Osaka Castle was first built by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583. From this stronghold, Hideyoshi put down rebellions and worked to unite the provinces of Japan. After his death, his former vassal Tokugawa Ieyasu took control of the country himself and established the longest running military rule in history. To quell any attempts of challenge from Hideyoshi’s former supporters, Ieyasu torched Osaka Castle in 1615, leaving it in cinders. The keep was later reconstructed by the Tokugawa clan, though fires and bombing raids have destroyed it several times. Today’s main tower dates from 1931 and has been recognized as an Important Cultural Property. A recent renovation from 1995-1997 added an elevator and made the keep completely accessible to disabled visitors.
The interior of the castle houses a history museum that details the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the power struggles of the late 16th century. Approximately 10,000 items – including weaponry, armor, folding screens and personal letters – are displayed on a rotating basis. A movie theater offers a selection of five short films on the famed warlord; though the audio is in Japanese only, subtitles in multiple languages are provided. The top floor of Osaka Castle doubles as an observation desk, offering visitors a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding park and the golden shachiko (figures that resemble a cross between a fish and a tiger) that adorn the roof.
Those looking for a unique photo memory of their time in Japan may want to rent a samurai outfit, complete with headgear, from the castle’s costume corner. For a small fee, visitors can feel like they’re a part of feudal Japan.
In springtime, the grounds of Osaka Castle become the perfect picnic spot for sakura fans, as hundreds of cherry blossom trees shower the site with pale pink petals. Visitors can even take a boat ride on the castle moat, for a close-up glimpse of the imposing, stone fortifications.
Osaka Castle is easily accessible from a variety of metro stations that surround the grounds. There is an admission fee (¥600) to visit the main keep and the Ninomaru Garden (¥200).