Following the creation of Osaka castle by Toyotomi Hideyoshi called merchants to gather from the neighbouring regions of Sakai and Fushimi began to converge in Osaka. With the distribution of goods and resources now thriving, the city rapidly developed as a major commercial hub. Goods were transported via boats. This led to the creation of the Hori river network and the establishment of Osaka’s ‘Aqua Metropolis’ and the ‘808 Bridges of Naniwa’. With samurai culture and the military at the heart of Edo (modern day Tokyo) and Kyoto pioneering Japanese culture, Osaka came to flourish as the ‘Merchant City.
This development is at the very core of Osaka’s unique food culture. The logical and thrifty thinking of merchants permeated all corners of Osakan society. Although this led to a cultural mindset of frugality and efficiency regarding food, the use of restaurants and establishments for business discussions and negotiations galvanized the haute cuisine industry. Thus, both Osaka’s luxury and modest cuisine markets developed in unison, spurring each other on.
Osaka’s wholesale district of Senba is at the center of this. With ‘the customer’ at the heart of culinary refinement and development, the merchants were fierce critics, who, with their never-ending search for exquisite flavors, propelled Osaka’s food culture to new heights. In a harsh environment in which only the fittest survive, restaurants had to innovate to produce food that would continue to delight the taste buds of traders and merchants and thus draw in business. This pursuit of ever more delicious food at the restaurants where traders entertained clients and exchanged information drove practices that have evolved over time into a legacy of spirit, tradition, and skill that lives on in Osaka’s wonderful restaurants to this day, thrilling gourmands from around the world.
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