Travel

Exploring Osaka Castle Park
A quick overview of the cultural and historical structures found within.

 

I walked into Osaka Castle Park still a little awestruck, still at a loss for words. And not just because of my complete lack of knowledge of Japanese language, which the park map I was staring at was also in. Pinpointing the castle wasn’t hard though, smack in the heart of the park past gates and moats, the first of which I could now see on my left side. 

Out of the many structures within the park, thirteen are recognized as important cultural assets. One of them, Otemon Gate, is what I was heading toward. Considered the main gate, it is located on the south side of the complex.

As I approached the gate, the Sengan Yagura (or Sengan Turret), came closer into view. It is one of the oldest surviving structures of the castle and dates back to 1620, when the castle was rebuilt by the second shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty.

Leaving the gate and the city behind, I wandered around the grounds in a trance, marveling at every new structure that came into view. The next of which was the Tamon-yagura. This turret was built on top of Otemon Gate and is the only one of its type that remains in Japan. It burnt down after being struck by lightning in 1783 and was rebuilt in 1848.

There’s a shaded green area where the remains of the Camps of the Nishi-obanshu (West Guards) stand. The oban were in charge of guarding the Hommaru (inner bailey), along with the Higashi-obanshu (East Guards).

Past the shudokan (martial arts training center), a bronze statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi watches over those coming into the Hōkoku Shrine. The shrine was built in honor of Hideyoshi, a Japanese samurai and feudal lord who is known as the second Great Unifier of Japan. 

Out of all the well wishes, hopes, and desires carefully written on ema, this was the only one I could read. A sentiment I resonated quite well with, especially with only two weeks to the start of a new year.

The southern part of the Inner Moat has always been dry and is even referred to as “the Dry Moat” in park maps and literature.

One more gate to cross to access the Hommaru, the Sakuramon Gate is perfectly aligned with the Castle.

A left turn landed me in the Japanese Garden, where newlyweds and families on vacation patiently lined up to take pictures against what are arguably some of the most stunning views in the park. I’d seen this specific spot online several times, where it was referred to as Nishinomaru Garden, but that is a separate garden located in the Ninomaru (outer bailey) and has a separate entrance fee of 200 yen (350 during Sakura season).

Without enough time to explore the main tower that houses the Osaka Castle Museum (entrance fee: 600 yen), I went out the way I came and took a quick stroll along the plum grove, trying to figure out if the rest of my itinerary for the day was still possible. I sat down on the ground for two seconds to change my camera battery when I felt someone tap my shoulder. 

Takako and her mother were out for a daily stroll, and communicating the best we could, told me about how much she enjoys approaching foreigners and asking about their travels and impressions of Japan. She shared some recommendations (I asked about okonomiyaki), and I shared a sticker I had on hand (for once). We even took a selfie together, a habit I’ve been trying to get into more so as to never forget the people I encounter on my adventures.

With renewed energy for both me and the camera, I snapped a few more shots of the castle as well as the former headquarters of the 4th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army. The latter was home to the Osaka City Museum from 1960 to 2001 and currently houses a shopping and dining complex, Miraiza Osaka-Jo.

The castle, which I believe I have somehow failed to mention and am too tired to go back and check (as I suspect are you at this point, dear reader), was built in 1583 by Hideyoshi. In 1614 it was sieged by Tokugawa Ieyasu’s forces, who would go on to be recognized as the third Great Unifier of Japan. Since then, it has been burnt down several times, due to conflict and one too many unfortunate lightning strikes. The current iteration was completed in 1931.

As I was leaving, the clouds gently rolled in and covered the sun, so it was no longer casting harsh shadows on the Rokuban-yagura. I took one last picture of the Outer Moat and headed towards the exit, eager to keep exploring the nation’s kitchen.

 

Osaka Castle Park is located at 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan. The closest stations are Tanimachi Yonchome (metro), Osakajokoen (JR Rail), and Morinomiya (metro and JR). The park is open 24 hours a day.

 

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Based mainly in Colorado. Loves cheese, rain, and starry nights. Can usually be spotted in the wild wearing a Spirit Jersey and balancing two cameras. Often laughs and cries at the same time. Barely survived one Master's program, but wants to do another.

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