Osaka Castle is undoubtedly a must-visit attraction when visiting Osaka. With its majestic architecture, historical significance, and beautiful surrounding gardens, the castle offers a captivating experience that allows visitors to delve into Osaka’s rich heritage.
From learning about its storied past to enjoying panoramic views from the top, Osaka Castle is a cultural gem that shouldn’t be missed on your Osaka adventure. I did not miss it during my trip and neither should you.
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Knowing more about Osaka Castle before you go
One excellent English website to learn more about Osaka Castle is the official website maintained by the Osaka Castle Park Management Office. I found it very useful to learn about a place before I visit it (and then I can act so knowledgeable in front of my female partner.. :p).
This website offers comprehensive information about Osaka Castle’s history, architecture, current exhibitions, and events taking place in the castle grounds. It also provides details on visiting hours, admission fees, and useful tips for exploring the castle and its surrounding areas.
How to get to Osaka Castle from Shin Osaka
Osaka Castle is interesting as it is like in that there are several different entrances to it. There is no one fixed way to go to Osaka Castle. It all depends on where you are staying at Osaka.
Osaka Castle has five main entrances. These entrances are located at the North Gate (Otemon), East Gate (Honganji Gate), South Gate (Nishinomaru Garden Gate), West Gate (Sakuramon), and the Central Gate (Sengan Gate). Each entrance provides access to different areas of the castle and its surrounding grounds, offering visitors various routes to explore and appreciate the historical and architectural wonders of Osaka Castle.
The recommended approach to Osaka Castle is through Otemon Gate at the park’s southwestern corner. The closest station is Tanimachiyonchome Station along the Tanimachi and Chuo subway lines.
And that’s the way I went as I was staying at Holiday Inn Shin Osaka.
From Holiday Inn Shin Osaka, I walked 10 mins to Shin Osaka station. If you stay Courtyard Shin-Osaka Station, you walk 30 seconds…..
The Shin-Osaka station is not just a Shinkansen station but also a local station for the Midosuji Line (The famous Red Line which goes to many
happening touristy places in Osaka).
So from Midosuji Line, we then took the local train (down towards Tennoji direction), and stop at the Hommachi station. At Hommachi station (without leaving the station), we changed over to the Chuo Line (Green Line).
There are many signs showing the way to take the train to Osaka Station (and also the Osaka Aquarium) to help you out.
At Hammochi station on the Chuo Line, we finally alighted at the Tanimachiyonchome 谷町四丁目 station.
We took exit 9 at Tanimachiyonchome 谷町四丁目 station.
From there it is a short walk across to the south western entrance of Osaka Castle !
This picture shows our route into Osaka Castle from the southwestern entrance and out of Osaka castle in the southeastern exit where we took the train at Morinomiya station back to more tourist places.
Approaching the Southwestern entrance, you can see this moat surrounding the Castle. Beautiful…. Instagram time !!
The Water Around The Castle
The water surrounding Osaka Castle is part of a moat system that served both defensive and aesthetic purposes. The moat was constructed as a defensive measure to protect the castle from potential attacks during its time as a stronghold. It acted as a barrier, making it difficult for invaders to approach the castle walls. You will see a lot of references to the moat protecting the castle when you tour the museum inside the Osaka Castle.
You can see the whole moat system around the castle with this picture.
Additionally, the moat contributes to the scenic beauty of Osaka Castle and its surroundings. The shimmering water enhances the castle’s picturesque setting and adds to the overall charm of the area.
Look at this photo… it is all ready for Instagram.
Osaka-Jo Gozabune : Boat ride around the Castle
There is a boat ride takes place on the moat surrounding the castle and offers visitors a unique perspective and leisurely experience. The “Osaka-Jo Gozabune” is a sightseeing boat recreated in the park’s inner moat and is in operation almost every day, except during the year-end and New Year holidays. The 20 minute to 30 minutes mini-cruise departs from the Gokurakubashi Bridge on the north side of Osaka Castle.
