One of not only Osakas, but Japans, most famous and historical landmarks is Osaka Castle…
While Osaka castle is often considered to be less impressive than Himeji castle in neighbouring Hyogo prefecture, Osaka castle played a major role in the unification of Japan, and is a must-visit spot for when you’re in the area.
The construction of Osaka castle started in 1583 by the daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who managed to unify Japan. He wanted a castle 5 stories tall, with 3 underground levels and gold leaf detailing to impress anyone who visited.
The construction finished in 1597, Hideyoshi died the year after. The castle passed on to his son, Hodeyori. Osaka castle burned to the ground in 1615 after it was attacked for a second time by the Tokugawa clan, this also ended the Toyotomi clan.
In 1620 the Tokugawa shogunate ordered the castle to be rebuilt and rearmed. The construction of the outer walls of the castle ground was assigned to various samurai clans. These outer walls still stand today, and have the crest of the clans that built them inscribed.
The castle rebuild was finished in 1630, with the main tower finished in 1626. But years later in 1660 a warehouse was struck by lighting and the castle caught fire. Not more than 5 years later, in 1665 lighting struck again, and the main castle burned down.
In 1868, Osaka castle fell to imperial forces, effectively marking the end of the shogunate who had controlled it for two centuries. The castle was burned to the ground on February 2nd.
In 1931 the castle was rebuilt, this time in reinforced concrete. During WWII bombing raids that were targeting the armoury damaged the tower.
1953 saw Osaka castle recognised as a “historic site” by the government, and 2 years later in 1955 it was recognised as a “special historic site”.
In 1997 a final restoration project was finished which aimed to restore the castle to its former Edo period glory.
We visited Osaka castle during early May on a beautiful day. And I’m surprised to say that the castle ground wasn’t as busy as we had expected. However we skipped the museum which is located in the reconstructed main tower.
Walking around a castle ground is always an interesting experience, imagining what it was like hundreds of years ago. The main, elevated tower, dwarfs everything around it. It’s a really impressive sight. The fact that it’s a reconstruction doesn’t really detract from the experience in our opinion.
Osaka castle is about an hour walk from Umeda station if you’re already exploring Osaka by foot… The recommended entrance is the Otemon gate which is located on the south western corner. So if you’re not keen on walking, the best station to go to is Temmabashi from on the Tanimachi line with Osaka Metro.
Tanimachi-4-chome is physically closer to the Otemon gate entrance, but the view you get of the castle walking from Temmabashi is really nice. It also gives you a real sense of how big the castle ground really is.