10 Pieces of Trivia About Osaka Castle to Learn Before Visiting!
Osaka Castle is one of the preeminent tourist spots in Osaka. For centuries, this castle has been the stage for many notable historical events, but there are many facts about it that not even Japanese people know. Here is some of that trivia so that you can prepare yourself before going to visit Osaka castle!
What Exactly Are Osaka Castle and Osaka Castle Park?
Osaka Castle is one of Japan's top three castles, and this tourist spot boasts many attractions, from its tenshukaku (castle tower), the symbol of Osaka, to its beautiful stone walls that stand 30m high. Nearby, Osaka Castle Park spreads over a total of 1,056,000 sq.m., and is popular for the seasonal displays of its cherry and plum trees. Miraiza Osaka-jo, a collection of shops, cafes, and restaurants, is located in the park so that visitors can dine and shop during their visit. There are also many stations in the vicinity, such as JR Osakajokoen Station and Tanimachi 4-chome Station, on the Osaka Metro Tanimachi Line. The park is a 15 - 20 minute walk from any of these stations. Price of Admission for Tenshukaku: Adults 600 JPY, Middle school students and younger free.
When Was the Current Osaka Castle Built?
Osaka Castle was built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536 - 1598), the shogun (military leader) who unified the country. This magnificent, massive castle represented Hideyoshi's authority, but it burnt down in the civil war of 1615, during the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Osaka. It was then rebuilt during the Tokugawa Bakufu (reign of the Tokugawa clan) (1603 - 1867). The remaining constructions such as tamon-yagura (turrets) are products of this era. This rebuilt castle lost its tenshukaku in 1665 due to a lightning strike, and then most of the castle's structures burnt down in 1868 due to another fire. The area was used for military operations for a while, but due to the strong wishes of the people of Osaka, the current tenshukaku was completed in 1931. Restoration and rebuilding continued after that, resulting in today's vast historical park.
The Castle, Built on the Remains of a Temple, Is Popular for Its Impressive Atmosphere!
The area where Osaka Castle is located has long been highly valued, and history has left its mark here time and again. This spot is particularly famous as the location of Ishiyama Honganji Temple, a temple which resisted the vicious assaults of shogun Oda Nobunaga (1534 - 1582) for 11 years. Osaka Castle is in fact located on the site of this temple. One theory holds that this location was chosen due to its good feng shui (the art of reading the energies of the earth), and even today, Osaka Castle is said to be a spot imbued with a great energy. Attractions inside the castle grounds such as Hokoku Shrine, thought to bring prosperity, make this a popular area for its supposed spiritual powers.
This Magnificent Castle Was Originally Black and Bedecked with Gold
Generally, it is said that tenshukaku built during the reign of Toyotomi were black, while tenshukaku built in the time of the Tokugawa Bakufu were white. The walls of Osaka Castle's current tenshukaku are white, but the walls built under Hideyoshi were, in fact, painted black. A great sum of money was also spent on things like roof tiles, resulting in a magnificent structure that was referred to as "Sangokumuso" - a creation comparable to nothing else in the world. Furthermore, the interior of the tenshukaku was filled with decorations of gold and silver, and piles of treasure lay in heaps on each floor of the structure.
Once, There Was a Large Town Within the Castle Walls
The honmaru (central castle area) and ninomaru (second-most important area) today are structured almost the same as they were when originally built, but there would also have been a sogamae (an area of moats, walls, and earthworks) surrounding the whole castle and town and covering some 2km in each direction. The sannomaru (third area) was built inside the sogamae and contained the quarters of the daimyo (feudal lord) and warriors. It is believed that the foundations of Osaka's streets are based on this working class area at the foot of the castle.
There Are Walls Buried Underground
Osaka Castle boasts the largest castle walls in Japan. However, they are all creations from the time of the Tokugawa reconstruction on. When this new castle was built, it was intended to hide the castle built in the Toyotomi era, and the walls of Hideyoshi's castle were buried deep underground. As of now, walls have been discovered in two locations, and they have been ascertained to be in extremely good condition. While a project is underway to unearth and display these walls publicly once more, they currently cannot be viewed - but who knows what the future holds!
Today's Osaka Castle Is Made of Steel-Reinforced Concrete
The tenshukaku was originally constructed using wood, but the current structure is concrete reinforced with steel. In 1931, the pride and joy of the people of Osaka was restored using the latest construction methods available at the time to ensure that this would be a lasting monument. Three of the tenshukaku constructed since the Tokugawa era were completed, and large-scale restorative construction was once again undertaken from 1995 to 1997. In addition to restoring the golden furnishings and shachi (animal-shaped roof decorations), an elevator was also installed, breathing life into old features while also incorporating new ones.
The Mysterious Tunnels and Holes of Osaka Castle
There are a large number tunnels and holes in and around Osaka Castle. For example, in the space around the Sakura-mon (Cherry Gate), there is a grouping of stones forming a tunnel that connects the two walls. According to ancient texts, there were apparently secret underground passageways connecting to the honmaru, and it is wondered if this stone grouping might be one of them. Furthermore, a spot referred to as "Sanada's Escape Tunnel" is located inside Sanko Shrine, located 1.5km south of Osaka Castle Park. It is said that this is the remains of one of the underground passageways connecting to Osaka Castle, built by the famous shogun Sanada Yukimura (1567 - 1615). Yet another hole is located in the wall facing the outer moat on the southern side of the castle - a hidden attraction whose purpose and creator are both unknown.
There May Be Gold at the Bottom of This Well
The Kimmeisui Well is located in the small keep area inside the tenshukaku. There is a legend surrounding this well, originally called the Ougon-sui (golden water), that says there is gold buried here. This tale stems from ancient times and tells of Hideyoshi burying gold in order to purify the water. The Toyotomi clan united the country and amassed great wealth, and there are many legends surrounding this massive hoard of gold and silver. Tales abound of a tremendous treasure worth some 2 trillion yen that even now lies buried somewhere in Japan.
The Giant Named Stones of Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle's walls were built with countless massive stones such as the "Takoishi," located at the main face of the Sakura-mon. With a height of 5.5m, a width of 11.7m, and an area of 60 sq.m., this stone is the largest in the castle. One notable feature is the bottom left area, which, when viewed from the front, resembles an octopus. The "Higoishi," located at the Kyobashi-guchi, is the second-largest stone, and there are many other huge stones bearing names as well, such as the "Toraishi" and "Tatsuishi," which flank the Sakura-mon. These are all known as one of the attractions at Osaka Castle.
You Can Also Ride a Boat at the Castle?
Visitors at Osaka Castle's broad grounds do not have to content themselves with simply walking, as sightseeing boats are also available! These "Osaka Castle Gozabune," dazzling Japanese boats plated with gold leaf, circle the inner moat of the castle in around 20 minutes. Viewing the high walls and grand tenshukaku from close-up on the water is a truly impressive sight! This ride is especially popular during cherry blossom season in spring and when the leaves turn in fall. Tickets sell out during these crowded times, so buying them early on is highly recommended. Tickets are sold at the north side of the tenshukaku and the west side of Gokurakubashi. Price: Adults (16 and above) 1,500 JPY, Seniors (65 and above) 1,000 JPY, Children (Elementary and Middle school students) 750 JPY
Ready to visit the castle? Keep all of this trivia in mind and you are sure to really get your money's worth when visiting Osaka Castle!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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