Located at the mouth of the Yodo River where it empties in to Osaka Bay, the city of Osaka is an amazing city, full of culture and history. One of the oldest cities in the world, Osaka can trace its roots back to as far as 700BC, before the rise of Rome or other western centres of power. As the capitol of the Osaka Prefecture, nestled in the Kansai region of the main island of Honshu, Osaka has long enjoyed a position of privilege and power derived from its sheltered position in the bay at the mouth of a major trade river.
As capitol of the Japanese Empire several times during the various ages, including the Asuka, Nara, Heian and Edo periods, it has a cultural flavour that runs deeper than any other does. Historically the economic capitol of Japan, Osaka has the second largest population of any Japanese City, with seventeen million people in the area encompassing Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. It is a unique distinction that Osaka has the highest amount of nighttime residents, that is, residents who work and live during the night rather than during the day, to Tokyo. Some 2.6 million people live and work by the moon, resulting in a massive collection of stores, restaurants and other services that are open twenty-four hours a day.
“The 808 bridges of Osaka” is a common phrase used to express awe and wonder in Japan, a proverbial statement. 808 is a number that is used by the Japanese to symbolize the idea of ‘too large to count’. Osaka is crossed by a massive number of waterways, from irrigation canals, to navigable rivers and access feeders. This necessitates an equally massive number of bridges and crossings, each bridge with a specific and unique name that often lends itself to the surrounding area. While some of the waterways, for example, the Nagahori canal, are now filled in, the bridges remain as part of this deep cultural history.
As one might expect, the city of Osaka, due to its commercial nature, day and night time culture and deep history, is considered to be the Japans national kitchen, the gourmet centre of the food-conscious Japanese. In Osaka, you can find any number of restaurants catering to cuisines both exotic and more mundane, from American burgers and fries to French fole gras to Indian curries and even Mexican mole’s.
One of the more interesting restaurants is Osaka ‘s Dotonbori Street. This is a very popular buffet style restaurant where the customers cook the food for themselves. A large pot of boiling water is placed in the middle of a group’s table and then two large trays delivered to the table, with one of meat and soy-tofu and the other of vegetables. The meats are thinly sliced, allowing them to cook fast without losing flavour or juice. It is popular with families for both its low price and the fun of cooking with your chopsticks.