Many of the world’s most famous and captivating cities have a single landmark that stands tall and dominates the skylines. This landmark defines the city’s atmosphere, history, and beauty. For Paris, it’s the Eiffel Tower; for London, it’s Big Ben. Tokyo has both the Skytree and Tokyo Tower. And Osaka has its castle; with it come the Osaka Castle park and its magical museum.
Osaka Castle is one of the most cherished and awe-inspiring structures in all of Japan. It dominates Japan’s most electric city, reminding this modern metropolis of its aesthetic history. Both the park and the castle itself are some of the most magical places in the city: soothing and bewitching in equal measure.
The Castle’s History
The castle which stands proud and resplendent today is, much like Shakespeare’s Globe, the third iteration of Osaka Castle. The first burned down after what became known as the Siege of Osaka by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The second fell during the Meiji Restoration of 1868, burned down during the civil conflicts of the time. The castle was also badly damaged by American bombing raids during World War II. This was due to the fact that the castle was being used as an enormous military armoury. The modern castle is a faithful and magnificent recreation of Tokugawa’s version of the castle, with its interior designed to function as a museum.
The original castle was built under the orders of the Sengoku daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It is said he wished to construct a castle like Oda Nobunaga’s own Azuchi Castle, only bigger and better in every way. His vision was completed in 1597, shortly before his death.
Only a few years later, Osaka Castle was besieged by Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose political actions eventually ushered in the Edo period. Tokugawa’s initial siege failed. In 1615, however, he tried again and managed to take the castle. This resulted in the burning down of the castle’s buildings and the eradication of the Toyotomi clan, who had originally constructed and owned Osaka Castle.
In spite of how much death and destruction Osaka Castle has seen, what stands over the city skyline now is a monument to the area’s thrilling history and a testament to the city’s enthusiasm for holding tight to its history. The tenacity and skill of those who reconstructed it means that we get to enjoy Osaka Castle today in all its splendour.
Osaka Castle Park
When visiting Osaka Castle, there are two distinct areas to explore: the castle park (or castle grounds) and the main castle interior. While the interior costs an entry fee, the park is free to explore at your leisure. In fact, it’s common to see joggers circling the park on their daily run.
The castle grounds are made up of several different green spaces and pathways, divided up by wide and tranquil moats, and the stone ramparts which rise up high at the inner edge of the moat are mostly original walls from the period of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s reign.
Exploring the castle park can take hours, not only because of its size but because of the breadth of views the area offers. From different parts of the grounds, Osaka Castle’s main building can be viewed from multiple angles, as can the surrounding cityscape. Osaka spreads out from the castle in all directions, and the castle grounds are the best place to get the most varied and dynamic views of Osaka city itself.
There’s also entertainment to be found. Vendors and entertainers know that Osaka Castle park is one of the most visited tourist destinations, so expect to find vendors selling takoyaki and taiyaki for a price no higher than you’ll find down on the streets. A summer stroll through the park with a warm custard taiyaki is a blissful experience. On your jaunt, you’ll also see magicians and performers vying for public attention, but it’s never overwhelming or too distracting; only adding to the overall atmosphere of the grounds, which is one of the castle’s finest aspects.
Osaka Castle Museum
The interior of the main building of Osaka Castle is a museum dedicated to the history of the area, the castle’s own architecture, as well as the daimyo and samurai who built, protected, and sieged it.
Entrance to Osaka Castle Museum costs ¥600 per person, and children of 15 and under can enter for free. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm every day (with last entry being at 4:30pm). The castle is closed only from 28th December to 1st January.
The castle’s interior decorations harken back to the Sengoku period, with iconic red wooden balconies framing the open rooms. Within those rooms are various artefacts from the Sengoku and Edo periods, including samurai armour and ornamentation.
Although the grounds themselves offer views of the city, especially from atop the ramparts, the most splendid and uninhibited view can only be enjoyed from the observation deck of the main building, accessed via the museum. This is a wonderful bonus for those who pay the entrance fee, offering a complete panoramic view of the city of Osaka.
Osaka Castle and its grounds offer so much to visitors. An entire emotional spectrum can be passed through as you explore the park and the museum. From peaceful tranquility to electric enthusiasm. There is so much beauty in the architecture and the moats; so much tragedy in its history; and so much to learn and enjoy from a few unforgettable hours at Osaka Castle.
Post by Japan Journeys.