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Osaka Castle has a commanding presence on Osaka city’s skyline. It is the symbol of Osaka and one of its main attractions.
If you are planning on visiting Osaka, then, hands down, you need to add Osaka Castle to your Japan Bucket List! Here is a complete guide to what to see at Osaka Castle.
What to See at Osaka Castle
- 1. Where Is Osaka Castle and How to Get There
- 2. Admissions and Opening Hours of Osaka Castle
- 3. Map of Osaka Castle and Park
- 4. 3 Interesting Facts About Osaka Castle to Know Before You Visit
- 4.1. 1. Construction of Osaka Castle
- 4.2. 2. Series of Unfortunate Events
- 4.3. 3. Final Reconstruction
- 5. What to See at Osaka Castle - 5 You Can't Miss
- 5.1. Tenshukaku - The Main Tower of Osaka Castle
- 5.2. Osaka Castle Tower Museum
- 5.3. Nishinomaru Garden
- 5.4. Plum Grove at Osaka Castle Park
- 5.5. Moat and Walls Surrounding the Castle
- 6. Intrepid Scout's Tips for What to See at Osaka Castle
Where Is Osaka Castle and How to Get There
The most convenient entrance to Osaka Castle is through Otemon Gate at the park’s southwestern corner and the best way to get to Otemon Gate is by subway. Simply, take Tanimachi or Chuo subway lines and get off at Tanimachi Yonchome Station.
If you want to use your JR Pass, (which I strongly advice you to get before traveling to Japan, it will save you a lot of money!), then my recommendation is to take JR Loop Line to Osakajoken Station which is located on the park’s northeast side.
Admissions and Opening Hours of Osaka Castle
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 Nishinomaru Garden, then, you will have to purchase an entrance ticket.
Osaka Castle Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (except it is closed from December 28th till January 1st). The last admission is at 4:30 pm. An entrance ticket costs 600 yen and can be purchased online HERE.
The entrance fee to Nishinomaru Garden is 200 yen. The opening hours are from 9 am till 5 pm.
Map of Osaka Castle and Park
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 that surround the Main Tower.
There are 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 around Osaka Castle Park:
3 Interesting Facts About Osaka Castle to Know Before You Visit
1. Construction of Osaka Castle
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 a 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.
2. Series of Unfortunate Events
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 that the repairs started again on the castle.
3. Final Reconstruction
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 much civil unrest and in the process left the castle almost completely destroyed.
In 1931 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.
What to See at Osaka Castle - 5 You Can't Miss
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!
The Main Tower of Osaka Castle / What to See at Osaka Castle
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 museum and a viewing platform from which you will be able to enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Osaka city.
Osaka Castle Tower Museum
The first floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum has an Information Center that you should stop by and pick up a 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 with subtitles in English, Korean, and Chinese.
The museum is laid out in chronological order, with the tour starting on the top floor. Take the elevator to the 8th floor and work your way down to the 2nd floor.
The Eighth Floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The eighth floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum is positioned at a height of 50 meters (164 feet) and contains an observation deck. Once you get there, you will be rewarded with 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 everyday life around the time of the Shoguns.
Also, there are TV monitors that show 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 the 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 holographic images of Hideyoshi Toyotomi at major points in his life.
The Sixth and Fifth 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, the 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 defend 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 result was another confrontation between the Toyotomis and the Tokugawas. It became to be known as the 1615 Summer War of Osaka.
Consequently, the result of the Summer War in Osaka was the fall of the Toyotomi family.
The Summer War of Osaka is exceptionally well represented with miniature figures of warriors. To be honest, I found it to be fascinating to see the miniatures of the two armies recreated in such detail.
The Fourth and Third Floors of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The third and fourth floors of the museum are dedicated to Hideyoshi Toyotomi 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.
In addition, make sure to locate the scale models of the Osaka Castle complex as it appeared during both the Toyotomi and Tokugawa periods.
Displays at Osaka Castle Museum / What to See at Osaka Castle
When I visited the museum last time, I was fortunate to see Hideyoshi Toyotomi Golden Tea Room.
The golden tea room was built in 1585 by Toyotomi. What is known is that Toyotomi had a great interest in tea ceremonies, but also was fascinated with gold and used the room to show off his power and wealth.
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.
The Second Floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum
The second floor of the Main Castle Tower Museum contains a full-scale replica of shachihoko or shachi, which is 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 tiger.
Displays at Osaka Castle Museum / What to See at Osaka Castle
Nishinomaru Garden is located right next to Osaka Castle Main Tower. It is no more than a 5-minute walk.
The garden Is picture-perfect and you will get a stunning view of the Main Tower and the stone wall of a moat.
Nishinomaru Garden / What to See at Osaka Castle
Furthermore, Nishinomaru 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 or early March, then be ready for quite a treat!
And, needless to say, head directly to Plum Grove, which is located on 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.
Moat and Walls Surrounding the Castle
The moat and the walls you see today surrounding the Osaka Castle complex are from the early 17th century shortly after Tokugawa won the Summer War of Osaka in 1615.
Tokugawa ordered the rebuilding of the walls to hundreds of 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.
Masugata means a square box, and from an architectural standpoint, it is one of the defensive tricks used by Japanese castle builders.
Masugata is a small rectangular space surrounded by sheer stone walls with two gates set at right angles to each other.
Masugata was used as a place to gather the defending troops in order to initiate a surprise attack. Also, it acted like a trap. it forced the attacking troops to stop before making a sharp turn. As a result, it allowed the castle defenders to rain spears down on attackers.
The huge smooth stone walls surrounding masugata prevented the attackers from escaping.
The tako ishi inside the Sakuramon Gate is Osaka Castle’s largest stone. Its surface area is about 60 square meters and it weighs an estimated 108 tons.
It is truly a mystery how this huge stone was transported and then erected when at that time there 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 to the construction of the walls.