Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle: History Comes Alive

Day two of our Osaka adventure was consumed by the majestic Osaka Castle (大阪城). We were lucky enough to visit on the weekend the castle honored the 400th anniversary of the Siege of Osaka, filling the park with several bonus events.

Otemon Gate of Osaka Castle

Sengan-yagura Turret (left) and Tamon-yagura Turret (right) once protected Osaka Castle’s Otemon Gate, but now welcomes visitors

Osaka Castle Park was just a short walk from our apartment, located in the middle of the government-building-heavy Chuo Ward. The surrounding area is typical modern Japan, but the park is a sprawling green compound—nearly half a millennium of history in the heart of today’s Osaka. We entered through Otemon Gate on the west side of the complex, Sengan-yagura and Tamon-yagura turrets looming as a reminder of the area’s more violent shogunate past.


The Shudokan (Martial Arts Training Hall) hosting a Judo class

Upon entering the compound, you get a sense of what life may have been like in those days gone by. Even today, the Shudokan (martial arts training hall) is brimming with life, hosting judo, kendo and naginata classes.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

A statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi outside Hokoku-jinja Shrine

Nearby, a large statue honors Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the mastermind of the castle’s construction and Japan’s second “great unifier” responsible for ending a century of war in Japan’s feudal period.

First Look at Osaka Castle

The first view of Osaka Castle, peering through Sakuramon Gate

Not long after, we had our first glimpse at the architectural masterpiece itself. Sakuramon Gate frames the castle and marks the entrance to the main part of the castle grounds.


Osaka Castle’s samurai serve a different purpose today

The grounds were lively with the festival remembering the 1614-15 Siege of Osaka, which resulted in the destruction of the original castle. Modern interpretations of traditional music filled the air. People in period costume wandered the park, snapping pictures with willing tourists.


A group demonstrated Hōzōin-ryū, a martial art form utilizing spears

A Hōzōin-ryū demonstration (see video below) captivated the crowd. Hōzōin-ryū is a form of martial arts that specializes in sōjutsu or spear-fighting. The men wielded the yari (spear) with the respect demanded by history, showing off the different maneuvers like a choreographed dance.


Ame-mura (Clockwise from top-left): Artistic street lamps; Statue of Liberty replica; What Japanese people think America is; Mexican-style poutine and pizza at Canadian-owned Slices Pizza

We took a break from the castle to find lunch. We headed back for the entertainment side of town and landed in Amerikamura. Known by the locals as “Ame-mura,” the area of American Village is Osaka’s take on western culture. While it has a reputation as a foreigner hangout, there aren’t actually many foreigners in the area. It felt very similar to Tokyo’s Harajuku district as far as the types of shops and fashion, but decorated with a tired caricature of the good ol’ USA.

We tracked down a Canadian-owned pizza joint called Slices and had a veggie pizza, some tasty fried potato strings and a nacho-style poutine. Refueled, we headed back to Osaka Castle for the rest of the festivities.


The city as seen from Osaka Castle Park

We re-entered the park from the southeast side, which leads into Forest Park and the Plum Grove. A climb up a Fuji-steep set of stairs led back into the main part of the park.  The sun was beginning to break through the clouds, casting a yellow glow on the city and the castle.

Osaka Castle

The castle as the sun began to break through the clouds

The park closes around sunset, bringing an end to our time at both the castle and Osaka in general. The next morning we’d be on the express train to Kyoto.


  • Reply derekthezenchef November 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Wow, you really got a dose of history and culture in that trip! I commented to Todd that if the barbarian hordes get as far as the castle walls, it is pretty over anyways! I guess the mote and all was more symbolic than anything, but hey, what do it know?
    Keep in touch, buddy ^.^

  • Reply KronWeld November 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Looks like you had fun. One little quibble, did you really mean “The men yielded the yari…” or did you mean “The men wielded the yari …”


    1. produce or provide (a natural, agricultural, or industrial product).
    2. give way to arguments, demands, or pressure.


    1. hold and use (a weapon or tool).

    • Reply Cascadian Abroad November 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      They “wielded” it, but I yielded the “w” to the “y” with my fleet fingers! Thanks for the catch… 🙂

  • Reply Deni November 19, 2014 at 4:15 am

    We’re really enjoying your blog. You asked for questions a few postings ago. Here’s mine: We understand that Japan is very expensive vis-a-vis food. lodgog, etc. Are you finding it so?

    • Reply Cascadian Abroad November 19, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Good question! I’ll put it on the list of things to tackle.

  • Reply Amy Daraghy November 19, 2014 at 7:54 am

    What an interesting trip, Robert, and a beautiful building. I didn’t know poutine came in nacho-style! Talk about an ethnic mash-up!

    • Reply Cascadian Abroad November 19, 2014 at 8:52 am

      Mexican-style Canadian food in Japan’s America Village. I think I filled up my passport with that meal!

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