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Osaka was long considered Japan's primary economic center, with a large percentage of the population belonging to the merchant class (see Four divisions of society). Over the course of the Edo period (1603–1867), Osaka grew into one of Japan's major cities and returned to its ancient role as a lively and important port. Its popular culture was closely related to ukiyo-e depictions of life in Edo. By 1780, Osaka had cultivated a vibrant arts culture, as typified by its famous Kabuki and Bunraku theaters. In 1837, Ōshio Heihachirō, a low-ranking samurai, led a peasant insurrection in response to the city's unwillingness to support the many poor and suffering families in the area. Approximately one-quarter of the city was razed before shogunal officials put down the rebellion, after which Ōshio killed himself. Osaka was opened to foreign trade by the government of the Bakufu at the same time as Hyōgo (modern Kobe) on 1 January 1868, just before the advent of the Boshin War and the Meiji Restoration.

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