Thursday, January 21, 2010

Osaka Castle

As I wrote in the previous post, after visiting my hubby’s father and other relatives In Ichinomiya city on New Years’ Day, hubby and I went to Osaka to do a bit of sightseeing. On 1st January, we reached Shin-Osaka railway station at about 10.30 pm and stayed at a hotel near the railway station. The next morning at about 9 am we left the hotel and went to see Osaka Castle. From Shin-Osaka railway station, we took Osaka city subway Midosuji line train up to Osaka, and then JR Osaka loop line to go to Osakajokoen railway station. From Osakajokoen station, we walked for about fifteen minutes to reach Osaka Castle.
Shin-Osaka railway station

Osaka Castle is one of the most famous landmarks of Osaka. The construction of Osaka Castle started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the castle which became the center of a new unified Japan under his rule. The castle had five-storied main tower with three extra stories underground. It was the largest castle at the time. The construction was completed in 1598. After a few years of Hideyoshi's death, troops of Tokugawa Ieyasu attacked and destroyed the castle and Toyotomi lineage perished in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightning in 1665 and burnt down. The present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the main castle tower was started by the Mayor of Osaka in 1928 and the restoration was completed in 1931. During the World War II the castle tower miraculously survived the city wide air raids. Major repair works were carried out and the main castle tower was finally restored to its Edo-era splendor in 1997. The castle tower is now entirely modern on the inside and has an elevator for easier accessibility. It houses a museum about the history of the castle and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The castle tower is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, impressive stone walls, and moats.

As hubby and I neared Osaka Castle premises, we saw an outer water-filled moat to the east of the outer bailey of Osaka Castle. During the reconstruction of the castle by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1620, protective stone walls were constructed in the site where a moat of Osaka Castle had been located in the Toyotomi period. The present outer moat and the huge stone walls surrounding the castle area are really impressive. We saw a cute cat on the stone walls and hubby was rather worried about the cat. However, we were amazed to see the cat move swiftly and come down the huge wall!
Outer water-filled moat of Osaka Castle

Another view of the outer moat of Osaka Castle

1) Outer moat and stone walls, 2) Closer view of stone wall, and 3) Cat on the stone wall

As we walked further, we saw a wonderful decoration of flowers in the shape of a tiger, which is the zodiac animal of the year 2010. Soon we reached a huge gate named Aoyamon gate of the castle premises. This gate was built in 1620 and was critical in guarding the northeast of the castle in emergency. It was destroyed in 1945 during the World War II and was reconstructed in 1970. Although this is not the main or front gate, it is the closest castle gate to Osakajokoen station.
Flower decoration in the shape of a tiger

Aoyamon gate

Inside view of Aoyamon gate

The main tower of the castle could be seen on entering Aoyamon gate. After crossing this gate, we saw a water-filled inner moat surrounding the main castle tower. We walked for a few minutes on a road adjacent to the inner moat and reached a bridge named Gokurakubashi Bridge, which is used to cross the inner moat. The name of this bridge means Paradise Bridge. The bridge was originally made of wood and connects Yamazatomaru citadel and Ninomaru citadel. It was built in 1626, and was burnt down in 1868 during the civil war. It was rebuilt as a ferro-concrete bridge in 1965.
Main castle tower as viewed from Aoyamon gate

Inner water-filled moat

Another view of inner moat

Me standing in front of Gokurakubashi Bridge

Hubby standing on the bridge

Main castle tower and Gokurakubashi Bridge

After crossing the bridge, we started climbing the staircases leading to the main tower. Although these staircases were not that high but it was tiring to climb them. While climbing the staircase, at one point, we got a wonderful view of the main tower of the castle. The tiled roof of the main tower looked beautiful, and the ridges of the roof culminated in cornices depicting golden shachihoko. A shachihoko is an animal in Japanese folklore with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp fish, and castles were usually adorned with roof ornaments crafted in the form of a shachihoko. The extensive black facings beneath the uppermost roof bear an array of nature-inspired designs done in gold.
Me climbing the staircase

Main castle tower as viewed while climbing the staircase

Intricate details of the main tower

After about ten minutes of climbing the staircase, we reached the forecourt of the main castle tower. The main tower looked magnificent. The exterior walls of the tower are gleaming white and bright gold ornaments shine in the sun. The main castle tower called tenshukaku (donjon) was built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which served as a treasury, an armory, and an observatory until it was burned down in 1615 civil war. Tokugawa Shogunate rebuilt it in 1626 but it was destroyed by lightening in 1665. The existing structure was built in 1931 and the interior serves as a historical museum. We took several photos of the main castle tower from various angles for the sake of memory.
Main castle tower donjon as viewed from the forecourt

