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Jaw-Dropping Osaka Castle -
The Ultimate Guide
Osaka Castle has a commanding presence on the Osaka city’s skyline.
It is the symbol of Osaka and one of its main attractions.
Here is your ultimate guide to visiting the jaw-dropping Osaka Castle and Osaka Castle Park.
Osaka Castle Park Map
Osaka Castle Park is massive! It covers approximately 60,000 square meters (15 acres).
It consists of a jaw-dropping Tenshukaku – the Main Castle Tower as well as a complex network of moats, turrets, and walls which surround the Main Tower.
Specifically, 2 gates (Otemon and Sakuramon), 5 turrets (Ichiban-yagura, Inui-yagura, Rokuban, Sengan, Tamon), a well (Kinmeisui), a storehouse (Kinzo), a gunpowder magazine (Enshogura) and three sections of the castle wall (all located around the Otemon gate) surround the Main Castle Tower.
Thirteen of the structures around the Main Castle Tower are designated as Important Cultural Assets by the national government.
Following is the map to help you navigate through the park.
Credit: Osaka Castle Map – On the World Map
Tenshukaku – The Main Tower of Osaka Castle
Tenshukaku – the Main Tower of Osaka Castle stands tall in the middle of Osaka Castle Park. It is situated on a plot of land roughly one square kilometer in size.
It was built on two raised platforms of landfill supported by sheer walls of cut rock, using an impressive technique called Burdock piling.
Tenshukaku is five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside. All in all, it is 55 meters high!
Tenshukaku – the Main Castle Tower is a concrete reproduction of the original. It was completely renovated in 1997, with fresh white plaster on the walls, new tiles on the roof, restored ornaments, and beautiful gold leaf decoration.
The Main Castle Tower houses a modern museum and a viewing platform from which you will be able to enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Osaka city.
The Main Castle Tower Museum
The First Floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The first floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum has an Information Center that you should definitely stop by and pick up the map of the museum. In addition, there is a gift shop with really cool souvenirs.
I recommend that you check out the Movie Theater as well. It shows five short documentaries about Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Osaka Castle. They are about 5 minutes each and they do have subtitles in English, Korean and Chinese.
The Eighth Floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The eighth floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum is positioned at a hight of 50 meters (164 feet) and contains an observation deck. Once you get there, you will be rewarded with the breathtaking views of downtown Osaka.
In addition, the 8th floor has a series of Nishikie on display. These are multi-colored woodblock prints that give interesting insights into the everyday life around the time of the Shoguns. In addition, there are TV monitors that show the scenes from the Osaka port while explaining the growth of Osaka during its early years.
The Seventh Floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The exhibits on the seventh floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum focus on the history of Osaka Castle and its environs during the reign of its first shogun, Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
Almost entire floor is taken by a superbly done large screen panel that traces the lineage of the Shogun and his family.
The story of the Toyotomi family ends with the winter siege of Osaka Castle in 1614, followed by the summer siege of 1615.
Hence, the summer siege led to the downfall of the Toyotomi family and the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
In addition, all around the walls on the seventh floor are built-in monitors that display the holographic images of Hideyoshi Toyotomi at major points in his life.
The Fifth and Sixth Floors of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The fifth and sixth floors of the Main Castle Tower Museum tell a story of the fall of the Toyotomi Shogunate and the rise of the final Japanese Shogunate, the Tokugawa.
Notably, in 1603 Tokugawa established the Shogunate in Edo (Tokyo) and seized the ruling power. Despite his prestige, Toyotomi family did not give up its powers and the tensions between the two families continued to escalate.
The first confrontation occurred in 1614. It became to be known as the Winter Siege of Osaka. At that time, Toyotomi managed to defended the castle and the confrontation ended up in a peace treaty.
Needless to say, right after the siege was over and peace was established, the Toyotomi family began massive restorations of Osaka Castle. Specifically, their efforts were focused on digging up the outer moats. This made Tokugawas suspicious. The end result was another confrontation between the Toyotomis and the Tokugawas. It became to be known as the 1615 Summer War of Osaka.
The Summer War of Osaka is exceptionally well represented with miniature figures of warriors.
To be honest, I found it to be absolutely fascinating to see the miniatures of the two armies recreated in such detail.
Consequently, the end result of the Summer War in Osaka was the fall the Toyotomi family.
The Third and Fourth Floors of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The third and fourth floors of the museum are dedicated to Hideyoshi Toyotami and his era.
Notably, there are about 8,000 artifacts on display including exquisite wall scrolls and screens depicting Hideyoshi Toyotomi at different times in his life.
When I visited the museum last time, I was fortunate to see Hideyoshi Toyotomi Golden Tea Room. Apparently, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was fascinated with gold. If you closely examine the room, you will notice that not only the ceiling and walls are covered with gold leaf, moreover, practically every object in that room is covered with gold leaf.
Interestingly enough, the golden tea room was easily disassembled and it could be quickly put back together, which allowed Toyotomi to move the room to hold the tea ceremonies in different places.
The room was burned down in 1615, however, several replicas have been made.
Finally, make sure to locate the scale models of Osaka Castle complex as it appeared during both the Toyotomi and Tokugawa periods.
The Second Floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The second floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum contains a a full-scale replica of shachihoko or shachi, which an animal in Japanese folklore with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp. It was believed that this animal could cause the rain to fall. As a result, many temples and castles were often adorned with roof ornaments crafted in the form of a shachihoko, in order to protect them from fire.
