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The Modern Age (19th century - Present)

Canal waterway

■The Meiji Restoration

 As the Edo shogunate began to disclose a variety of internal contradictions, movements aiming to overthrow the shogunate intensified, centered on fiefs in the western part of the country, and in 1867, the 15th Tokugawa shogun, Yoshinobu, returned sovereignty to the Emperor in a proclamation known as the Taiseihokan. The following year, the capital was transferred to Tokyo, marking the start of the Meiji government.
 With the transfer of the capital to Tokyo, the curtain closed on the history of Kyoto as the capital of Japan for a period of over 1,000 years. The construction works on the waterway (canal) running from Lake Biwa to Kyoto began the restoration of Kyoto from the decline precipitated by the transfer of the capital, and this construction was accompanied by the first hydroelectric power generation project in the country. Thus, Kyoto was the first city in Japan to have municipal streetcar using such electric power, and it was reborn as a city symbolizing civilization and enlightenment.
 Osaka also showed its progressive nature with the introduction of western technology by the construction of the Mint Bureau and an artillery arsenal. The first Director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Godai Tomoatsu, who was originally from Kagoshima, founded the stock exchange (later the securities exchange), and introduced economic systems from Europe and America, contributing to the modernization of the economy and building the infrastructure for the development of Osaka into a modern commercial and industrial metropolitan area.

A spinning mill at the beginning of the Meiji Period

■Toward Japan's Postwar Rehabilitation

 The development of commerce and industry in Kansai was spurred by the domestic industrial exposition held in Osaka in 1903. Even though this was designated an a "domestic" exhibition, there were many exhibits from various foreign countries, which provided the opportunity for those involved in the commercial and industrial fields in Japan to come into direct contact with the scientific technology employed in the various countries in Europe and America.
 Thereafter, the war economy sparked by the First World War led to a dramatic expansion for the industries in the Hanshin district, and that area became the center of trade with Asian countries. Especially, the textile and machinery industries flourished in Osaka, so much so that the area was called the Manchester of the Orient, but the air raids on the area during World War II brought devastating damage to the metropolitan areas around Osaka and Kobe. However, all of the cities in the Kansai region showed an eye-opening restoration due to the passion of the people in the area and an effective program for investments in public works for the construction of railroads, highways and harbor facilities.

Tower of the Sun


 Held in 1970 in the hills of Senri north of Osaka, the Japan World Exposition, Expo ’70 made Osaka and the Kansai region famous overseas. The exposition was based on the theme of "Progress and Harmony for Mankind," and 77 countries participated in the event. Held over a period of six months, the exposition drew more than 64 million visitors, an unprecedented number in the history of world fairs. This event marked the beginning of a rapid-growth period, and even despite two oil-shocks, the Japanese GNP showed a substantial growth.
 As the awareness of the importance of the environment issue began to rise on a global scale, The International Garden and Greenery Exposition, Osaka, Japan, 1990 (Expo ’90) was held in the Tsurumi Ryokuchi district (Tsurumi Green Tract) of Osaka, based on the theme of " Harmonious Coexistence of Nature and Mankind." Later, the office of the United Nations Environment Program International Environment Technology Centre (UNEP IETC) was constructed on the site of the exposition.
 In September of 1994, one of the three large projects in the Kansai region was realized with the completion of the Kansai International Airport, located on a manmade island 5 kilometers off the coast of Osaka Bay. An environment-friendly facility, the airport was the first in Japan capable of 24 hour, around-the-clock operations. The next year, in November of 1995, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held an annual APEC Economic Leaders" Meeting in Osaka, as a forum for top-level meetings between government officials, minister-level conferences and the press from 18 Pacific Rim countries (now 21 countries), and this event marked a new advance for Kansai as an international metropolitan area. In 1995, the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (commonly known outside Japan as the Kobe Earthquake) struck the Kansa region, causing an enormous amount of damage, but restoration works and all-out efforts by both government and private organizations, including volunteer efforts from districts nationwide, wiped out almost all of the scars left by the earthquake in the few years after the disaster. In 2007 the second-phase construction work was completed at the Kansai International Airport. Along with the remarkable growth in the Asia, Kansai is aiming for even further development in a variety of fields, industry, tourism, culture, and the environment.

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