Culture and heritage

Osaka and Melbourne celebrate 45 years as sister cities

24 October 2023

Discover a strong and enduring international friendship, breathtaking art and authentic cuisine right here in Melbourne as we celebrate 45 years of our sister-city relationship with Osaka.

Osaka became Melbourne’s first sister city in 1978, paving the way for collaboration and cultural exchange, and enriching both cities’ innovation ecosystems.

Over the years, Melbourne and Osaka have developed a deep and rewarding friendship, strong ties in business and trade, and a particular focus on technology related to health, finance and climate change.

This year – to propel both cities forward – we have shared knowledge on greening, climate adaptation, sustainable transport, urban renewal, cycling, pedestrian and heat-island data, community engagement and our neighbourhood-level engagement.

Anniversary activities

A delegation of leaders from Osaka, led by Mayor Hideyuki Yokoyama and President Ippo Katayama visited Melbourne in October to honour the 45-year anniversary of our sister-city relationship, continue our decades-long journey of knowledge-sharing, and set the direction for future collaborations.

The visit aimed to strengthen Melbourne’s relations with Osaka in the areas of health and life sciences, urban sustainability, climate resilience and a number of emerging tech sectors.

There was also a strong focus on parks and city greening as we seek to shape idyllic cities of the future.

A group of Osaka delegates in Melbourne with our Lord Mayor and councillors

Amid the packed program, the group learnt about Melbourne’s evolution from former city architect Rob Moore and glimpsed our vision for the Greenline Project, which will transform four kilometres of riverbank.

Mayor Yokohama delivered a speech on renewable energy at the ALL-Energy conference, the University of Melbourne presented on innovative uses for 5G technology, including remote surgical teaching, and a roundtable of representatives from across the Asia Pacific focused on health and wellbeing.

While developing this program, we continued to leverage our strong partnerships with other tiers of Australian government, key industry groups, chambers of commerce and the university sector, to maximise our collective impact.

Read on to discover more about the sister-city relationship between Melbourne and Osaka, and how you can experience Japanese culture on your doorstep.

Fast facts about Osaka

Osaka has a population of more than 19 million, compared to around 160,000 in the City of Melbourne.

Being the Mayor of Osaka is more like being premier of Victoria. The city has 30,000 staff and controls hospitals, police, highways and trains. That’s quite a job for Hideyuki Yokoyama, who’s the Osaka’s youngest-ever mayor.

As Osaka is one of the world’s most populous urban areas, with a massive metropolitan economy, our sister-city relationships allows us to tap into significant opportunities around city resilience, carbon emissions reduction and more.

As well as being sister cities, Melbourne and Osaka also share a sister street. Swanston Street is paired with Midosuji Boulevard – a 45-metre-wide street with six traffic lanes. By 2030, Osaka plans to convert it to parkland.

Through our sister-street relationship, we facilitate conversations and knowledge-sharing around street design, greening, activations, climate tech and more.

Lastly, while we have Port Philip Bay, Osaka has Osaka Bay, and the city is known as both the City of Water and the City of Merchants.

Ways to engage with Japanese culture in Melbourne

See and make Japanese art

In Japanese culture, the custom of sending folded paper cranes with wishes and compassion is age-old. This is the concept of Akemi Kitayama’s exhibition at Library at the Dock, running throughout November.

Want to make your own paper cranes? Head to Kathleen Syme Library Makerspace in Carlton for an origami-making meetup on Saturday 25 November from 10am to 1pm.

Intricate artwork by Takahiro Iwasaki from a recent exhibition at the NGV

Enter a Japanese language competition

The lucky winner of Victoria’s annual Japanese Language Speech Contest gets to spend a week in Osaka.

Previous winners of the contest – which invites young adults to give five-minute speeches – have gone on to impressive language and culture-based careers, including working with the Department of Foreign Industry and Trade.

Feast on contemporary Japanese cuisine

Be transported to a neon-lit Tokyo night of mischief and amazement at Maho Magic Bar on Celestial Avenue in the CBD.

Then feast on hearty and delicious chikuho noodles, tonkotsu soup, gyoza and chashu roast pork at Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen on Russell Street. Recently celebrated as one of our city’s long-standing businesses, this authentic restaurant has interiors designed by Japanese Architect Okada Tomoyuki.

Want to explore more Japanese dining, culture and style? Visit What’s On to discover how to visit Japan in Melbourne, the best Japanese restaurants in the CBD and where to find cult-status Japanese products.

The neon-lit exterior of Maho Magic Bar

Discover treasures in our City Collection

Our art and heritage collection includes special items that relate to the Melbourne-Osaka sister city relationship, including a key to the City of Osaka and a small mikoshi temple, which is designed to hold Japanese gods.

These items are among 13,000 eclectic artefacts that tell the story of our city. You can explore the City Collection online or visit some of the treasures in person in their new home on the top floor of Town Hall.

A key to the City of Osaka, presented to former Lord Mayor of Melbourne Richard Wynne in 1991

Be inspired by biomedicine heroes

Melbourne and Osaka share a strong focus on biomedicine and both cities have invested heavily in the development of scientific infrastructure, fostering collaborations between universities, research institutes, and private companies.

Osaka is a leader in robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka, famous for his stem-cell discovery, was born and studied in Osaka.

Royal Melbourne Hospital and Osaka City University Hospital have a rich exchange program that explores neurosurgery, oncology and music therapy.

Explore how to do business with Japan

We support Melbourne’s leading companies and startups to collaborate and trade with Japanese organisations. Some of these introductions and connections have led to millions of dollars in investment and contracts.

To explore how to start, grow and go global with your entrepreneurial idea, visit Business.

Coming up in 2025

Cheer on the Melbourne to Osaka yacht race

Head to Victoria Harbour at Docklands in 2025 to watch the start of the world’s longest double-handed yacht race. The epic Melbourne Osaka Cup will see around 50 yachts – including local teams – race 5500 km over 30 days.

The yacht race commenced in 1987 to mark the 120th anniversary of the Port of Osaka and runs approximately every four years.

See cutting-edge Melbourne architecture at Osaka’s World Expo

Osaka is due to host a World Expo – a huge event designed to showcase the achievements of nations – in 2025. The theme will be: Designing Future Society for Our Lives, aligned to UNESCO’s vision for health and wellbeing.

Melbourne architecture firm Buchan Group has won the contract to design the pavilion.

To learn more, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s World Expo webpage.

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