Apparently the cost of this ride is also part of the Osaka Amazing Pass, a pass worth its salt but very difficult to maximise the value unless you are a super planner and want to rush from one place to another from morning till night. So if you are a typical Singaporean like me, die die must use it max max max, don’t even get the pass…. else you forever will have a “did I maximise the value” thought 🙂 Like me.. buy it and use it for one use.. yes, one use !!
The boat ride provides a different vantage point to admire the castle and its surroundings. As you cruise along the moat, you can enjoy panoramic views of the castle’s majestic exterior, the beautiful gardens, and the serene water surrounding it. It offers a peaceful and picturesque experience. During the boat ride, a guide or an audio system may provide commentary which then offers insights into the history, architecture, and significance of Osaka Castle.
And if you choose the right time (not like me, as usual..), the boat ride can be especially captivating during the cherry blossom season when the cherry trees lining the moat are in full bloom. The vibrant colors and delicate petals create a stunning backdrop for the boat ride, adding to its allure.
History of Osaka Castle
The history of Osaka Castle spans several centuries and is deeply intertwined with the historical and cultural developments of Japan.
Here is a brief overview of its significant milestones:
- Origins and Early Construction:
Osaka Castle, known as “Osaka-jo” in Japanese, was initially built in 1583 by the renowned warrior and statesman Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It was constructed on the site of a previous temple complex and became the centerpiece of Hideyoshi’s vision to unify Japan.
- Siege and Rebuilding:
Following Hideyoshi’s death in 1598, Osaka Castle faced a series of conflicts and power struggles. In 1614-1615, it endured a significant siege during the Siege of Osaka, which resulted in the castle’s destruction. However, it was rebuilt shortly after by Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.
- Tokugawa Shogunate Era:
During the Tokugawa shogunate era, Osaka Castle served as an important political and military center. It played a role in maintaining control over the western region of Japan and was the residence of the appointed daimyo (feudal lords) who governed the area.
- Modern History and Restoration:
In 1868, the castle once again faced destruction during the Meiji Restoration, a period of political upheaval that led to the end of the shogunate and the establishment of a modernized Japan. Osaka Castle was rebuilt in the 1930s, and the current structure is a faithful reconstruction of the castle’s main tower.
- Present-Day Landmark:
Today, Osaka Castle stands as a symbol of Osaka’s rich history and cultural heritage. It attracts millions of visitors annually who come to admire its striking architecture, explore its surrounding park and gardens, and learn about the castle’s historical significance through exhibits and museums housed within its walls.
Osaka Castle remains a testament to the resilience and enduring legacy of Japan’s feudal era, offering a glimpse into the country’s past while serving as a cherished landmark for locals and tourists alike.
Entering the Castle through the Otemon gate
If you come from the southwestern side, you will be entering the castle proper through the Otemon Gate.
Otemon Gate, also known as the Main Gate, is the grand entrance to Osaka Castle and serves as the primary access point for visitors. Otemon Gate is magnificent and features a large wooden gatehouse with a multi-tiered roof, adorned with intricate decorative elements. The gatehouse is supported by massive stone walls and guarded by stone guardian statues.
Hello Osaka Castle..
Do also spend time to learn about the well curb, known as the “Gimmeisui” or “Gimmeisui Well”.
The well curb is situated near the main keep of Osaka Castle. It is a cylindrical structure made of stone or concrete, serving as a protective enclosure around a well. The well was historically used as a source of water for the castle’s residents to.
Castle Tower of Osaka Castle
Of course, we came here for the main building inside the compound of Osaka Castle, known as the “Castle Tower”.
The main building inside Osaka Castle is known as the “Main Tower” or the “Castle Tower.” It is the central structure of the castle complex and stands as a prominent symbol of Osaka’s rich history and architectural grandeur.
The Main Tower is a five-story building with a commanding presence, featuring a combination of traditional Japanese castle design and modern restoration.
