New museum celebrates Osaka history


OSAKA — Universal Studios Japan, which opened in Osaka in March, draws around 1 million visitors every month, many of them from outside the prefecture.

But while these visitors get a taste of Hollywood and the U.S., the theme park is largely devoid of any local cultural fare, including food like “takoyaki” octopus dumplings.

A new museum in Chuo Ward opening Nov. 3, however, offers something different, as its name implies.

The Osaka Museum of History is located between Osaka Castle and the ruins of Naniwa-no-Miya Palace. It showcases various aspects of Osaka’s history and culture, providing visitors with a journey that begins in the ancient imperial residence, travels through feudal prosperity and eventually joins the modern, urban age.

“Even if you take the short course, which takes 60 to 90 minutes, you get a general idea of Osaka as a city,” museum official Kenji Takai said.

As well as its historical exhibits and high-tech displays, the location of the 30 billion yen museum is also charged with significance. It is built above the ruins of warehouses and walls from the Asuka Period in the seventh century, according to Takai.

“We have included the ruins in the basement of the museum building,” he explained.

“A replica of the Naniwa-no-Miya main palace building from the eighth century was restored on the top floor, where you can also have a full view of the palace ruins of Naniwa-no-Miya,” Takai said. “Here, you cannot only imagine what the ancient palace was like but also actually see and feel the palace.”

Naniwa-no-Miya palace, now a 90,000-sq.-meter historical park, housed palaces from two different periods in the seventh and eighth centuries. It was discovered during an archaeological research project that began in 1954.

The older palace was established in 645 by Emperor Kotoku as the first Chinese-style palace built in Japan. The ruins on the museum basement floor are believed to date from this period. This older palace was completely destroyed by a major fire in 686.

Construction of the latter palace began under Emperor Shomu in 726 as a satellite of Heijo Palace. It was designated as the seat of power in 744 for a brief period.

Visitors to the museum tour will be guided straight to the 10th floor, which features a full-size replica of the main building of this latter palace, made of thick, red beams. They will then watch a program depicting a typical court ceremony projected on a big screen inside the replica building.

After this short program, the blinds on the windows will be lifted, revealing the real palace ruins on the grounds below.

The 10th floor also features a miniature replica of the palace and restored models of certain sections of the structure, as well as an extremely clear view of Osaka Castle.

On the ninth floor, Osaka during the Middle Ages is represented via a miniature model of Honganji Temple from the 16th century — the center of the city until it was displaced in this role by Osaka Castle. The city’s prosperity as “the kitchen of the nation” during the Edo Period is also represented via a model of the city and a panel showing how the rivers that run through the city helped businesses to blossom.

The eighth floor focuses on archaeological excavations and is aimed at helping visitors understand the significance of the ruins on the basement, Takai said.

An exhibit detailing the excavation of Naniwa-no-Miya Palace is among the items displayed on this floor.

Osaka’s development between the 1920s and 1940s is portrayed on the seventh floor, with Midosuji Boulevard and the subway line beneath it featuring in displays.

The everyday lives of Osaka people in this period are also depicted via the replicas of a public market, the Kakuza Theater in Dotonbori and a suburban domestic scene.

The standard exhibition for visitors will be staged between the seventh and 10th floors of the museum, while the sixth floor will be set aside for a separate, special exhibition for which an extra fee will be charged.

The third, fourth and fifth floors feature a hall, conference rooms and the museum offices, while the second floor houses a library containing 4,000 history books.

The museum also provides audio kits in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

The museum is located just outside Tanimachi 4-chome Station on the Chuo and Tanimachi subway lines.

Admission fees are 600 yen for adults and 400 yen for high school students or older minors. People of junior high school age or younger children may enter for free.