Saturday, 19 April 2008

Day 10 Part 1 - Osaka Castle (大阪城)

Osaka Castle is located in a 106 hectare park appropriately called "Osaka Castle Park" (大阪城公園). It is a powerful symbol and landmark of Osaka, since it played a prominent part in history as the site where the unification of Japan into shogunate control was realised, and has featured in countless historical dramas (as well as the TV dramatization of James Clavell's novel Shogun).

Sadly, the present day building calling itself the Osaka Castle Main Tower is a complete "fake" - it's actually a modern building constructed using modern construction techniques in 1935 (there's even an elevator inside). The original main tower built for Hideyoshi Toyotomi was of course destroyed in the decisive Summer Battle of Osaka which transferred control to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who then ordered it reconstructed. However, that building was subsequently struck by lightning and destroyed by fire about 36 years later. Then another reconstruction survived till the 19th century when it was destroyed by the Meiji New Government troops.

Despite that though, the building does look grand from the outside, and operates as a museum inside.

Here's a scale model of Osaka Castle as it would have existed originally:

And this is a scale model of how it looks today:

We arrived at Osaka Castle Park via the JR train to the appropriately named Osaka Castle station (大阪城駅):

We had to cross over a pedestrian bridge to get to the castle park gounds - Views from the pedestrian bridge:

Map of Osaka Castle Park:

Bicycles parked outside the public toilet:

We took the "Osaka Castle Park Tram" or "road train" to get to the castle main gate.

The outer moat:

The "dry" moat:

Osaka Castle was probably the most heavily fortified castle in the 16th century due to it's strategic importance - up to a million granite stones were used to construct the stone walls, which extend 12 km:

The Aoya gate:

The inner moat:

Gokuraku bridge (極楽橋) with the castle main tower in the background:

Views from the bridge:

Entering the inner castle grounds:

The majestic main tower:

Unfortunately, the external elevator (for disabled access into the tower) kind of 'spoils' the historical look:

Some people posing for photos:

The impressive building is the former headquarters of the 4th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army:

You can buy Gotochi Kitties featuring various Osaka landmarks:

A small pond and Japanese garden:

A takoyaki stall:

Very cute kids in samurai costumes:

The Kinmeisui well (金明水井戸屋形), which dates back to the 17th century:

There is an observation deck on the top floor, which provides a panoramic view of Osaka. This is the view to the north:

The roof tile with the statue of the golden fish is called shachi-gawara (鯱瓦) - there's a pair of these mounted on the roof - the present ones are recreations of the ones on the original main tower, cast in bronze and covered in gold leaf:

This is the view towards the west - the house on the extreme right the the former Osaka Government Guest House (大阪迎賓館):

And a close up of the Umeda area:

This is the view to the south, featuring a bird's eye view of the castle main grounds:

The southern shachi-gawara and the former headquarters of the 4th Division Imperial Japanese army:

The Osaka Museum of Natural History and the NHK station:

The east view featuring Osaka Castle hall and the baseball pitch:

Level 7 is a set of miniature dioramas featuring the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the founder of Osaka Castle:

Level 6 contains a gigantic folding screen featuring the events of the Summer War in Osaka:

A gigantic plasma display showing zoom-ins in the detail of the folding screen:

And a miniature set of model figures featured in the battle:

The ground floor feature replica models of the fusetora and the sachi-gawara:

As well as samurai costumes that you can hire and get someone to take photos of yourself:

Outside the castle main tower, we saw a man juggling fire sticks:

A stone garden:

A cute dog:

We took one last look at the magnificent main tower:

Some wild cats in the dry moat:

On the way to Osaka Castle Hall, we passed by a group of boys playing handball:

Passing through Osaka Castle Hall:

An open area featuring a fountain, some stores:

Gotochi Kitty Osaka Castle edition:

Map of Osaka Castle:

View Larger Map

Full album on Picasa:
[2008-04-19] Japan - Osaka Castle

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