Osaka: The Architecture of a Vibrant Metropolis
Osaka is the largest city in western Japan. The 16th-century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who unified Japan after a long period of civil war, chose it as his power base and built a castle there to serve as the power base for his clan. In the years that followed, Osaka became a major logistical and economic hub. From the mid-19th century, Osaka rode the wave of Japan's modernization and the city expanded rapidly. The development of its spinning industry brought prosperity. During this period it was known as "Great Osaka" and saw the construction of many handsome commercial buildings, several of which survive to this day. From the late 1940's, the city was a driving force for Japan's postwar reconstruction and rapid economic growth. In 1970 it became the first city in Asia to host a world's fair, known as Expo '70. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, American architect James Lambiasi visits Osaka and explores its history and culture, as reflected in its impressive architecture.

Osaka Castle

The original castle was built toward the end of the 16th century, but burned down during the turbulent period following the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. The castle keep that exists today was rebuilt in the 1930's. Both the exterior and the interior are faithful reproductions of the original castle donjon. An admission fee is charged to visit the castle.

The Tower of the Sun

Created by avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto, this tower was built for the Expo 1970 world's fair, as part of the Theme Pavilion. The area around the tower has been designated as a commemorative park. To view the refurbished interior, with its Tree of Life sculpture, visitors need to reserve in advance.

Tsutenkaku Tower

This 100-meter-high steel tower stands in the heart of the Shinsekai (New World) entertainment district, and is one of Osaka's major landmarks. The present tower was erected in 1957, to replace the original structure built in 1912, which burned down in 1943. An admission fee is required to enter the tower. Besides the admission fee, there is an additional charge to visit the upper level observatory.


From Tokyo, it takes about 2.5 hours to reach Osaka by Shinkansen bullet train. From Kansai International Airport, there are rapid trains and expressway bus services into the center of the city.