Osaka Castle in Morning

© Jackyenjoyphotography


Top choice in Osaka

After unifying Japan in the late 16th century, General Toyotomi Hideyoshi built this castle (1583) as a display of power, using, it's said, the labour of 100,000 workers. Although the present structure is a 1931 concrete reconstruction (refurbished in 1997), it's nonetheless quite a sight, looming dramatically over the surrounding park and moat. Inside is an excellent collection of art, armour, and day-to-day implements related to the castle, Hideyoshi and Osaka. An 8th-floor observation deck has 360-degree views.

Hideyoshi's original granite structure was said to be impregnable, yet it was destroyed in 1614 by the armies of Tokugawa Ieyasu (the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate). Ieyasu had the castle rebuilt – using the latest advancements to create terrifically imposing walls of enormous stones. The largest stones are estimated to weigh over a 100 tonnes; some are engraved with the crests of feudal lords.

Thirteen structures, including several turrets, remain from this 17th-century reconstruction. Osaka citizens raised money themselves to rebuild the main keep; in 1931 the new tower was revealed, with glittering gold-leaf tigers stalking the eaves.

At night the castle is lit with floodlights (and looks like a ghostly structure hovering above ground). Visit the lawns on a warm weekend and you might catch local musicians staging casual shows. The castle and park are at their colourful best (and most crowded) in the cherry-blossom and autumn-foliage seasons.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Osaka attractions

1. Osaka Museum of History

0.43 MILES

Built above the ruins of Naniwa Palace (c 650), visible through the ground floor, this museum tells Osaka's story from the era of this early palace to the…

2. Naka-no-shima-kōen

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Osaka's first public park, created in 1891 at the eastern end of Naka-no-shima, is a good place for an afternoon stroll or picnic lunch.

3. Osaka Tenman-gū

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Founded in the 10th century, this shrine is where Osaka students come to pray for success: it's dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, also known as Tenjin-san,…

4. Karahori Shōtengai

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This classic shopping arcade wends along the path of an old moat (from an earlier, larger incarnation of Osaka-jō), long since filled in. The arcade…

5. Museum of Oriental Ceramics

1.22 MILES

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6. Tenjinbashi-suji Shōtengai

1.29 MILES

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8. Osaka City Hall

1.42 MILES

A mid-1980s building incorporating some elements from the 1921 City Hall.