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5 Must-See Cultural Properties in Osaka for Savoring History

Osaka is the largest city in the Kansai region and a famous tourist destination for its food and shops. Although not always highlighted, it also has many historical sites and cultural properties. This article introduces five such properties in Osaka that are well worth seeing.

1. Sempukan

Sempukan is a Western-style building that was built in 1871 as the reception room for the mint (currently known as the Japan Mint in Osaka.) It is a distinguished building that has been used as the emperor's accommodations and is designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan. It is a two-story brick building with a beautiful, white plaster facade. A distinguishing feature is the hallway that goes straight from the front entrance to the back exit. The interior is adorned with imported fireplaces, chandeliers, and gaslights, giving visitors a sense of what the decor was like back in the day.

*The inside of the building is usually open to the public for around three days in March.

1. Sempukan

1-1-1 Tenma-bashi, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

2. Tondabayashi Jinai-machi

This is the only Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings​ in Osaka, designated by the Japanese government. It was established in 1558 as a systematically partitioned religious commune centered around Koshoji Betsu-in Temple. Over the years, it developed into a commercial town. There are now about 600 townhouses, out of which about 250 still retain their traditional architecture, allowing you to experience the feeling of having travelled back in time. In particular, the stately tradesmens’ houses are great indications of the prosperity of those times. If you are visiting this area, be sure to stop by Jinai-machi Koryukan, where you can learn about the history and culture of Jinai-machi.

2. Tondabayashi Jinai-machi

9-29 Tondabayashi-cho, Tondabayashi-shi, Osaka

3. Old Sugiyama Family Home

Located within Tondabayashi Jinai-machi, this is the former residence of the Sugiyama family. They were an important merchant family that flourished as sake brewers, playing a major role in the town's development. The large property, which is the oldest and largest in Jinai-machi, once had more than ten buildings, such as storehouses and sake cellars, and employed about 70 people at its peak. It is now designated as an Important Cultural Property of the country and is open to the public. Valuable fusuma (sliding screen) paintings and other items have been preserved in extremely good conditions, so you will definitely experience what a merchant house was like back in the day.

Entrance fee: 400 JPY/adult, 200 JPY/age 15 and younger

3. Old Sugiyama Family Home

14-31 Tondabayashi-cho, Tondabayashi-shi, Osaka

4. Tekijuku

This private school was set up around the late Edo period by Ogata Koan (1810 - 1863), a well-respected doctor and scholar in Western culture and practices. It began as a place for medical studies, but gradually developed into a school of Western knowledge due to students' interest in the latest knowledge brought to Japan via Holland. Many imperial loyalist samurai of the Bakumatsu era​ went out into the world from this school, including Fukuzawa Yukichi, who is depicted on the 10,000 JPY bill.
The building is an important representation of the local townhouse architecture of the time and is designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan. The interior shows how it looked like when Koan was teaching and is open to the public to view.

Entrance fee: 260 JPY/general, 140 JPY/university and high school students, Free/junior high school students and younger

4. Tekijuku

3-3-8 Kitahama, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

5. Katano Shrine

Katano Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Hirakata City. It has been known as a miraculous shrine since being given the role of protecting the kimon (northeastern unlucky direction) of Osaka Castle in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536 - 1598), the warrior lord of the castle. The main shrine building was built in 1602. It has a cypress bark roof, vermillion lacquer facade, and was built in an architectural style called Sangensha Nagare-zukuri. It is highly rated as a representation of the style of architecture at that time and is designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.

5. Katano Shrine

2-21-15 Makinosaka, Hirakata-shi, Osaka

All of these spots present Osaka in a different light from its usual representation. Be sure to visit and discover a new face of Osaka for yourself!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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