AbstractOsaka is the capital of Osaka Prefecture and the third-largest city in Japan with a population of 2.7 million. It is located in the Kansai region of the main island of Honshu, at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay.
Osaka is the historical commercial capital of Japan and is still one of Japan's major industrial centres and ports. It is at the heart of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area (collectively called the "Kansai Region"). The population of Osaka is about 2.691 million (2015). The city's daytime (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.) population is second in Japan after Tokyo.
What made Osaka Famous? A Historical Overview
Osaka was originally named Naniwa, a name which still exists as districts in central Osaka - such as Naniwa and Namba. Emperor Kotoku, Japan's 36th emperor, made this area his capital in 645 AD, and named it Naniwa-no-miya (the Naniwa capital). It has always been a vital land and sea connection between Yamato (modern day Nara), Korea, and China. Settsu, a former province of Japan, and consists of the northern part of the modern Osaka prefecture and the seaside part of Hyogo Prefecture.
The Osaka Castle against the background of a bustling Osaka
In 1496 the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist sect established their headquarters in the heavily fortified Honganji temple in Ishiyama, today a part of Osaka. In 1576, Oda Nobunaga laid siege to the temple, which lasted for four years. The monks finally surrendered in 1580 when the temple was razed. Toyotomi Hideyoshi then used the site for his own stronghold, Osaka Castle.
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 centre and became the gateway to Japan for travelers and traders from all over Asia.
As a result, Naniwazu Port, the predecessor to the modern port of Osaka, became a gateway into ancient Japan for visitors from Korea, China and other parts of the Asian continent. These visitors brought with them the knowledge and artifacts of advanced cultures and new technologies in ceramics, forging, construction and engineering. They also brought with them a new religion, Buddhism, which very quickly spread to the rest of the country.
As Buddhism spread, Prince Shotoku, in 593 A.D., constructed the Shitennoji Temple in Osaka, and the city became a base for international exchanges with the Asian continent. Emperor Kotoku built the Naniwa-no-miya Palace, which is considered to be the oldest palace in Japan. Even though the national capital moved to different locations in the country, including Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura, and Tokyo, Osaka continued to serve as a 'sub-capital', particularly for the economy, and to play a crucial role as a major gateway for foreign culture and trade.
As Japan entered the Edo Period (1601-1867), the political capital was moved north to Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Sakoku (national exclusion) was introduced whereby the country was completely isolated from the rest of the world. Osaka was restored after the destructions of the civil war that had just ended in a complete victory for the Tokugawa dynasty. It quickly grew into a thriving economic hub. It also became known as "Japan's kitchen," because essential goods including rice, the staple food of the East, were sent to Osaka from all over Japan for shipment to other parts of the country, and also to international destinations.
The modern city of Osaka was officially designated as a 'city' on September 1, 1956 by government ordinanceA city designated by government ordinance is a city that has a population greater than 500,000, important economic and industrial functions, and is considered a "major city" in Japan. The classification was created by the first clause of Article 252, Section 19 of the Local Autonomy Law of Japan. Designated Cities are delegated many of the functions normally performed by prefectural cities, making them almost on par with the prefectures themselves. .
Osaka's Industrial Growth: Post World War II
Osaka was officially incorporated as a city in 1889. In 1903, the Tennoji Area was the site of the 5th National Industrial Exposition, a display of high quality industrial goods and arts, which attracted the country's technological and cultural elite. In that same year Osaka's first municipal streetcar went into service. By 1925, Osaka was the largest city in Japan in terms of its population and land area. It was also the sixth largest city in the world.
Continuous air raids by American bombers during World War II leveled almost one third of Osaka and, in the process, destroyed many of its commercial, industrial and public facilities. But, after the war, due to vigorous city planning and Osaka's positive thinking citizens, the city was restored to an economic prosperity that even exceeded pre-war levels.
