An enduring symbol of the vibrant city's dramatic past.
Standing 58-meters tall in the midst of modern skyscrapers and a vibrant urban park is one of Osaka’s most important and beloved cultural symbols. Osaka Castle was built over 500 years ago by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the man who unified Japan after years of war and unrest. Today, it gives residents a sense of pride and visitors a sight to gawk at in amazement. The castle is Japan’s third-most-populated city’s resplendent relic that embodies Japan’s ability to rebuild and remember.
A tumultuous history
The tale begins in the 16th century and stars two important historical figures: Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Nobunaga was a powerful daimyo (feudal lord) trying to unify Japan under his rule. He came close, winning many battles and forming important alliances with rival clans. Many of Nobunaga’s successes were aided by Hideyoshi, whose rise to power was quick once Nobunaga recognized his leadership prowess.
After a coup left Nobunaga dead, Hideyoshi took his mentor’s place. He finished unifying Japan’s rival clans into one and built the stronghold known as Osaka Castle to celebrate.
The castle was the most glorious of its time. There were five stories above ground and three below. Gold leaf decorated the sides and Hideyoshi’s tea room was covered entirely in gold. A wide moat and high walls of stone fortified the seat of Hideyoshi’s power.
After Hideyoshi’s death in 1615, the castle was burned to the ground by his former ally and one of Japan’s most famous figures, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Though Osaka Castle was rebuilt during the 1620s, it was struck by lightning — twice — and burned down yet again in 1660 and 1665.
It was damaged again both during Meiji era riots and WWII firebombing. Finally, in the 1990s, the government sponsored a complete restoration of the castle returning it to its original glory and adding elevators.
A thriving present
Today, all eight floors of Osaka Castle stand tall and proud. Surrounding it is the original moat and stone walls. Though the exterior was rebuilt to resemble the original, Osaka Castle’s interior is now a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the castle and the city. You can even venture to the top of the castle and get a panoramic view of the city from 50 meters up.
Just outside the castle is a tranquil Japanese garden, a time capsule that won’t be opened for almost 5,000 years, and a historic arsenal used during World War II. This building has recently been reopened to the public as a shopping center with a retro feel, housing souvenir shops, fast food stalls, and rooftop restaurants with a view of the castle. The castle is also surrounded by Osaka Castle Park, a gorgeous recreational area filled with cherry blossoms in spring, plum trees in late winter and fall colors from the surrounding trees in fall.