There’s a lot of chatter about the future of Osaka in Japan, even if it might not yet have made it out of the country. Could Japan’s perennial second fiddle be readying its ascent to first chair?
Of course, the prospects for Osaka in the coming decades are not so much that it will dethrone Tokyo as the nucleus of Japanese cultural, economic and culinary activity. The discussion is more nuanced, the various scenarios that could play out less about dominance and more about definition.
Topics of discussion include events, infrastructure and even an entirely new type of hotels, at least for Japan. That’s assuming, of course, that integrated casino resorts ever open up, lest gamers who visit the country have to lean on reliable and exciting sites such as ライブカジノ from within their ordinary hotel rooms. But I digress.
Indeed, irrespective of how well any of these predictions hold up, I hope you’ll enjoy reading my analysis—and, hopefully, learning something interesting about Osaka (and about Japan, more broadly) in the process.
Osaka: Always in the Shadow of Tokyo
It’s difficult to think about the future of Osaka, much less talk about it, without at the same time considering Tokyo. Not only the obvious question (whether Osaka will, at some point, usurp Tokyo, or at least compete with it more earnestly), but also what the future of Japan’s largest city looks like. Although money and power will continue to reside in Tokyo, on account of its status as Japan’s capital, room for growth is relative limited, physically and in some other senses.
Indeed, it’s possible to argue that Osaka is at its root a city that has not yet self-actualized. Seeing it through this prism, the question becomes not about how Osaka will compare to Tokyo in 10, 20 or 30 years, but whether Osaka will have—at last—carved out an identity for itself, particularly outside of Japan, which transcends simply being the second-largest city in Japan, and Tokyo’s little brother (or sister, if you will).
5 Developments That Will Shape the Future of Osaka
Post-pandemic tourism to Japan
Although Japan remains as coy as ever about when and under what circumstances it will reopen its borders, I can tell you from professional experience: Demand for travel to Japan remains as high as ever. As the anchor of the Kansai region, which includes the popular destinations of Kyoto, Nara, Himeji and Wakayama, Osaka is poised to capitalize on this in a major way.
Integrated casino resorts
For many years, informed sources were convinced that the future of Osaka would include so-called “integrated casino resorts,” which have been heralded since the year 2000. While it remains unclear when and whether Japan’s first IR property will open, this would certainly allow Osaka to achieve an unprecedented position within Japan’s tourism and economic space, since such properties don’t exist anywhere else in Japan.
2025 World Expo
Assuming there isn’t some cataclysm that forces the world’s borders shut again before then, Osaka will host the World Expo in 2025, 55 years after it initially held the event in 1970. Local officials are investing heavily in the city’s infrastructure, entertainment and image in advance of Expo 2025, which is sure to bear fruit into the 2030s.
Another positive prospect for the future of Osaka? The maglev-powered Chuo Shinkansen, whose first phase will connect Nagoya with Tokyo in just 40 minutes by 2027. While Osaka will have to wait until 2045 to be connected to Tokyo in just under 70 minutes, the wait will be worth it: People will be able to live in Osaka and work in Tokyo, or vice versa.
Hirofumi Yoshimura’s political future
The charismatic, handsome young governor of Osaka prefecture (who also happens to be the former mayor of Osaka City) has a bright political future in Japan, even according to his opponents. While it might take him decades to ascend to the Prime Minister’s office, his youth affords him this luxury. Certainly, if a native Osaka son becomes Japan’s leader, you can bet his hometown will feel the love.
What About the Future of Kansai Airport?
It’s difficult to contemplate the future of Osaka without thinking about the role of Kansai Airport in it. If you know anything about Japanese infrastructure, you know that Kansai Airport has been plagued with problems in the decades since its opening. Among other things, Kansai Airport sinks a bit into Osaka Bay each year. While engineers reinforce the structure every year, the cost of their constant work is built into the fees airlines that use the airport must pay.
For this reason and other factors (namely that aviation in Japan, like Japanese society itself, stubbornly concentrates itself almost exclusively around Tokyo), there really aren’t that many international flights into Kansai Airport. This will almost certainly have to change if the future of Osaka is to become as bright as it can be. While tourists might not mind riding a bullet train from Tokyo to the Kansai region, business people need direct flights.
Other FAQ About the Future of Osaka
Is Osaka overpopulated?
Osaka, like most major cities in Japan, is extremely dense, particularly in the urban core between Umeda and Tennoji. On the other hand, given that Osaka has plenty of vast green spaces and the fact that much of Osaka prefecture is suburban or even rural, it’s difficult to argue that Osaka is overpopulated, per se.
Is it expensive to live in Osaka?
Osaka is more expensive than many small and medium-sized cites in Japan, but is generally cheaper than Tokyo. Likewise, Osaka is much cheaper than large cities in Europe and the United States like New York, Paris and London, particularly when it comes to the price of renting an apartment.
Is Osaka better than Tokyo?
Osaka and Tokyo are very different cities—I find it’s difficult and even counterproductive to attempt a direct comparison of them, at least if you don’t know both well. With this being said, I have given the task my own go. Click here to read about my take on the Tokyo vs. Osaka debate.
The Bottom Line
No one knows what the future of Osaka will bring, but I’ve definitely got some predictions. Most certainly, the 2025 World Expo and Chuo Shinkansen (developments that are confirmed to happen) will mean only momentous things for Japan’s second city in the next decade. Less clear is the impact that post-pandemic tourism will have on the city’s development, if integrated casino resorts will ever come to fruition and what Osaka prefecture’s current governor becoming Japanese Prime Minister at some point would be for Osaka going forward. No matter what ends up transpiring, one thing is for sure: You owe it to yourself to visit Osaka your next trip to Japan.