For example, Osaka was chosen to host Expo '70Osaka will host the World Expo in 2025, having previously hosted Expo 1970 and Expo 1990. , the first world exposition held in Asia. Since then, Osaka has hosted an endless series of international expositions, conventions, trade shows and meetings, including the APEC summit in 1995.
Osaka, therefore, has played different roles over the centuries but has also always been at the forefront of developments in the country. It has long been a cultural and scientific centre. For example, the Tekijuku Institute taught western medicine and science a century and a half ago.
Another even older centre of learning, the Kaitokudo, based its curriculum on Confucian thought. The kabuki and bunraku theaters in Osaka were regularly patronized by the merchant classes. As has been said above, after World War II, many new industries sprang up giving the city its nickname, the "Manchester of the Orient". These features and trends, seen over a long history, gave Osaka the necessary intellectual and business base around which the economy could be developed.
Osaka's Disintegrative Forces: Economic and Environmental
After the Meiji Restoration (1868), enormous social change, far-reaching reforms to the economic system, and the moving of the capital to Tokyo contributed to a decline in Osaka's prosperity. This caused the city to go through a transformation from a base of trade and finance to a commercial centre. So much smoke began pouring out of factory chimneystacks that, by the end of the 19th century, Osaka was referred to as the "smoky city."
A second disintegrative shock came after World War II when all post-war political decision-making was concentrated in Tokyo and, accordingly, industries moved their bases to the Tokyo area. Some of Osaka's disintegrative economic forces during this period include the following:
Rapid industrial growth in the 50s, 60s and 70s had had an overall negative impact on the environment, and the waves of economic downturns created blighted areas that affected the city's attractiveness. But these disintegrative forces by themselves soon became rallying points for integration. Strong environmental management policies and strategies, urban planning and development, community involvement and heritage conservation were some of the key foci of the 70s, 80s and 90s that enabled Osaka to overcome the various downturns it had faced.
Osaka as a Brand: Finding Answers in the Backyard
Over the years, the people of Osaka have developed a unique culture of their own which is based on pragmatism, entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of independence and self-reliance. This cultural uniqueness has played a key role in enabling creativity and innovation to flourish in the city.
Osaka has continuously played a strong role in fostering Japan's industries and culture. Residents of the city are easy-going, open-minded and friendly and, as a result, they have warmly accepted people from other parts of Japan as well as from overseas. This explains Osaka's vitality as a city and its ability to face the diverse challenges of integration and disintegration.
Osaka's critical nature and rational approach to life has also sharpened the discernment of its citizens as consumers. Instant noodles, karaoke, pre-fabricated housing, and other innovative products and services became a hit in Osaka first, then expanded into other markets in Japan and overseas.
There are a number of characteristics of Osaka that will serve it well to challenge the disintegrative forces that are buffeting the Japanese economy at large:
The Osaka Brand Committee was formed in September 2004 with the objective of creating and establishing a "Brand-New Osaka" image in order to breathe new life into the area. The committee consists of local municipalities, groups and organizations, including Osaka Prefecture, Osaka City, the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives, and Kansai University.
What is the rebranding of a city? The committee set itself the task of making Osaka more attractive by examining the existing resources already in the area, redesigning them from a new perspective, and publicizing them nationally and internationally as more appealing images or messages.
The Way Forward: Osaka Reinvents Itself.
The 'reinvention' of Osaka as an economic and industrial powerhouse that will set the stage for an integrative approach to its survival lies in an urban planning and development policy package that has the following three goals:
The City of Osaka has been making efforts to enhance its profile as an international cultural centre by promoting cultural, artistic, academic, and sports activities in the city, and further enriching of these activities through cultural exchanges with the rest of the world.
In conclusion, the direction that Osaka's integrative forces are taking provides key lessons for other cities with similar problems. These lessons include (a) a strengthening of urban functions to create intellectual businesses together with diversification of its manufacturing/industrial base; (b) an enhancement of urban functions to invite economic and amenity migrants to Osaka, including tourists to develop the city; and (c) the promotion of an urban development strategy that will enhance the living standards and quality of life for its residents.