The Magnificent Osaka Castle, Osaka
Mega. Massive. Monumental.
All the superlatives starting with “M” came out of my mouth as soon as we fully realized the vastness of Osaka Castle, not just the tower but the fortification itself.
After a fun night out in Dotonbori, we changed course for a bit of a history lesson by taking a quick trip across town to see one of Osaka’s most famous preserved landmark. Osaka-jo traces its history all the way back to 1583 when it was first constructed under the auspices of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a feudal lord hailed as Japan’s second “great unifier.”
Throughout the centuries, the castle was captured twice, burnt down in as many times and became one of the largest military armories during World War II. The final restoration was completed in 1997 in its current concrete form, complete with elevator and museum.
Enter The Ote-Mon
We were at the southwestern part of the park looking for the five-storey tower and all we could see was a huge outer moat with a mini tower (later we learned it was the Rokuban-yagura Turret) steadfastly guarding one side of the fort. We turned left and walked towards what looked like a bridge and chanced upon a pretty detailed map of Osaka Castle Park.
Turns out we were standing right in front of Ote-Mon Gate, the humble main entrance that could barely fit in a truck. It’s a subtle reminder that Osaka Castle was all about maintaining itself as a stronghold – the small passageway makes it tough for enemies to storm the palace.
Sticks And Stones
Beyond the gate is a Ote-Guchi-Masugata, one of the Masugata Squares which acts as another layer of protection from any intrusions of enemies. The masterpiece of these squares are the huge stones placed behind the gates – the rock behind Ote-Mon Gate is the fourth largest throughout the castle, with a surface area of 47.98 m2 .
I had the time to closely examine the stones while the little one was busy playing with a bunch of flower boxes in the middle of the square. Most of the stones were part of the original structure, meaning it was built in the 1600’s and is recognized by the government as part of the 13 Important Cultural Properties of the castle.
Behold The Tower
We followed the only pathway that would lead us to the main tower and it took us a solid 10 minutes to the reach another moat (!), this time a deep dry moat that would be the castle’s last line of defense. There were more twist and turns after we crossed the second bridge before the suffocating walls left and right of us opened up to a huge park.
There it was, Osaka-jo‘s most iconic symbol – the five-storey tower of white and green decorated with gold leafs glowing under the cloudless spring sky. The tower now is turned into a museum and an observation deck but we decided skip it due to the huge crowds of tourists and school children visiting that day.
We decide to hang out at a park bench and partake in some people watching while our little explorer scampered around in between indulging in his daily intake of matcha ice-cream.
I’ve always had the impression that Osaka Castle was all about the grandeur of the tower but its magnificence actually lies in the whole complex of gigantic stone walls, deep man-made moats and strategically-placed turrets. In fact, the tower was only visible once we passed reached the inner sanctum of the castle grounds.
In a desert of glass and steel, Osaka Castle is an oasis of marvelous architectural impregnability.
- Osaka Castle vastness means it is highly accessible from many sides. If you’re from Dotonbori, get on the Tanimachi Line and alight at Tanimachi-4-chome Station. It is a 15 minute walk to Ote-Mon Gate.
- The park is open to the public for free daily. However, adults have to pay a ¥600 entrance fee to the museum and tower.
- We hopped on a shuttle (¥200 adults, kids 3 years below free) on our way back. The electric car runs from the Sakuramon Gate at the inner moat to Baba Cho Station at the southwestern corner of the park.