Me in front of the castle donjon

Castle donjon from another angle

Detailed view of the roofs of the five floors of castle donjon

Me standing in front of a board depicting the zodiac animal tiger of 2010

We bought tickets worth 600 Yen per person for a tour of the museum located inside the castle tower. We climbed a few stairs to reach the entrance of the tower. In between the flight of stairs, there is a well named Kinmeisui Well with a roof. The surface of the water in this well is at a depth of about 33 meters. The well is lined with stone. Originally called Ogonsui (golden water) Well, it was the most important castle well. The well was dug in 1624 and its roof was constructed in 1626.
Kinmeisui Well and its roof

Kinmeisui Well

After climbing one more flight of stairs, we reached the entrance of the main tower. The main tower entrance was flanked on one side by the famous ‘marker gun’, a cannon from the Tokugawa era that was fired every day to signal the noon hour.
Entrance of the main tower

Cannon at the entrance the main tower

The entrance to the main tower leads to the ground floor of the eight-story museum that now occupies this central location in Osaka Castle. The first floor contains a small movie theater, a gift shop, and information area. The second floor contains many display panels explaining the facts and figures about Osaka Castle. There are also full scale replicas of shachihoko and fusetora (crouching tiger watching a game) currently in use in the main tower. I tried on a replica of Toyotomi Hideyoshi era helmet and a surcoat, and had my photograph taken in front of the shachihoko and fusetora. It was really fun.
Framed painting of Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the second floor

Me standing in front of replicas of shachihoko and fusetora

Me wearing a replica of Toyotomi Hideyoshi era helmet and surcoat

The third and fourth floors are dedicated to the artifacts and records of Toyotomi Hideyoshi era. It has models of the complete view of Osaka Castle on a scale of 1 to 350 in the Toyotomi period as well as Tokugawa period. Various kinds of folding screens illustrating wars in Osaka in Toyotomi and Tokugawa era are also on display. I liked a folding screen illustrating the Summer War of Osaka. It is said that Nagamasa Kuroda, a feudal lord of the Fukuoka clan ordered the screen made shortly after the end of the war. In addition, various kinds of armors are also displayed. There was an interesting armor with makie-lacquered cuirass bearing the design of the sun, the moon, and the dragon, which is said to have been used by Matabee Goto who was a chief retainer of Yoshitaka Kuroda, a strategist of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and who also worked for his son Nagamasa.
Model of Osaka Castle in the Tokugawa period

Folding screen illustrating the Summer War of Osaka

Armor with makie-lacquered cuirass

The fifth and sixth floors focus on the Summer War of Osaka. There are many folding screens depicting the war. There is also a panoramic vision where the famous scenes of the folding screens of the Summer War are presented in a movie form. I compiled a short video of the movie.

A compiled video of the famous scenes of folding screens illustrating the Summer War of Osaka. Please increase the sound volume.

The seventh floor focuses upon the history of Osaka Castle and its environs during the reign of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. There is a large screen panel that traces the lineage of the shogun and his family. Hubby read the information about the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi with great interest.
A portion of a huge scroll depicting the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Rest of the scroll

Hubby reading about the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

The topmost eighth floor of the museum contains an outdoor observation deck. We saw shachihoko from a very close range and from various angles. We also got a magnificent panoramic view of Osaka city from the observation deck. After enjoying the views for about ten minutes, we came down the stairs and bought some souvenirs from a shop located in the first floor of the castle tower.

Another view of shachihoko

Hubby standing at the outdoor observation deck of the topmost floor of the castle tower

Me standing at the observation deck

After coming out of the castle tower we took rest for some time at the forecourt. There were a few stand-in life size cardboard cutout of woman in kimono with the main castle tower in the background. I posed and put my face through the hole in the cutout and hubby took a photo of me. Later we enjoyed a beautiful performance by a street performer in the ground of castle premises. I compiled a video of this performance.
Hubby taking rest

Me in a kimono

A compiled video of funny performance by a street performer at the castle grounds (please increase the sound volume)

At about 12 noon, we left Osaka Castle and then visited Dotonbori and Tsutenkaku Tower about which I will write in the next post.


nupur said...

It is always great to know about a country..its customs..and the places of worth-visiting.
Thanks Manisha for helping us to know so many things in your blogs..
keep it up .

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Nupur for your comment. Yeah, I try to write little bit about the history of various places that hubby and I visit.
Please keep visiting my blog and reading the posts :)