Osaka Castle is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and is among the top castles in Japan. Additionally, the park is a prime cherry blossom viewing spot during the spring. Originally built during the 16th century, the castle, as it stands today, is a concrete reconstruction of the original structure that was completed during the 1930s. It’s easy to spend a day exploring Osaka Castle and its surroundings. The expansive park area features seasonal festivals and special events. Also there is even more to do at the Osaka Museum of History and dining and entertainment complexes such as Jo-Terrace and Miraiza. With this ultimate Osaka Castle travel guide, you can make the most of your time in Osaka.
A Brief History of Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle has a long and turbulent past, often featuring as a battleground in major Japanese wars throughout the country’s history. Construction of the castle began in 1583 under the orders of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a feudal lord who played an essential role in the unification of Japan.
Upon its completion, Osaka Castle captivated the people who regarded it as the greatest castle in Japan. The magnificent structure’s elaborate gold ornamentation and shachihoko figurines, a mythical animal with a tiger head and the body of a fish certainly impressed. Following Toyotomi’s death, the castle was destroyed by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1615 during the Summer War of Osaka.
After the castle’s destruction, it underwent reconstruction from 1620 to 1629. At that time it remained under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate until 1868. Unfortunately, disaster struck Osaka Castle once more in 1665 when the main tower was hit by lightning. The devastating strike caused a fire that destroyed the castle.
Another battle also broke out in 1868 between the New Government Army and Tokugawa Shogunate Army. Once again, the castle caught fire and turned to ashes. After the Tokugawa shogun fled the castle, the site was requisitioned by the Meiji government, which brought Japan into the modern era.
The castle’s main tower finally rose again in 1931. This third tower is the one that remains today. Some additional damage was caused to other structures and turrets within the castle grounds during World War II. However, it was restored once again. Osaka Castle was recognized as a special historic site by the Japanese government during the 1950s.
Osaka Castle Museum Guide
Today Osaka Castle is home to a museum and observation deck detailing the castle’s history. The reception desk on the 1st floor of the castle has audio guides available to rent in English. It is also home to the museum gift shop and a movie theater showing short films about the castle (English subtitles are available). Recommended souvenirs to purchase at the gift shop include individually wrapped Osaka Castle-shaped sponge cakes, mochi, or cheesecake.
The second floor of the castle is home to a collection of display panels with facts about the castle, and there is also a popular experience area where visitors can try on a samurai helmet and battle armor. On the 3rd and 4th floors, there is an array of artifacts from the Toyotomi period, along with a replica golden tearoom.
The 5th to 7th floors of Osaka Castle are home to painted screens depicting the Osaka Summer Wars. There are also displays containing historical information about Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The eighth floor is where visitors can find the observation deck, which provides panoramic views of the city.
Osaka Castle & Park Itinerary
Start the day at Osaka Castle. Discover the exhibitions in the castle museum and be sure to take in the views from the 8th-floor observation deck. After you have finished exploring the main castle keep, walk around the surrounding park area. Many seasonal events take place in Osaka Castle Park throughout the year, such as the cherry blossom festival, free concerts, and winter illuminations.
Explore the old buildings around the castle to include the stone walls, monuments, turrets, and towers. If you have time, pay a visit to the Hokoku Shrine, a Shinto shrine built during the 1800s to honor Hideyoshi Toyotomi, before stopping for lunch.
Osaka Castle Jo-Terrace Complex
The Jo-Terrace complex near Osaka Castle is a contemporary dining and shopping complex that has a wide range of food outlets to choose from, including Japanese dishes such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki in addition to Italian, French, and Korean restaurants. There is also a branch of the famous Gram restaurant at Jo-Terrace, known throughout Japan for its thick jiggly pancakes.
More Attractions Around Osaka Castle Park
Other experiences you can try in Osaka Castle Park include a traditional tea ceremony at the Landmark Square Osaka restaurant or a visit to the Illusion Museum with its interactive displays and scheduled magic shows. Both of these attractions operate inside the Miraiza entertainment complex, a unique site housed in a former police headquarters. Visitors to Miraiza can also participate in a samurai fighting experience where you can learn the fighting styles of ancient Japanese warriors.
The Osaka Museum of History is also close to Osaka Castle and traces the city’s history through its exhibits to include model reconstructions, photographs, and movies. The one-hour self-guided tour takes in most of the museum’s highlights, and there is also the opportunity to try on vintage kimonos. Finish your time in the Osaka Castle area by boarding the Aqua-Liner water bus from Osakajo Pier and enjoy the city views from the Okawa River.
Essential Information for Osaka Castle
Admission to Osaka Castle costs 600 yen per adult, and children under the age of 15 are admitted free of charge. The castle is open from 9 am until 5 pm daily, with the last admissions at 4.30 pm. Tickets can be purchased either on-site or in advance through the official Osaka Castle website.
How to get to Osaka Castle
From JR Osaka Station, take the Osaka Loop Line four stops in a clockwise direction. The journey time is approximately ten minutes. Depart the train at Osakajokouen Station and walk through the park to access the castle.
You can also access Osaka Castle from the other side of the park via Morinomiya Station on the Chuo Metro Line, which serves stations such as Kujo Station (near the baseball stadium) and Osakako Station (near the Tempozan Ferris Wheel and Osaka Aquarium).
Tanja has spent more than three years exploring Japan, from the mountains of Hokkaido to the beaches of Kyushu. As a full-time travel writer, she loves to explore off the beaten path places, and her favourite part of Japan is Shikoku where she lived for two years. When in Tokyo, you can often find her checking out the latest cafes.
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