A Neo-Classic Icon, Osaka City Central Public Hall

Some of Osaka’s most popular landmarks are Tsutenkaku, Osaka Castle, and even Umeda Sky Building. While these buildings are certainly among the city’s most popular landmarks, another equally iconic building is the Osaka City Central Public Hall, or simply the Kokai-do [公会堂]. The Kokai-do is nestled between the Dojima and Tosabori rivers on a strip of land called Nakanoshima. This striking Neo-Renaissance building is not only a piece of living history (2018 marks its centennial anniversary), but a lively cultural center, with many events taking place there throughout the year.

 

The History of Osaka City Central Public Hall

For much of the Edo Period, each province sent their local products to Osaka in order to sell. Since Nakanoshima was easy and convenient to access by ship, the provinces built warehouses all over Nakanoshima. However, the province system was abolished in the Meiji Period forcing the warehouses to close or be abandoned.

osaka city public hall an iconic tatsuno kingo building

Osaka City Public Hall. Osaka, Japan.

With the warehouses gone, the area became home to new government buildings. Around the turn of the 20th century, Japan ended its 250 year period of isolation. Interest in European culture flourished, and a number of important buildings incorporated Western-style architecture in their designs, such as the Osaka branch of the Bank of Japan, the Nakanoshima Library, and of course, the Kokai-do.

Iwamoto Einosuke

A stock broker named, Iwamoto Einosuke [岩本栄之助] predominately financed construction of Osaka City Public Hall. When Iwamoto was young, he went abroad to  America where he discovered that wealthy people would donate large sums of money for social enrichment projects, like libraries, parks, museums, and public halls. Once he earned a substantial fortune in the stock market, Iwamoto sought to do the very same for the people of Osaka. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the Public Hall completed. After a series of miscalculations with his investments, Iwamoto lost much of his fortune and killed himself out of grief just before construction of the Kokai-do wrapped up.

Iconic Architectural Design: Tatsuno Kingo

The chief architect of Osaka Public Hall was Tatsuno Kingo [辰野 金吾], easily the most popular architect of the early Meiji Period. Tatsuno’s signature style consists of Neo-classic red brick buildings with bold white lines. His biggest and most well-known building is Tokyo Station, but he also designed buildings throughout Japan, as well a handful in Osaka.

Iconic turn of the century Japanese western style brick building

Former life insurance building. Osaka, Japan

 

Getting to the Osaka City Central Public Hall

The Osaka City Central Public Hall is in the center of Nakanoshima. It is a 10 minute walk from the Midosuji Yodoyabashi Station. The Osaka City Public Hall is also accessible from Keihan’s Naniwabashi Station, though the Midosuji station is probably the most convenient to use and has more frequent service.

 

Osaka City Central Public Hall

Since the Public Hall is a public building, you can go in whenever you want during normal business hours. There is a small free museum on the basement floor that anyone can attend at their leisure.

On the upper floors of the Public Hall are four lecture/ceremony halls; The Special Room, the Large Room, the Medium Room and the Small Room. Since the Public Hall still uses the rooms for various meetings, lectures, or other special events, they are typically off limits.

metal statues of hermes and athena atop Osaka City Public Hall

On the roof: Hermes (Mercury) and Athena (Minerva) sit atop the Public Hall representing commerce and the arts.

They occasionally offers guided tours but not only do you need a  reservation, you only be able to view the Special Room in addition to the museum (which was free anyway). Only during a handful of special events during the year does the Public Hall open up all its rooms, so getting to see them is pure luck.

Large Room

The Large Room is basically a huge auditorium that takes up most of the first and second floors. It can accommodate more than 1,000 people and mainly used for concerts and speeches. Some of its most famous speakers were Einstein, Helen Keller, and Gagarin.

auditorium hall with marble pillars golden fixtures and chandeliers

Osaka City Central Public Hall. Auditorium.

scary gold mask in Osaka City Center Public

Gao Changgong

The terrifying mask above the stage is of the famous Chinese general, Gao Changgong. Changgong is believed to have been so beautiful that he needed to wear this scary mask when he went to battle.

Medium Room

Medium room is located on the 3rd floor and was once a banquet room. This room definitely has a lot of charm and is decorated with paintings, stained glass panels, as well as some interesting carvings.

neo-classic ceremony hall at Osaka City Central Public Hall with crown moldings stained glass panes and chandeliers

Medium Room

small circles of stained glass on white ceiling

Stained glass panels on ceiling of Medium Room

round stained glass pane of Osaka in blues and greens

Stained glass pane of the port of Osaka

oil paintings of various birds set in a white ceiling

Oil paintings of native Japanese birds

carving of a young bamboo shoot surrounded by neo-classic moldings above door

Carving of bamboo shoot above door

Small Room

Small Room is located on the 3rd floor and was also as a banquet room. This room is room is much smaller than the Medium Room, but it contains a lovely 100 year old crystal chandelier.

green and gold neo-classic lecture room with wood details

Small room

three crystal chandeliers surrounded by crown molding and wood details

Same chandeliers from the 1920’s.

stained glass pane of a bowl of fruit warm backlight

stained glass in Small Room

Special Room

Located on the top floor, as the name suggest, this room is truly special.

neo-classic style room with high ceiling covered in painted mural

Special Room

Easily what makes the Special Room so special is its eye-catching painted ceiling, titled “Tenchi Kaibyaku (Creating the World)”

ceiling mural of the Japanese creation myth in whites and pastels

Izanami and Izanagi creating the Japan.

The painting depicts the creation of Japan according to the Kojiki when Izanagi and Izanami used a holy spear to create the islands of Japan.

There is also a painting of the god Susano-o.T here are very few painting of the Japanese gods, so this room really is, well, special.

Middle: Susano-o. He is the hairy one.

mural of emperor ninkotku surveying marshlands of Osaka

Emperor Nintoku, looking at Naniwa

Another notable characteristic of the Special Room is the large stained glass window.

large stained glass window with two golden phoenixes

Stained glass window.

Even the tiles on the floor are special! Some of the tiles in Special Room contain small fossils, so keep your eyes opened!

dark grey tiles that contain fossils

Can you find the fossils?

Osaka Central Public Hall

Address 1-1-27Nakanoshima,Kita-ku,Osaka
Website http://osaka-chuokokaido.jp
Admission Fee Admission to Museum on 1st floor: Free
Guided Tour (when available): 500 yen
Hours of Operation Mon-Sun: 9:30-21:30
Closed: All public holidays

The public hall is one of the prettiest buildings in Osaka. I strongly think it’s worth at least dropping by, and why not, it is free after all. 

Coming next time,
One of the Guardian Shrines of Kyoto: Iwashimizu

The adventure continues…

 

 

 

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