Location & Population
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 2.6 million and an area of 221 square kilometers/85 square miles. Osaka Prefecture, which includes Osaka City (its capital) and 42 other municipalities, has a population of 8.8 million and a total land mass of about 1,890 square kilometers/730 square miles. 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, 15.6% of all non-Japanese residents live in Osaka.
The greater Osaka Metropolitan Area covers a total of 7,800 square kilometers/3,012 square miles and the population exceeds 17 million, making it one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the world. Osaka represents 18.9% of Japan's gross domestic product, the second largest in Japan. The scale of Osaka City's economy alone exceeds that of Hong Kong and Thailand.
Roughly 40 minutes' travel will take you to many of Osaka's famous neighboring cities, such as: Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Wakayama.
Kyoto: Roughly 30 minutes (43 km/27 mile) from Osaka is the ancient city of Kyoto. Because of its rich cultural heritage, Kyoto was not targeted in the air raids of World War II, and as a result is still home to numerous temples, and shrines.
Nara: Some 53km/33 miles from Osaka lies the city of Nara, the center of the great Japanese arts in the early 8th century. Today, the Nara area is a treasure chest of old temples and shrines such as Todaiji, and the Kasuga Grand Shrine.
Kobe: Situated 33km/21 miles west of Osaka, the city of Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture. It sits between the sea and the Rokko Mountains, and it's deep-water port was one of the first opened to foreign trade (after Osaka).
Wakayama: At the mouth of the Kinokawa River, 72km/45 miles south of Osaka, lies Wakayama City. With its own great castle, Wakayama continues to be a dynamic and distinctive city.
Four Seasons, Climate and Dress
Osaka can be different every time you come
Osaka takes on a different mood, displays a different form of expression during each season of the year.
Spring: After the plum blossoms have fallen, sumo comes to Osaka; the annual Osaka Tournament takes place at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium in mid-March. At the end of March, and on through the beginning of April, the cherry blossoms burst into bloom. They can be seen at the Nishinomaru Japanese Garden in Osaka Castle Park, in Nagai Park, and at Yodogawa Riverside Park. The Osaka Mint also has a tunnel of cherry trees that bloom in late April.
Summer: Summer in Osaka is hot and humid, similar to the rest of Japan. In June, irises bloom in Shirokita Park and exotic flowers bloom at the Sakuya Konohana Kan, the Great Conservatory. Summer also means Osaka's foremost festival, the Tenjin Matsuri, which is always held on July 24 and 25. One of Japan's three largest festivals, the Tenjin consists of colorful processions of barges on Osaka's rivers, lively performances and bright fireworks displays.
Autumn: Autumn is another colorful time of year, when the tall noble gingko trees that line Mido-Suji Avenue, Osaka's main thoroughfare, turn bright yellow, and maple trees in Osaka Castle Park take on vivid shades of orange and red. Other autumn events are moon viewing ceremonies for the Harvest Moon and exotic chrysanthemum shows in Osaka Castle Park and Tennoji Park.
Winter: Visitors between December and February are advised to bring a winter coat, scarf and gloves. Christmas illumination brightens up the crisply cold winter evenings in many popular locations. During the New Year, Japanese people dress in their "Sunday best" as they visit shrines or temples to pray for good luck. Local merchants and businessmen pray for prosperity at the Toka Ebisu Festival in January.
A moderate climate with strong seasonal variation
Located at a latitude of 34 degrees, Osaka has a relatively mild climate with four distinct seasons. The average daily temperature, which varies from 6 degrees Celsius (42 F) in the winter to 28 degrees Celsius (86 F) in the summer, is 16 degree Celsius (61.3 F). Average precipitation (1,318 mm) peaks during the rainy season, which is usually between late June and late July, and in September during typhoon season.
Osaka's Origins Go Back to the 5th Century
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. As the introduction of Buddhism spread with these visitors, Prince Shotoku constructed (in 593 A.D.) Shitennoji Temple in Osaka, and the city became a base for international exchange with the Asian continent.
Hideyoshi's Castle Town
Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a famous warlord, unified Japan from his base in Osaka and built Osaka Castle in 1583 during the Azuchi and Momoyama Periods (1574-1600). Rivers were excavated to expand Osaka's capabilities as a base for marine transportation. However, in battles that raged between the winter of 1614 and the summer of 1615 the castle town of Osaka was burnt to the ground.