Inside, visitors can explore various museum exhibits and displays that delve into the castle’s history, samurai culture, and the broader historical context of Japan.
The top floor of the Main Tower offers panoramic views of Osaka city and its surroundings, providing a breathtaking vantage point for visitors.
The 3rd Incarnation
Actually if you see the sign at the Tower, you can see that the tower is in 3rd incarnation. What does that mean ? Born three times ? 🙂
Actually what it meant by the “3rd incarnation” is that it means that the current structure is the third version or reconstruction of the tower throughout its history.
- The original castle tower built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 16th century was destroyed during the Siege of Osaka in 1615. Ouch.
- After the destruction, the tower was rebuilt by the Tokugawa shogunate, becoming the second incarnation. However, during the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century, the tower was once again destroyed. Ouch Ouch.
- Third Time Lucky….. the current Castle Tower was reconstructed in the 1930s and has undergone subsequent renovations to maintain its iconic appearance. So there is a history of destruction and then reconstruction, with the current version being the third iteration of the iconic structure.
The Museum inside the Castle Tower
Yes, inside the Osaka Castle Tower, there is a museum that is really worth the money to visit. The exhibition offers visitors a deeper understanding of the castle’s history and significance.
I know there are a lot of visitors and it can be quite frustrating when people block your views of the exhibits. I suggest renting an audio guide to make it your “own world” as you listen to the audio guide and walk around… like a boss 🙂
The museum provides visitors with a broader understanding of the historical context in which Osaka Castle was built and its role in the political and military landscape of Japan. It highlights key figures, such as Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who played significant roles in the castle’s history.
About Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a renowned historical figure in Japan who played a significant role in the country’s unification during the late 16th century. He is closely associated with Osaka Castle because of his instrumental involvement in its construction and historical significance.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi started as a low-ranking samurai but eventually rose to become one of the most influential figures in Japan’s history. Through strategic alliances, military prowess, and political maneuvering, he successfully unified the warring states of Japan, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Oda Nobunaga.
After achieving power, Hideyoshi sought to solidify his authority by constructing a grand castle in Osaka. The castle’s construction began in 1583, and it was intended to serve as the center of Hideyoshi’s political and military operations. The impressive fortress reflected his ambition and provided a symbol of his authority and control over the region.
Osaka Castle was strategically situated in the heart of Japan, allowing Hideyoshi to oversee and maintain control over the central region of the country. It served as a key stronghold and a base for his campaigns, as well as a symbol of his power and the unification efforts.
Hideyoshi’s rule marked a transformative period in Japanese history known as the Azuchi-Momoyama period. His achievements in unifying the country laid the foundation for the subsequent Tokugawa shogunate, which brought stability and isolation to Japan for the next few centuries.
He is like Japan’s version of China’s Qin Shi Huang 🙂 He sounds like a big bad boss !!
View at the Top of the Castle
The view from the top of Osaka Castle is stunning. Standing atop the Castle Tower, I can see a panoramic vista of the cityscape, Osaka Castle Park, and surrounding areas. The modern skyline of Osaka, with its towering buildings, stretches out in every direction. During the cherry blossom season, the view becomes even more enchanting as delicate pink petals blanket the park. From this elevated perch, you can truly appreciate the dynamic blend of urban development and natural beauty that defines Osaka.
But then the Umeda Sky Building offers a better view, right 🙂
Actually to be honest, the cage spoils the view…
Conclusion : Visit or Not
I feel that if it is your first visit to Osaka, then yes, you should visit it. At least for the views of the castle and the moat around it. Take a few photos and post on Facebook, Twitter and then Instagram.
As to going into the castle museum or not, it depends if you are a history person. I am very much so, so I can spend hours inside the museum. If all you want is a quick walk inside, then I am afraid it is not worth your time. The huge number of people will spoil your mood.
Instead, you might be better off taking a boat ride.. which would be a nicer way of enjoying the castle.
So it is a YES for me to visit the Osaka Castle.
Share your views below 🙂