Osaka, Japan, the capital of Osaka Prefecture. It is on the island of Honshu, 250 miles (400 km) west-southwest of Tokyo. Osaka lies at the mouth of the Vodo River on Osaka Bay, an arm of the Inland Sea. Because of its numerous canals and river channels and more than 1,000 bridges, the city is sometimes called the "Venice of Japan." One of Osaka's chief landmarks is Osaka Castle, which was originally built during 1583–86 but has been rebuilt twice. West of the castle, on Nakanoshima Island, is the city's main business district. Located here are the city hall and many high-rise office buildings.
Osaka is part of the Hanshin Industrial Zone, which includes the city of Kobe and surrounding areas. This zone is Japan's second largest industrial region after the Keihan Industrial Zone (Tokyo-Yokohama area). Factories in Osaka produce a wide range of goods, including chemicals, machinery, steel, textiles, and electronic items. Osaka is also a major commercial center with numerous financial institutions and businesses engaged in wholesale trade.
Osaka is connected with Tokyo by the New Tokaido Line, whose "bullet train" provided the world's fastest rail service when the line opened in 1964. The city is also served by other railways and by express-wax s, a subway, and a large port. Kansai International Airport, opened in 1994, is situated on an artificial island in Osaka Bay. A two-mile (3.2-km) bridge links the airport to the city.
Osaka University and Kansai University are the leading educational institutions in the city There are museums of art, ethnology, and natural history, and an aquarium, Shitennoji Temple, founded in 593 A.D., is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan.
As early as the fourth century A.D. an imperial palace was built at Osaka, which was then called Naniwa. The settlement remained small until the 1500's, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi made it his capital and encouraged commercial development. During the 17th and 18th centuries Osaka grew as a rice market and banking center. The city was opened to foreign residence in 1868 and was briefly headquarters of Western diplomats.
Industrialization began in Osaka about 1870 with the establishment of cotton spinning mills. By the late 1880's the city was Japan's leading textile center. Heavy industries were developed after World War I. Allied bombing raids caused severe damage to Osaka during World War II. Recovery was rapid after the war; by the 1960's the city had regained its prewar stature. In 1970 it was the site of Expo '70, the first world exposition to be held in Asia. A severe earthquake centered in nearby Kobe caused considerable damage in Osaka in 1994.