Japan has a lot of landmarks that serve at tourists sites because of the things you can see there and the things you can enjoy there. They have beautiful waterfalls to see, delicious food to eat, and fun festivities to join. In short, they have something to offer for every want and need that you might have. They also have landmarks that have a great history behind them and an example of such an attraction is the famous Osaka Castle.
The History and Facts about the Osaka Castle of Japan
Japan in a country that has a lot of castles that were products of the several periods Japan has gone through in the past. These castles can symbolize many things. Some castles symbolize the moving of power from one city to another or the shifting of power from one clan to another. Other castles are seen as a symbol of peace and prosperity for a specific period in history. Regardless of what it represents, knowing more about these castles will tell you a lot about what Japan is about and how it has evolved throughout the years.
In the case of the Osaka Castle, what it symbolizes is a fluid concept because it changes from period to period. It was initially made to be a symbol of a unified Japan under the rule of the Toyotomi Hideyoshi but certain events that happened after its construction changed that it meant to the people tremendously. To have a better understanding of this, you must look back into the history of the castle starting from the year of 1583.
The year of 1583 was the time when Toyotomi Hideyoshi started the construction of this famous castle. It was constructed on the site where the temple of Ishiyama Hongan-ji called the Ikko-Ikki used to stand until Oda Nobunaga destroyed it in 1570. The designs and plans for the castle were very similar to Oda Nobunaga’s headquarters which was the Azuchi Castle. Of course, Hideyoshi wanted to outdo his mentor so he made sure that, although the designs were similar, his castle was a much better version of the Azuchi Castle.
Initially, it had a five-story main tower that was actually an eight-story tower due to the three-story underground levels it had. It was also designed to have gold leaves on the sides of the tower to increase its appeal to visitors. The Inner donjon was completed in the year of 1585 but Toyotomi Hideyoshi was not satisfied yet so he continued to fortify his magnificent castle. He improved it so that it became a harder castle for attackers to breach. These improvements were finished in the year of 1597 but Toyotomi Hideyoshi sadly was not able to enjoy his castle much because he died soon after the completion of his fortifications. With this happening, the castle was passed on to his son, Toyotomi Hideyori.
The Battle of Sekigahara happened soon after that and the victory that Tokugawa Ieyasu attained from this battle gave him enough power to start his own shogunate. In the year of 1614, he attacked the Osaka Castle which started the Siege of Osaka. This attack of 1614 was survived by Toyotomi despite the fact that they were outnumbered. There were damages that were inflicted on the castle and the biggest of all those damages was probably the destruction of the castle’s outer moat that served as one of its primary defenses.
In the summer of 1615, not long after the start of the Siege of Osaka, Hideyori decided to fortify the castle again by restoring the outer moat to gain back its use for defense. When Tokugawa received news of what Hideyori was doing, he immediately ordered another attack on the castle. This time around, the forces of Tokugawa were too much to handle for the Toyotomi clan and on the 4th of June in that year, the Toyotomi clan was completely defeated.
Years after the defeat of Toyotomi, the new heir of the shogunate, Tokugawa Hidetada, started to rebuild the castle. He not only restored it but also improved the defensive designs of the castle. He made a lot of changes like the construction of a new elevated main tower that was 5 stories high on the outside and 8 stories deep underground. He was also the one that demanded individual samurai clans to construct the wall that still stands there until this very day. There are an estimated 40000 rocks used to construct this wall and it is said some of these rocks even have the crests of the clans and families that donated them.
This castle endured a couple of natural calamities and occasions of accidents that burned it down numerous times. In the year of 1660, lightning ignited the gunpowder warehouse located in the vicinity of the castle and this created a huge explosion that damaged a large portion of the castle. 5 years later, lightning caused more damage to the castle as it struck the castle itself cause a fire to start that burned down the main tower. After the fire of 1665, no one bothered to fix the castle until the year of 1843 when the shogunate or bakufu collected enough money to fund the restoration of the castle.
The castle fell once again to those who opposed the shogunate in 1868 and as a result, the majority of the castle was again burned down. When the Meiji government started to restore it, they used the castle as an establishment for war. The Osaka Castle became a part of the Osaka Army Arsenal or the “Osaka Hohei Kosho” and as a part of this, it became the place where they manufacture the guns, ammunitions, and explosives that their armies used. It eventually became one of the largest military armories in Japan during World War II which also meant that it was bound to be destroyed by its enemies once again. On August 14, 1945, this is exactly what happened as the bombings done destroyed almost everything as well as killing around 400 people who worked there.
