Osaka Castle was originally built as a display of power and grandeur by samurai warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi after accomplishing his goal of unifying Japan. The Toyotomi stronghold was completed in 1586 by around 100,000 workers after only three years of work, and was unparalleled at the time as the largest castle in Japan.
The castle was to become the center of the new unified Japan under Hideyoshi after centuries of war. It featured a five-tiered main keep with the exterior of the keep covered in gold leaf and ornaments to impress visitors and enemies alike. One of the most impressive was the golden shachi, a roof ornament in the form of a mythical creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp, believed to protect against fire. The keep also featured 8 giant fusetora tigers (golden tiger) decorations.
Unfortunately, the original castle was destroyed by Tokugawa Ieyasu’s forces in 1615 during the second siege of Osaka Castle. The castle was rebuilt again but was razed to the ground rather than being surrendered it to the forces of the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
The current structure is a 1931 concrete reconstruction of the original Toyotomi castle.
Photo : Sommai Janchad on FlickrToday the castle is a symbol of Osaka and its most popular tourist destination. The main keep (donjon) has been fully restored and offers impressive views of Osaka. The castle is located in Osaka Castle Park. The best way to enter the castle grounds is through the Otemon Gate at the park’s south-western corner.
The best time to visit the castle and park is in the spring when they are simply stunning surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms. It is rated one of the best cherry blossom spots in Japan with over 600 cherry trees surrounding the iconic castle, and about 4,000 cherry trees in the park. The castle keep along with the moat make a splendid backdrop for the beautiful cherry blossoms.
Photo : Jorge from Brazil on FlickrThere are many places in Osaka Castle Park to put down your plastic sheet and enjoy a hanami party (cherry blossom viewing party). The castle grounds are also covered with food vendors selling all kinds of delicious Japanese festival food as well as taiko drummers. The atmosphere is festive with everyone enjoying a relaxing time under the cherry blossoms.
One of the most popular hanami spots is the grounds of Nishinomaru Garden, where you can enjoy many different varieties of cherry blossoms. The wide lawn garden is home to about 600 cherry trees as well as a tea house and is located in the castle’s western citadel. Entry to the garden is ¥200 during the day and ¥500 during the extended hours of the cherry blossom season.
Photo : jpellgen on FlickrYou can also enjoy the cherry blossoms illuminated at night with Osaka Castle as a grandiose backdrop. The Osaka-jo Yozakura Illuminage Event at the Nishinomaru Garden is on from March 25 to April 13 from 6 pm to 10 pm.
Photo : idua_japan on FlickrThis year the cherry blossoms will start opening around March 25 in Osaka and are due to hit their peak in early April.
Osaka Castle is a place full of history and beauty and is a must see destination this spring in Japan.
Address: 1-1 Osaka-jo, Chuo-ku, Osaka City 540-0002
Admission: Free to the Castle Grounds, ¥600 to enter the Castle Keep, ¥200 for the Nishinomaru Garden (¥500 during the extended hours of the cherry blossom season)
Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (until 7:00 pm in August)
Closed: December 28 to January 1
Take a JR Loop Line train to Osaka-jo Koen Station. The journey takes around 10 minutes and costs 160 yen from JR Osaka Station.