Osaka, the Merchant's Capital of Early Modern Japan

By James L. McClain; Wakita Osamu | Go to book overview

C H A P T E R T W O
Ports, Markets,
and Medieval Urbanism
in the Osaka Region

Wakita Haruko

TRANSLATED BY GARY P. LEUPP AND JAMES L. MCCLAIN

Discussions of Osaka's early history typically center either on the ancient imperial capital of Naniwa or on the early modem city which grew up around the castles founded successively by the House of Toyotomi and the Tokugawa shogunate.As a consequence, our knowledge of Osaka during the medieval period is incomplete, our attitude toward those centuries indifferent.Yet, considerably more urban growth took place during the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries than is generally assumed, and several important ports, marketing centers, and commercial towns sprang up in the Osaka region.The appearance of those thriving hubs of production and trade contributed to the burgeoning importance of the Kinai region and gave rise as well to new economic and political relationships between the common people and governing authorities. As merchants and craftspeople settled into the marketing centers and towns of the Osaka region, they formed cooperative organizations, first to manage their commercial endeavors more effectively and rationally, and second to bargain with outside authorities for more autonomous control over the internal affairs of their own communities.The growth of that sort of medieval urbanism and the increasing economic significance of the region are historically important phenomena, and they suggest that Osaka's emergence in the seventeenth century as one of the world's greatest cities was linked intimately to the urban vitality of the middle ages.

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