In 1995, it was restored again but this time, it was restored to how it was in the Edo era. In 1997, the reconstruction was completed and the Osaka Castle was once again seen as a symbol of peace despite the changes in what it represented in the past decades and its association with the recent wars that damaged it over and over again. Presently, the castle tower is now completely modern inside, even having elevators to navigate through the multiple floors easier.
Details of the Osaka Castle: A Map of the Interior, Museum, Castle Hall, Castle Park, and the Famous Cherry Blossoms Found There
The land that the castle makes use of is estimated to be around 60000 square meters or about 15 acres. It contains 13 structures that have been deemed to be cultural assets by the Japanese government because of the history it holds. These structures are namely the Ote-Mon Gate, Sakura-mon Gate, Ichiban-Yagura Turret, Rokuban-Yagura Turret, Sengan Turret, Tamon Turret, Kinzo Storehouse, Kinmeisui Well, as well as the three sections of the castle wall that are all located by the Ote-Mon Gate.
You can also find a museum that holds all the information you could ever want or need about the castle’s long history and its creator, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Considering the all the events that happened in relation to this castle, it isn’t surprising to see that people actually line up to experience and see this museum. It shares a lot about how Japan and its people have progressed throughout the years and it also showcases how peace eventually prevailed despite all the destruction it went through. This museum is found within the castle tower.
There are much more things to see here aside from the citadels, gates, and turrets. Among these things is the Nishinomaru Garden located within the Osaka Castle Park. This garden holds around 600 cherry trees, the former Osaka Guest House, a tea house, a sports facility, and a shrine that is dedicated to Hideyoshi. This park is also where you can find the Osakajo Hall or the Castle Hall which serves as a multi-purpose space for certain events and occasions.
As mentioned above, this park has 600 cherry trees and these trees are where the beautiful cherry blossom flowers sprout from. Because of the number of cherry trees here, tourists tend to travel to the Osaka Castle Park to enjoy the movie-like scenery brought about by the budding cherry blossoms during the cherry blossom season that comes around in late March to early April.
Getting here is quite simple because it is very near stations like the Tanimachi 4-chrome Station. This station is nearest to the Ote-Mon Gate. If you wish to get off at a station that is nearer to the Osaka Castle itself, you have the option to get off on the Osakajokoen Station. If you are coming from the JR Osaka Station, the trip to the Osakajokoen should cost around 160 yen and should take around 10 minutes.
About Osaka Castle’s Operating Hours and Entrance Fee
Be aware that the different parts of the castle have different operating hours for obvious reasons. Since the castle tower’s attractions are limited to the museum and alike, it is open from 9 AM to 5 PM. The castle tower only extends its operating hours on certain holidays and special exhibitions. The castle tower is open all days of the year except for the dates of December 28 to January 1 and getting into the castle would cost you an admission fee of 600 yen.
As for the Nishinomaru Garden, it has the same operating hours as the castle which is from 9 AM to 5 PM but extends its closing time to 9 PM during the cherry blossom season. This allows both locals and tourists to enjoy the beauty brought about by this famous flower and this also allows them to enjoy it in the shade of dawn. The garden is open all days of the week except for Mondays and New Year holidays and admission to the garden has varying prices. If you are to enter the garden during the cherry blossoms season, the admission is priced at 350 yen while if you are going to the garden any time before or after that, you need only pay an admission fee of 200 yen.
Visiting this castle should definitely be on your list if you haven’t seen it yet because it really is one of a kind. There is no other place in a world where you can find something with the history and look of the Osaka Castle. Even its garden alone is enough to set it apart from all the other castles in Japan. Earlier, it was stated that this castle’s parts have been deemed as cultural assets and by now, it should be obvious why. The Japanese shed a lot of blood for this castle and now, it is finally something that people look for to see beauty and peacefulness. It is living proof that change is constant and that whether things go to war or peace is solely dependent on the people. Knowing all these details about the castle is sure to enhance the experience you will get when you actually go to the Osaka Castle because you would already have a glimpse of what it took for it to be what it is today and that will make you appreciate it in a deeper sense.