Τρίτη 13 Φεβρουαρίου 2024

Osaka Castle, Japan

The construction of Osaka Castle (大阪城, Ōsakajō) started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. It was the largest castle at the time.

However, a few years after Hideyoshi's death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down.
It was not until 1931 that the present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built. During the war it miraculously survived the city-wide air raids. Major repair works gave the castle new glamor in 1997. The castle tower is now entirely modern on the inside and even features an elevator for easier accessibility. It houses an informative museum about the castle's history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The castle tower is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, impressive stone walls and moats. The Nishinomaru Garden, encompassing the former "western citadel", is a lawn garden with 600 cherry trees, a tea house, the former Osaka Guest House and nice views of the castle tower from below. Unlike most of the rest of the castle grounds, the garden requires an admission fee.

The entire Osaka Castle Park covers about two square kilometers with lots of green space, sport facilities, a multi-purpose arena (Osakajo Hall) and a shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The park is one of Osaka's most popular hanami spots during the cherry blossom season, which usually takes place in early April.
The main keep of Osaka Castle is situated on a plot of land roughly one square kilometre. It is built on two raised platforms of landfill supported by sheer walls of cut rock, using a technique called burdock piling, each overlooking a moat. The keep is five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside and built atop a tall stone foundation to protect its occupants from attackers.

The main keep is surrounded by a series of moats and defensive fortifications. The castle has two moats (an inner & outer). The inner castle moat lies within the castle grounds and consists of two types: a wet (northern-easterly) and dry (south-westerly). The outer moat meanwhile surrounds the entire castle premise, denotes the castle's outer limits, and consists of four individual water-filled sections, each representing a cardinal direction (North, East, South, West).

The castle grounds, which cover approximately 61,000 square metres (15 acres), contain the following thirteen structures that were denoted as "important cultural assets" by the Japanese government:

Ote-mon Gate
Sakura-mon Gate
Ichiban-yagura Turret
Inui-yagura Turret
Rokuban-yagura Turret
Sengan Turret
Tamon Turret
Kinmeisui Well
Kinzo Storehouse
Enshogura Gunpowder Magazine
Three sections of castle wall all located around Otemon Gate
Megaliths at the castle include the Octopus stone.
The outer moat has two main sentry checkpoints: the Aoyamon Gate (in the north-east) and the Otemon Gate (in the opposing south-west).

Between the outer and inner moat are the following: Fushimi-yagura Turret Remains, Ensho-gura Gunpowder Storehouse, Osaka Geihinkan, Hoshoan Tea House, Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden, Sengan-yagura Turret, Tamon-yagura Turret, Remains of Taiko-yagura Turret, Osaka Shudokan Martial Arts Hall, Hokoku Shrine (Osaka), Ichiban-yagura Turret (The first turret), and Plum Grove.

There are two places to cross the inner moat, Gokuraku-bashi Bridge (located in the North) and Sakuramon Gate (main sentry point in the South).

Within the inner moat, the castle was divided into two major areas: the Hommaru (Inner Bailey) and the Yamazato-Maru Bailey. Located within the Hommaru is the Main Tower, the Kimmeisui Well, the Japanese Garden, the Takoishi (Octopus Stone), the Gimmeisui Well, the Miraiza Osakajo Complex, the Kinzo Treasure House, and the "Timecapsule Expo'70". While within the Yamazato-Maru Bailey consists of the Marked-Stones Square, and the Monument commemorating 'Hideyori and Yodo-dono committing suicide.
History
In 1583 Toyotomi Hideyoshi commenced construction on the site of the Ikkō-ikki temple of Ishiyama Hongan-ji. The basic plan was modeled after Azuchi Castle, the headquarters of Oda Nobunaga. Hideyoshi wanted to build a castle that mirrored Nobunaga's but surpassed it in every way: the plan featured a five-story main tower, with three extra stories underground, and gold leaf on the sides of the tower to impress visitors. In 1585 the Inner donjon was completed. Hideyoshi continued to extend and expand the castle, making it more and more formidable to attackers. In 1597 construction was completed and Hideyoshi died the year after. Osaka Castle passed to his son, Toyotomi Hideyori.