An Economic & Cultural Hub
During the Edo Period (1601-1867), Osaka became known as "Japan's kitchen," because essential goods including rice were sent to Osaka from all over Japan for shipment to other parts of the country. This economic affluence helped Osaka create its own culture and style. Popular arts bloomed alongside traditional performance arts, such as Joruri puppet theater (the predecessor to today's Bunraku puppet plays), Noh theater and Osaka's own brand of Kabuki theater. By 1925, Osaka was the largest city in Japan in terms of population and area, and the sixth largest in the world.
Devastation during the War
Continuous air raids by American bombers during World War II leveled almost one third of Osaka. After the war, vigorous city planning restored the city to an economic prosperity exceeding prewar levels. Osaka was chosen to host Expo '70, 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.
Q: How can I get to Osaka from Kansai International Airport?
A: There are two convenient train services as well as comfortable shuttle buses that link the airport to central Osaka. The trip requires between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on what type of train you take or traffic conditions.
Q: What is the best way to get to Osaka from Tokyo?
A: The Shinkansen bullet train is the quickest and most convenient way. A one-way ride on the fastest express takes only two and a half hours. Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airlines (ANA) and other domestic airlines fly between Tokyo's two airports (Narita and Haneda) and the two airports that serve Osaka. When booking a flight to Osaka, try and get one that lands at Osaka (Itami) International Airport. This is Osaka's domestic airport, which is closer to the city center than Kansai International Airport.
Q: Where can I get information in English or sightseeing, hotels and events?
A: There are visitors' information centers located throughout the city, in the main train terminal stations. Please see the following maps.
Q: What kinds of accommodations are there in Osaka?
A: There is a wide variety of accommodation types and styles to fit all tastes and budgets. Western-style lodgings range from five-star luxury hotels to business class hotels. Those willing to try Japanese-style accommodations can try one of Osaka's ryokan inns.
Q: I will only be in Osaka for a short visit. What must I see?
A: For a comprehensive overview of Osaka, you shouldn't miss Osaka Castle and the nearby Osaka Municipal Museum of History. The Dotombori Area offers the best in dining and entertainment.
Q: Is it safe to carry cash in Osaka?
A: It is generally safe to carry cash as Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Major credits cards (American Express, VISA and MasterCard) are accepted at most restaurants, hotels and large stores in the metropolitan area. However, smaller shops and stores in urban areas may only accept cash. Travelers checks are not accepted by most merchants except major hotels and banks authorized to exchange foreign currency
Q: What type of clothing should I bring?
A: Temperatures vary throughout the year. Light clothing is suggested for the hot, humid summers in Osaka. A warm coat will be necessary during February and March, the coldest months of the year. And a raincoat and umbrella are a must during the rainy season, which starts in early June and ends in late July.
Q: Can I use my mobile phone/smartphone in Osaka?
A: Please note that the information here is intended as a guide only. Charges for using mobile phones overseas can be expensive, especially in the case of data (sending emails and accessing the internet). Please check details of costs, etc. with your operator or provider before you travel. We strongly reccomend turning off the "roaming" setting on your phone before hand. All 3G mobile phone work in Japan. Hiring a SIM card to put in your mobile phone that you bring with you is possible. Rental shops at which you can rent pre-paid cell phones can be found in Kansai International Airport.
Q: Are there any free Wi-fi spots in Osaka?
Free wi-fi is generally unavailable throughout the city, however the JR-WEST FREE Wi-Fi service is in operation. Visitors can access Wi-fi available at ticket gates, waiting rooms, and waiting areas in some Japan Rail stations including JR Osaka Station, Shin-Osaka Station, Tennoji Stationn, and Kansai-airport station. To use the service, you must obtain a guest code (ID) beforehand.
Q: Where can I go for a family outing?
A: Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is a reccomended attraction for the whole family. Osaka's Aquarium, or the Kaiyukan as it is known, is one of the world's greatest in size, and offers entertainment for all ages. Other museums such as the Science Museum and Kids Plaza Osaka are also good fun for children.