Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Originally called Naniwa, the Osaka prefecture has been occupied for over 10,000 years.  It housed the first capital of Japan, Naniwa city (presently Osaka city), sometime during the 4th or 5th century.  Though it was considered the capital of Japan, it was not officially called the capital until the 7th century.  Since then, it has been the capital another two times. Osaka city's primary use has been a major port city, and still is. With its close proximity to water and its rich history, it has flourished to one of the largest cities in Japan over the centuries

Osaka city was the first capital of Japan because it was the most popular port city of the time; bring new ideas, cultures and politics into the Japanese world.  Being a port city, it has been considered the “merchant’s capital”, where the merchants have the most political power.  This was most apparent during the 15th century where Sakai, present day Osaka, was considered a “free” city.  It was not under the rule of any particular government and was run only by merchants who banded together to form a guild called za.  This was amazing considering the fact that during the mid 15th to 16th century, Japan was in a civil strife with no leading figure.  Almost every other region was fighting to control another region with the exception of Osaka being almost free from major conflicts.  During this time, the name Osaka started to take prevalence over Naniwa, and the way the name was written was changed again during the beginning of the Meji era.

During the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified the whole of Japan, being at peace for over 100 years, and made Osaka the political and economic capital of Japan, though the actual capital at the time was Kyoto. 

Beginning in the 17th century, the Edo period saw a rise in Osaka’s population and its importance as a port once again.  Throughout the next few centuries, Osaka city grew from simply a merchant town to the third largest city in Japan, and the Osaka prefecture itself grew to the second largest prefecture in the whole of Japan.

Image of a fish market during early Osaka