Osaka Brand Committee
Biolgical field
Water city
Have a Seat Near the River-- Launching the "Kitahama Terrace" Project (Part 3)
Have a Seat Near the River-- Launching the "Kitahama Terrace" Project (Part 2)
Have a Seat Near the River-- Launching the "Kitahama Terrace" Project (Part 1)
Tourism in the Water Capital--Connecting and Expanding via River Cruises
Cherry Blossom in the Water Capital--A Beauty That Has Returned After a Long Winter of Hardship
Living in the Water Capital--Improving Water Quality to Make Osaka a Better Home (Part 2)
Living in the Water Capital--Improving Water Quality to Make Osaka a Better Home (Part 1)
Enjoy a Cup of Tea at the Water Capital--New Restaurants Transform the Riverfront into a Destination for Fine Dining
Future View of the Water Capital--A Prologue to Revitalization
Osaka Kaleidoscope
Water city
Future View of the Water Capital--A Prologue to Revitalization

Osaka: The Lost Water Capital

So, what is it about Osaka that calls itself a “water capital”?         
It is hard to answer such a direct question. I think many people would feel the same way as I do. The fact is that a number of people from different positions are asking for the revitalization of the water capital--believing that it would benefit our tourism industry, the economy, and the environment. Osaka is a rare city, about 10 percent of whose area is covered with water. As the city’s identity and symbolic image, the glorious scenery and beautiful flow of water and atmosphere is inevitable in describing the city. However, the reality is far from such an ideal. The daily traffic on rivers is very limited. There aren’t many shops and stores near the waterfront. Above all, people in Osaka no longer indulge in the custom of enjoying a walk and relaxing near the water.
Things were different in olden times. Osaka’s history of prosperity became possible because of water. Naniwatsu (today’s Osaka Port) flourished as an international trading port. Osaka was described as a city of “808 bridges” during the Edo period. Water transportation and tourism were very active during the so-called “Dai-Osaka” period. It was a common scene for a number of ships to be coming and going on the rivers. And people were much more familiar with life near the water. Things started changing as the period of postwar economic growth arrived. Many rivers and bridges disappeared as motorized traffic rapidly developed, pushing the waterfront away from our daily lives. For many people in Osaka today, the bright scene of a flourishing water capital does not exist even in their memories.

Suisho Bridge soon after its completion (around 1930): Originally built to improve the quality of water, this movable bridge over the Dojima River is known as the most elegant bridge in Osaka today. *Image provided by Osaka Castle

Nakanoshima Tako-no Matsu (Naniwa Hyakkei, meaning “Hundred views of Naniwa”) by Hasegawa Sadanobu: During the Edo period, many daimyo (feudal lords) throughout the nation had their storage facilities in Nakanoshima. The area was always busy with ships selling and carrying their local products. *Image provided by Osaka Castle

“Building the city from water”--A new era of the water capital

The movement to positively reevaluate the rivers began to rise as we were nearing the end of the 20th century. It is only 4 or 5 years ago that the government as well as the business community formed a committee, made a revitalization plan, and started organizing specific projects such as promotional events for water transport and the improvement of a water-friendly environment. The process of rejuvenating the water capital finally and gradually started to appear in concrete form.
People in the community are also seeking ways to enjoy the close relationship between the rivers and their lives. “Suito Osaka-Mizubenomachi Saisei Project,” or Mizube NPO, is one of the citizens’ groups of which I am a member. By sharing the skills and knowledge of the members, we are making suggestions regarding how to enjoy the riverfront life on an everyday basis, such as creating a waterfront map, organizing a waterfront lunch event, and providing real estate information on waterfront properties. During summer, we hold a series of events called “waterfront night,” where participants may enjoy river cruises, riverside concerts, or other seasonal events to cool down during the summer heat. In this past August, we had about 400 people who came and joined our events. The number of participating people is increasing. I heard lots of people saying they had never taken a ride on a ship or had never enjoyed the waterfront before.

View of Okawa River from Kensaki Park
(east end of Nakanoshima Park; Kita-ku, Osaka)

Waterfront Night--“Wakamatsu-no Hama” at the bottom of Hokonagashi Bridge over the Dojima River

People naturally gather at the waterfront simply to enjoy the breeze and the season--“That is an ideal waterfront scene we want to realize in the future,” said Takumi Matsumoto (architect), on the board directors of Mizube NPO. He hopes that the group’s activities would encourage people to turn their eyes and steps to the waterfront and familiarize themselves with life near the water. “The waterfront is best enjoyed on a daily basis,” said Matsumoto. People in Osaka voluntarily are looking for and rediscovering the goodness of the waterfront to deliver it to others in the community. It is us citizens who will build a new water capital in a new era.
This is not just a nostalgic feeling towards things we have lost. We are creating a new value for Osaka as a water capital. In this series, I would like to illustrate the future scenes of the water capital that nobody has ever seen before, while taking an overview of Osaka’s past and present.

November 12, 2007
Takuji Kobayashi, member of the board of directors, Suito Osaka-Mizubenomachi Saisei Project

Suito Osaka-Mizubenomachi Saisei Project (Mizube NPO)

Started activities in 1998 and established as an NPO in 2003. The purpose of the group is to contribute to the recovery of Osaka’s waterfront culture and living space by providing information about waterfront development to citizens and tourists, promoting cooperation among waterfront property owners to create a city view that matches the image of Osaka as a water capital, and suggesting appropriate projects to recover Osaka waterfront’s living space in the areas of architecture, real estate, and design.


Osaka Hashi Monogatari (Stories of Osaka Bridges): (Japanese only)


Author Profile
Takuji Kobayashi
While working as a landscape designer, Kobayashi participates in various activities to stimulate community development and discover and utilize local attractions at the eye level of citizens. He is a member of the board of directors of the Suito Osaka-Mizubenomachi Saisei Project (Mizube NPO) and also a representative of the Amenicity Osaka Network. Licensed professional engineer (architecture: urban and local development, architectural environment).