One of the best known, and most popular attractions, of Osaka is arguably it’s castle. Nestled within grand ramparts, the stark white walls and the Jade green roof sits in contrast to the blue of the sky; it’s a bewitching sight. Let’s delve into its rich history, and discover why it’s such a symbolic part of the city, and Japan.
Part of the stone rampart and moat surrounding Osaka castle.
In 1583, Hideyoshi Toytomi began construction on the castle, on the original site of Honganji Temple. Hideyoshi was famed for his opulent tastes, with the castle a strong testament to this; Gold sparkles in the sunlight, glistening along the roof lines, and bedecking furniture and armaments within. The castle, however, was more than just an ornate gesture. Using it as a stronghold, Hideyoshi managed to end a century-long war, and unified the nation. Upon his death, his chief retainer Ieyasu Tokugawa was appointed to the Shogun and formed the Shogunate (government) in Edo (Tokyo). In 1615, Ieyasu ruined the Hideyoshi family and destroyed Osaka castle in the summer war bearing the same name.
Ornate gold tiger seen within the museum.
After this disaster, the Tokugawa shogunate set about re-building the castle, holding it under their power until 1868, when they lost power and the castle fell.
Osaka castle in all its glory.
In 1931, the castle’s Main Tower was reconstructed using funds raised by the citizens of Osaka. The present day Main Tower is third generation. Since construction, Osaka castle has served as a backdrop for many major Japanese wars and battles. The official website for Osaka castle has a great timeline of its history, you can check it out here.
Entering the Main Tower.
There’s much to see. The Main Tower now serves as a museum, with 7 floors of interesting artefacts and an observation deck with a (very windy) 360* view of Osaka, it’s worth the ¥600 admission price. The best way to see it is to start at the top and work your way down. You can take a lift (elevator) or brave the stairs. Aside from floors 3 and 4, photography is permitted throughout, and there are some truly beautiful pieces on display. The ornate furniture, the intricate artwork, and the incredible armour displays are all fascinating, but the real show stealer is the view. Be sure to take your camera. The castle has a great outlook, very handy if you have enemies approaching!
View from the observation deck.
Aside from the museum and the castle itself, the grounds within which it sits are a sight to behold. The stone ramparts and the inky moats give you an idea of what a task it must have been to try to break in. The park area encompassing all of this is huge, a veritable garden of Eden in a bustling metropolis. Though I can’t attest personally (at least not at the time of writing), I hear the spot is popular for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in the spring, with sakura trees providing a pink wash throughout. Definitely worth a look if you’re lucky enough to be in Osaka in the spring time.
A statue of a samurai watches over Hokoku shrine.
A shrine also resides here. It’s beautiful and peaceful, and very typical of a Shinto place of worship. It’s called Hokoku shrine, and the entrance sits directly opposite the entrance to the Main Tower. It’s easy to spot; you pass through a Torii (gate) to reach it. Be sure to greet the regal samurai statue as you pass through.
Map of Osaka castle grounds.
It is a highly popular attraction, as you may well imagine. However, this shouldn’t put you off. It’s a spectacular slice of history, and still plays an important part of Osaka’s history and future. It’s worth even a slice of your time. Learn more about it and how to visit at the official website.