Osaka Ancient Memories

Osaka is too preoccupied with the actualities of the present moment and the prospects of the immediate future to look back upon the past. Yet it is one of the most ancient cities, boasting of an honorable place in the hoariest Japanese national records. It is in a way very much older than Kyoto, or even Nara, and the scenes of the cultural history of Japan are largely laid in this city. Here it was that Chikamatsu wrote his immortal plays for the puppet shows of the Bunraku; and the scores of artists, scholars and dilettanti, served to make the golden age of Genroku what it was. Further back in history Osaka had the honor of being the political capital of Hideyoshi the Conqueror, who, in 1583-85, built his castle home which remains in almost the same shape as it was 300 years ago. Going further back the great Tennōji (properly Shi-ten-nō-ji, or temple of four Buddhist saints) was built by Shōtoku Taishi ( 572-612 A.D.), the Constantine of Japan, to whom the credit of establishing Buddhism as a national religion is attributed. Still earlier in the records is the famous anecdote of Nintoku Tenno (16th Emperor, 313-399 A.D.), a Mikado of great tenderness of heart and wonderful practical statesmanship, who, as the story goes, observing the conditions of poverty among his people, declared a tax-holiday for three years. He did not allow his officers to re-impose the taxes till one morning, on going to the roof of his palace and seeing the smoke rising from every house, he made the celebrated remark: "I have become rich." Turning to the courtier who wondered at his remark, seeing that the Emperor's clothes were shabby and his palace dilapidated, Nintoku added, "the wealth of the people is the wealth of their sovereign." The site of Takatsuno-miya temple has been identified as the spot where Nintoku's palace stood, and from whose roof he looked down on Osaka's smoke of prosperity. But the forest of chimneys bristling everywhere, today remain as so many symbols of Nintoku's virtues.

In studying Osaka from an historical and cultural point of view one will see a long vista of interests open to his view, and will soon be convinced that the arts and literature of Japan, even as they are, owe their perfection in no small degree to the influences of Osaka's so-called material civilization.

By far the greatest attraction of Osaka, from a tourist's viewpoint, is that it is so near to many lovely cities and interesting places, within a few hours by motor or train, such as Kyoto (26 miles), Kobe (20 miles), Nara (18.8 miles) and a host of others celebrated for their exquisite scenery and historical associations. Osaka's notoriety therefore as an ideal city to get away from rests largely on this fact. There are, to mention a few more, Mount Rokkō whose summit, 3,000 ft. high, commands a fairy-like view of the Inland Sea. Here is a foreign villa plus a bijou hotel. Arima (23 miles) is a famous spa in the mountains, whose waters claim to have the cure-all, cardinal virtues. Takarazuka, another fashionable hot-spring resort within an hour's ride of Osaka, is also noted for its Takarazuka musical shows and modern revues performed exclusively by charming young actresses. Then there is Yoshino (40 miles), whose cherry blossoms have been woven into the texture of national history, and Wakayama (40 miles) celebrated for its wonderful land and seascapes. No wonder that the Osaka people, unlike the Kyotoites, are insatiable excursionists, holiday-makers and "go. outers."

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