In addition, make sure not to miss Fusetora – the crouching tigers.
Osaka Castle is illuminated every evening until 11:00 p.m. It looks absolutely magnificent against the city skyline.
Nishinomaru Garden is located right next to Osaka Castle. It is no more than a 5-minute walk.
By the way, this was the place where the residence of Kita-no-mandokoro (wife of Hideyoshi Toyotomi) was formerly located.
The garden commands a beautiful view of the castle tower and the stone wall of a moat.
Furthermore, the garden is also famous for its 600 cherry trees that bloom gloriously during springtime.
All in all, there are about 4,000 cherry trees all around Osaka Castle Park and it is quite a sight to see them all in full bloom.
Plum Grove at Osaka Castle Park
If you are planning on visiting Osaka Castle Park at about the end of February, then be ready for quite a treat!
And, needless to say, head directly to the Plum Grove, which is located at the east side of the inside moat. Here, you will find about 1,300 plum trees that usually bloom at the end of February.
All in all, there are about 100 different varieties of plum trees planted here. The colors of the blooms range from white, and all shades of pink, as well as light violet.
Photo credit: pelican via Flickr
The Moats and Walls of Osaka Castle Complex
The moats and the walls that you see today that surround Osaka Castle complex are from the early 17th century.
The re-construction of Osaka Castle and its surrounding moats and walls began shortly after Tokugawa won the Summer War of Osaka in 1615. Notably, Tokugawa ordered the task of rebuilding the walls to hundreds of the samurai clans from across the country.
Massive stones from the Seto Inland Sea, primarily near the island of Shodoshima were brought to Osaka to create masugata. These were small spaces surrounded by the sheer stone walls with two gates set at right angles to each other. Masugata acted like a trap. It forced attacking warriors to stop before making a sharp turn. As a result, it allowed castle defenders to rain bullets or spears down on the attackers.
To prevent attackers from clambering up the walls to escape, huge smooth stones were used to surround the space.
The tako ishi inside the Sakuramon Gate is Osaka Castle’s largest stone. Its surface area is about 60 square meters and it weights an estimated 108 tons.
It is truly a mystery how this huge stone was transported and then erected, when at that time here was no heavy construction equipment.
The moats that surround Osaka Castle are massive. They extend from 70 to 90 meters in width.
In addition, the stone walls which were erected on each side of the moats are more than 20 meters in height. They are made out of interlocked granite boulders without any mortar.
All in all, the total length of the stone walls extends to 12 km making Osaka Castle quite impregnable.
If you want to have a closer look at the castle walls, then I recommend taking a boat ride. The boat will take you all around the castle and pull up close to the walls allowing you to see inscribed crests of the various families who contributed them.
Osaka Castle – Quick Facts
When Osaka Castle was built in the late 1500s by preeminent daimyō Hideyoshi Toyotomi it was the largest and most impressive castle Japan had ever seen.
It was modeled after Azuchi Castle, the headquarters of Oda Nobunaga. However, it surpassed it in every way. It featured a five-story main tower, with three extra stories underground, as well as gold leaf on the sides of the tower.
Throughout his life, Hideyoshi Toyotomi continued to extend and expand the castle, making it more and more formidable to attackers.
The construction was completed in 1597. Hideyoshi Toyotomi died one year later after the construction was done. Osaka Castle was passed to his son, Hideyori Toyotomi.
In 1614 and then again in 1615 Tokugawa leyasu attacked Hideyori Toyotomi. After continued battling, Osaka Castle fell to the Tokugawa clan and the castle buildings were burned to the ground.
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In 1620, the new heir to the shogunate, Hidetada Tokugawa, began to reconstruct Osaka Castle. He assigned the task of constructing new walls to individual samurai clans.
In 1660 lightning ignited the gunpowder warehouse. The explosion caused major damage to the castle tower. In addition, in 1665 another lightning struck the castle tower itself and it burnt down to the ground.
It was not until 1843 when the repairs started on the castle.
When Tokugawa Shogunate lost power in 1868, Osaka Castle was passed on to the Meiji New Government. However, the transition from Tokugawa Shogunate to Meiji New Government caused many civil unrests and in process left the castle almost completely destroyed.
In 1931 the major reconstruction was started.
During World War II, the castle became one of the largest military armories, employing 60,000 workers. Bombing raids targeting the arsenal damaged the reconstructed main castle tower.
Finally, in 1995 Osaka’s government approved yet another restoration project. The restoration was completed in 1997.
How to Get to Osaka Castle from Osaka Station
If you are arriving at Osaka Station, then the easiest way to get to Osaka Castle is to take the JR West Osaka Loop Line to Osakajokoen Station located on the park’s north east side. It is about an 15-minute walk through the park grounds to the main castle tower itself.
Opening Hours and Admission Cost
Surprisingly, the entrance to Osaka Castle Park is free! The opening hours are from 9 am till 5 pm. However, if you decide to explore Osaka Castle Museum or the Nishinomaru Garden, then, you will have to splurge on the entrance fees.
The entrance fee to Nishinomaru Garden is 200 yen. The opening hours are from 9 am till 5 pm.
The entrance fee to the Main Castle Tower Museum is 600 yen. The opening hours are 9 am till 5 pm and the last admission is at 4:30 pm.
The museum is closed starting on December 28th through January 1st.
If you need more information about the museum, then visit the Osaka Castle Museum website: Osaka Castle Museum
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