Exploring Osaka: Osaka Castle

A Brief History of the Castle: Osaka Castle was first built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583 as his stronghold. And from there, he successfully unified the country, becoming Japan’s second major military ruler. After he died, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had worked for Hideyoshi, turned on Hideyoshi’s family and and burned Osaka Castle to the ground. Tokugawa became Japan’s first Shogun and ushered in the Edo Period, relocating the capital to Tokyo in 1615. Ieyasu’s heir, Tokugawa Hidetada began reconstructing and re-arming Osaka Castle in 1620 and finished reconstructing 10 years later. However, it seems that the castle has truly terrible luck since in 1665, lightning struck and burnt down the main tower. As the years rolled by the castle continued to be neglected until it was in a state of ruin. Then in 1843, the castle was repaired by the shogunate. But then in 1868, when the shogunate fell and power was returned to the emperor (the beginning of the Meiji era), the supporters of the former shogunate made a last stand at Osaka Castle, where they lost and the castle was burned down once again. What remained of the castle was converted to barracks for Japan’s expanding military. In 1928, the mayor of Osaka completed a successful fund raiser to re-build the main tower of the castle, but disaster struck the castle yet again in 1945, when American bombing raids of World War II damaged the reconstructed tower. Then finally, in 1995, the government approved of another restoration project to return Osaka Castle to its splendor in the Edo-Era. The project was completed in 1997 and now the castle functions as a museum.

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When I stepped into the castle, I was hit with all of this turbulent and exciting history. And I loved it! I decided to take the stairs all the way to the top and work my way down (elevators are available). At the very top, you get an amazing view of the city of Osaka and all of the modern, mechanical skyscrapers surrounding the traditional castle.

In the castle, there are many detailed exhibits, including about the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi; “The Summer War in Osaka,” which depicts the deciding battle when Tokugawa Ieyasu took over and burned the castle to the ground. There are also a ton of historical artifacts and replicas from the castle, including a full-scale replica of Hideyoshi’s Golden Tea Room, which was a tea room plated in solid gold. And there is also plenty of information and artifacts from Osaka Castle’s history during the Edo and Meiji eras. And like all good museums, there is a nice gift shop available for tourists to buy Osaka Castle gear.

The grounds outside the castle are worth exploring as well, particularly in the spring and summer when the flowers and trees are in full bloom. And also the castle holds the Chrysanthemum Festival in the fall. If you are near the castle at night, stop on over for when they illuminate the floors with beautiful lights. All in all, if you are a castle lover (and even if you are not), Osaka Castle is fun, interesting, and absolutely gorgeous! It was my favorite castle in all of Japan and I highly recommend it to any interested visitor.

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The castle is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (last admission at 4:30 PM) and is open all throughout the year except December 28th through January 1st for the New Year. It costs adults ¥600 to get in, and children 15 years old and younger can enter for free. Group discounts are also available for groups of 15 or more.

There are many ways to reach Osaka Castle. By train, the castle is a 15 to 20 minute walk from either Tanimachi 4-chome Station (谷町四丁目駅) or Osakajo Koen Station (大阪城公園駅). For those who want to take the bus, the castle can be reached from Otemae Bamba-cho bus station. And there is also the unique, Aqualiner, an aqua-bus that travels along the many rivers in Osaka.

For more information, be sure to visit the castle’s website.

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