A trip to the era of "Big Osaka"
Nakanoshima - Yodoyabashi - Kitahama - Semba. These are places of crowded modern buildings and masses of business, but also of retro architecture hailing from the old times of Osaka. Osaka reached its economic peak at the end of the Meiji - Taisho - early-Showa era along with the industrial development. The population grew rapidly, and expanded the city limits. It became "Big Osaka", the No. 1 city in Japan both nominally and virtually. Buildings at that time were grand and dignified. The sentiments of business people who invested their money are alive everywhere. Follow the history of "Big Osaka" to appreciate the beautiful architecture conveying the pride of this merchant town.
|1.||15 min walk||Bank of Japan Osaka Branch|
|2.||3 min walk||Osaka City Hall|
|3.||A short walk|
|4.||1 min walk|
|5.||5 min walk|
|6.||A short walk|
|7.||10 min walk|
|8.||5 min walk|
1. Bank of Japan Osaka Branch
15 minutes of leisurely walk from Osaka Station along the Mido-suji to the south. Cross Oe Bridge over Dojima River, and you are in Nakanoshima. A narrow sandbar between Dojima River and Tosabori River, stretching approx. 3.5km east - west, area 50ha. Warehouses of various fiefdoms lined up around Nakanoshiman blessed with water transport facility in the Edo era, enjoying brisk business. The Bank of Japan Osaka Branch was built in one of the former warehouse of Shimabara fief where the villa of a businessman, Tomoatsu Godai had been built in 1903. A neo-renaissance style building designed by Kingo Tatsuno, No. 1 architect in Meiji era, with an impressive dome roof in blue-green. After looking at the elegant beauty from the outside, go inside. Make a reservation request 3 months to 2 weeks prior via postal mail, you can see the interior (approx. 1 hour and 10 minutes with a guide).
|TEL||Bank of Japan Osaka Branch, Operation Department 06-6206-7748|
2. Osaka City Hall
There used to be 4 modern buildings on the east side of Nakanoshima; The Bank of Japan Osaka Branch, City Hall, Prefectural Nakanoshima Library, and Central Public Hall, creating a grand view to symbolize "Big Osaka". Unfortunately the former City Hall was demolished and the current new building was built in 1985. You can see the precious image of the "Big Osaka Tour" made in 1937 (City designated cultural property) in the image information corner on the 1st floor of the City Hall for free. There is only one seat, but why don't you give it a try, prepared for a wait?
3. Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library
Go out of the east side door of the Osaka City Hall and there stands the neo-baroque style Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library. Its 4 broad columns are reminiscent of a Grecian temple. It is a beautiful building, built in 1904. Kichizaemon Sumitomo, 15th head of the Sumitomo Family, a financial conglomerate in Osaka, donated funds for its construction and the purchase of books. He was influenced by Western business owners who were actively participating in cultural contribution and charity work when he visited them, and proposed a large amount of donation. Its high ceiling, stained glass, and well-polished railing of the stairway show that the spirit of the Osaka merchant is still alive after 100 years. Half of its collection was transferred to the Prefectural Central Library built in Higashi Osaka City in 1996, but it still has a precious collection. People don't stop coming to this nationally important cultural property.
4. Nakanoshima Central Public Hall
Further east of Prefectural Nakanoshima Library is the neo-renaissance style Nakanoshima Central Public Hall, beautiful with its red bricks and arches. Since it was completed in 1918, it has played a huge role in the cultural and artistic development of modern Osaka such as a lecture by Helen Keller, a welcome celebration for Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut, classical concerts, etc. It is still used for various events, and is a symbol of Osaka. In particular, the luxurious great hall is eye catching. Construction of the Public Hall started in 1913 with \1,000,000 donated to Osaka City by a stockbroker Einosuke Iwamoto. Iwamoto failed in investment, and committed suicide at the young age of 39 years without waiting for the completion of the hall. There is the Einosuke Iwamoto memorial room downstairs in the hall (admission free). Preservation renewal work was completed in 2002, and it was designated as an nationally important cultural property at the time of the renewal opening. What would Einosuke Iwamoto think if he looked at the Public Hall now, still beloved of the ordinary citizens of Osaka?
5. Lion Bridge
There are numerous bridges in Osaka, but rarely one with such a stylish design. 3 minutes walk to the east from Central Public Hall. The stone-built Naniwabashi (Naniwa Bridge) has stone statues of brave lions at the 4 north and south feet of the bridge, commonly called the "Lion Bridge". The lions, one with mouth open and the other with mouth closed are called "Ah-Un Lions". But why lions? In the Edo era, Naniwabashi was very long, over 200m. The view from the bridge was splendid. A poem was composed for it, with a word "Shi-shi" the pronunciation of which is also used for the Japanese word for lion. There are many other explanations, and the true reason is as yet unknown. The current bridge was built in 1915, and remains a source of pride for Osaka citizens. Cross this bridge to the south, and proceed to Kitahama.
6. Osaka Securities Exchange
The Rice Exchange was established in Kitahama, located to the southeast of Naniwabashi, for trading rice coming from the hans (fiefdoms) all over Japan to their warehouses in Nakanoshima in Edo era. It developed from there to the Securities Exchange in 1878. Osaka Stock Exchange Co., Ltd. was changed to Osaka Securities Exchange. Securities companies and banks concentrate there, and it remains the center of the Osaka economy. The grand white cylindrical exchange office completed in 1935 was reborn as a high rise building, 24 stories above ground and 2 stories underground in 2002, but the front wall of the former exchange building is preserved. It conveys the atmosphere of the time as the face of Kitahama. Also the statue of Tomoatsu Godai, foster father of the Osaka economy stands in front of the building.
7. Osaka Club
About 10 minutes walk to the west from Osaka Securities Exchange. Go into the southeast of Sumitomo Bank Main Office, built in 1926, and the especially elegant 4-story building catches the eye. This Osaka Club built in 1924 is one of the three best examples of modern architecture, in southern European style added to oriental method. Designed by a noted architect Takeo Yasui, it was designated as a registered tangible cultural property in 1997. It is a member-exclusive hall for Osaka Club, an English style social club established in 1912, restaurant, lounge, billiard room, etc, are reserved for members only. The hall on the 4th floor is widely used for lectures and salon concerts. An elegant space with a fragrance of culture.
Go north again along Mido-suji from Osaka Club, and there is Yodoyabashi (Yodoya Bridge) spanning the Tosabori River. Legend has it that this bridge was built by a grand merchant Yodoya in front of his mansion. There is a monument to mark the mansion on the west side of the southern foot of the bridge. The current bridge was built in 1935, with the general public invited for the design. Cars and people come and go incessantly on this dignified and interesting bridge. Yodoyabashi, Kitahama, Semba, are still dotted with memorable architecture of the "Big Osaka" era. They stand proudly in the busy business streets as if time stands still there. What are the thoughts our forerunners put in the fine buildings? Was it love for the town? Pride? They may be cheering us on, "Hang in there!"