtel Nankai Osaka is located in the heart of Namba, above the Nankai train station, which makes it extremely convenient for direct access to Kansai International Airport. The rooms are modestly decorated and have great views over southern Osaka. There are also seven restaurants, bars, a gym, spa and indoor swimming pool.

Cross Hotel Osaka

This surprisingly stylish business hotel is just minutes away from the Minami shopping and nightlife scene. The decently sized rooms are decorated in modern colour schemes and include internet access. There's also a Japanese restaurant and a bar.

Hearton Hotel Nishi-Umeda

The Hearton Hotel Nishi-Umeda is part of a reliable and popular business hotel chain. It is conveniently located just behind the main post office next to JR Osaka Station. The rooms are small but clean, and come with cable TV and complimentary internet access. There's also a restaurant with a deck.