Utsubo Park: Osaka City’s “Central Park”
Osaka is one of the largest cities in Japan, but compared to large cities, Osaka only has a few parks in the city center. That withstanding, one of the most popular parks is Utsubo Park, which is right in the middle of Honmachi. This park is very popular among locals, who can often be found taking a leisurely stroll, taking in the large rose garden, or just simply relaxing in the park.
About Utsubo Park
Probably almost everybody in Osaka knows Utsubo Park. It is a really popular park in the center of Osaka city. The word utsubo means moray eel in Japanese, so you might assume the park has some connection to eels or fish, but in truth, the park has nothing to do with moray eels.
According to an Osaka folktale, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi passed this area and heard merchants say “yasui yasui” (cheap, cheap), Hideyoshi teasingly said “Yasu.” (ya means arrow and su meaning nest). In short, this pun yasu meant ustubo (a box for arrows)”. For some reason this joke stuck, and before long everyone called this area “Utsubo”.
Ironically, however, in the Edo period, there was a long moat that went all the way around the center of Osaka. Within that moat, and around Utsubo there was a little port with a fish market.
Utsubo has been and is a certainly very thriving area in the center of Osaka.
Utusbo Park has an unusual shape and is some 150m long and 800m in width. The reason for this odd shape is that the park was once a landing site for US Military after WWII. The fire raids of WWII reduced much of Osaka city to ash. The American military then occupied any of the remaining buildings. In 1955, this park was officially returned to Osaka city and Utsubo Park was built.
Even though the park is a bit far from major streets, like Midosuji and Sakaisuji, it is the only big park in the middle of the traditional Osaka city area. Because the traditional border of Osaka city was much small than say Tokyo, land is quite precious, which also contributes to parks being uncommon in central Osaka.
In the middle of the park are weird statues. After some digging, we discovered that those statues were made by John Seward Johnson II, the grandson of the founder of Johnson&Johnson. I am not sure if he is something to do with Osaka though.
Naniwasuji Street divides the park into its east and west sections. On the west side, there are several big tennis courts, and every year, the Osaka Mayor Cup World Super Junor is held in this park.
The most popular attraction in Utsubo Park is definitely its rose garden. There is also a rose garden at nearby Nakanoshima Park, but one in Utsubo Park is much bigger with as many as 3,400 roses of 170 different varieties.
It is surprising that there are so many kinds of roses here! It’s really beautiful. My favorite is probably Meilland, which has a particularly lovely fragrance.