In 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated his opponents at the Battle of Sekigahara and started his own bakufu (i.e., shogunate) in Edo. In 1614 Tokugawa attacked Hideyori in the winter, starting the Siege of Osaka. Although the Toyotomi forces were outnumbered approximately two to one, they managed to fight off Tokugawa's 200,000-man army and protect the castle's outer walls. Ieyasu had the castle's outer moat filled, negating one of the castle's main outer defenses.

During the summer of 1615, Hideyori began to restore the outer moat. Ieyasu, in outrage, sent his armies to Osaka Castle again, and routed the Toyotomi men inside the outer walls on June 4.

Osaka Castle fell to the Tokugawa clan, the Toyotomi clan perished, Hideyori and Yodo-dono committed seppuku and the castle buildings burned to the ground.

In 1620, the new heir to the shogunate, Tokugawa Hidetada, began to reconstruct and re-arm Osaka Castle. He completely buried the Toyotomi version of the castle with the new castle.  He assigned the task of constructing new walls to individual samurai clans. The walls built in the 1620s still stand today and are made out of interlocked granite boulders without mortar. Many of the stones were brought from rock quarries near the Seto Inland Sea and bear inscribed crests of the various families who contributed them.
Tokugawa also built a new elevated main tower, five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside. Construction of the tenshu started in 1628 and was completed 2 years later, about the same time the rest of the reconstruction, and followed the general layout of the original Toyotomi structure.  However, it was built in a different part of the Honmaru (main bailey), as the base of the Toyotomi keep had actually been buried by the new Tokugawa version of the castle. 

In 1660, lightning ignited the gunpowder warehouse and the resulting explosion set the castle on fire. In 1665, lightning struck and burnt down the tenshu. 
Kajisuke Nakama was one of the hatamoto guards that protected Osaka Castle. On 15 May 1740, when he was 25-year-old, he stole 4,000 ryo of gold inside. However, the crime was soon discovered by the shogunate, so he was arrested and confessed. Although he was a samurai, he was dragged around the city and sentenced to crucifixion in September. Later, this incident became a legend and the contents changed, so it is said that he was a thief who wanted the gold that Toyotomi Hideyoshi had dropped in the Kinmeisui Well.

In 1843, after decades of neglect, the castle got much-needed repairs when the bakufu collected money from the people of the region to rebuild several of the turrets.
In 1868, Osaka Castle fell and was surrendered to anti-bakufu imperial loyalists. A number of the castle buildings were burned in the civil conflicts surrounding the Meiji Restoration. The Honmaru Palace was lost during the Boshin War. In its place the Kishū Palace (紀州御殿 Kishū Goten) was moved here from Wakayama Castle to serve as an imperial state guest house, named later Tenrinkaku.
Under the Meiji government, Osaka Castle became part of the Osaka Army Arsenal (Osaka Hohei Kosho) manufacturing guns, ammunition, and explosives for Japan's rapidly expanding Western-style military.

In 1931, the ferroconcrete tenshu was built.

During World War II, the arsenal became one of the largest military armories, employing 60,000 workers. American bombing raids targeting the arsenal damaged the reconstructed main keep and, on August 14, 1945, destroyed 90% of the arsenal and killed 382 people working there.

In 1995, Osaka's government approved yet another restoration project, with the intent of restoring the main keep to its Edo-era splendor. In 1997, restoration was completed. The keep is a concrete reproduction (including elevators) of the original and the interior is intended as a modern, functioning museum.

Located in the Nishinomaru was the former residence of the jōdai, who were officials. The residence was the second largest after the Honmaru Palace. North of it were a number of warehouses. The site is now a park. Next to it is the Osaka State Guest House and the Hōshō-an chashitsu.


Getting there and around
The recommended approach to Osaka Castle is through Otemon Gate at the park's southwestern corner. The closest station is Tanimachi Yonchome Station along the Tanimachi and Chuo subway lines.

The closest JR station to Osaka Castle is Osakajokoen Station on the JR Loop Line, a 10 minute, 170 yen ride from JR Osaka Station.

How to get to and around Osaka