54.大坂城(Osaka Castle)

現在の大坂城天守(The present Tenshu of Osaka Castle)

Location and History

Osaka City, one of the mega cities in Japan, is named after Osaka Castle. The castle is located on the north edge of Uemachi plateau where it had been used as ground for shrines and old tombs from the Ancient Ages. In the Civil War Period, the Ikko-Shu sect Buddhists led by Kennyo built their headquarters as “Ishiyama Honganji” temple on this place.

(A relief map and aerial photo around Uemachi plateau, you can see the castle on the northern edge of it.)

At that time, large religious groups had not only religious power, but also political and military power like other warlords. So it was thought that Ishiyama Honganji was just like a castle. The great warlord Nobunaga Oda was very interested in the place, and asked Kennyo to withdraw from the temple. Kennyo refused to do that, therefore, they battled for 11 years (The Battle of Ishiyama).

石山合戦図、和歌山市立博物館蔵(The image of Battle of Ishiyama, owned by Wakayama City Museum)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

After that, Oda got it by the arbitration from the Imperial Court in exchange for the guarantee of the religion. Oda seemed to want to move his home base to the place before his death. Lastly, his successor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi built Osaka castle including the ruin of Ishiyama Honganji.

豊臣秀吉肖像画部分、加納光信筆、高台寺蔵(part of the Portrait of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, attributed to Mitsunobu Kano, owned by Kodaiji Temple)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Hideyoshi constructed the first keep “Tenshu” for the castle which was 39m tall, was five stories high, and decorated it with his preference of gold and black colors. He also organized the castle town and made people move to it, which was the foundation of the modern day Osaka City. However, after Hideyoshi died, the keep with the castle and the Toyotomi clan had died out by Tokugawa Shogunate when it was only 32 years old (The summer campaign of the siege of Osaka in 1615).

豊臣時代の大坂城天守、「大坂夏の陣図屏風」より、大阪城天守閣蔵(Toyotomi’s Tenshu of Osaka Castle, from “The summer campaign of the siege of Osaka folding screens”, owned by Osaka Castle Museum)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Tokugawa started to govern the castle and town directly. They filled Toyotomi’s castle, raised the ground level, and reconstructed it with the second Tenshu which was even 53m tall to show its authority to people. That’s what we are now looking up at as the main enclosure “Honmaru”.

本丸を見上げる(Looking up Honmaru)

But the Tenshu also had a short life of only 39 years because of the lightning strike in 1665. After Tokugawa kept the castle for over 250 years, when the last shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa ran away from the castle to Edo, the original history of the castle ended.

幕末期の大坂城の写真(A picture of Osaka Castle at the end of the Edo Period)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


Now, we can see the third Tenshu built in 1931 which has become one of the most famous symbols of Osaka. The Tenshu is also used as a museum called “Osaka Castle Museum” which has a wide variety of historical and art exhibitions such as “The summer campaign of the siege of Osaka” folding screens.

3代目天守(The third Tenshu)
大坂夏の陣図屏風、大阪城天守閣蔵(The summer campaign of the siege of Osaka folding screens, owned by Osaka Castle Museum)licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

All of few remaining buildings were made by Tokugawa Shogunate including the main gate “Otemon”, the Tamon turret “Yagura”, the Sengan Yagura, the Inui Yagura, and so on.

大手門(右)と多門櫓(左)(Otemon on the right, Tamon Yagura on the left)
千貫櫓(中央)と多門櫓(右)(Sengan Yagura on the middle, Tamon Yagura on the right)taken by そらみみ from photo AC
乾櫓(Inui Yagura)taken by acworks from photo AC

You should check out great stone walls surrounding Honmaru and the second enclosure “Ninomaru” made of large stones which were collected by lords under Shogunate from many places in the eastern part of Japan such as Shodoshima island. The highest ones are over 30m high from water surface which are also No.1 for Japanese castles.

南外堀の高石垣(The high stone walls on the South outer moat)taken by kimtoru from photo AC

There are huge ornate stones as well in several points, for example, the largest one named “Tako-ishi” at Sakuramon, the southern entrance of Honmaru.

桜門の内側にある「蛸石」(”Tako-ishi” inside Sakuramon)licensed by Midori Sakurai via Wikimedia Commons

Later Life

After the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese Amy used the ruins of the castle. At the beginning of the Showa Era, the mayor of Osaka City, Hajime Seki was wondering if the castle could become a symbol of the city, and the Tenshu would come the first time in about 260 years.

關一写真(A picture of Hajime Seki) from 故大阪市長関一市葬誌, licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Seki suggested the Army to turn part of the castle into a park in exchange for offering the Army a new headquarter building. Seki collected all the fund from donations, and successfully reconstructed the third Tenshu on the second Tenshu base. It is a modern SRC structured building, not in the original way. But the way was the first ever attempted to reconstruct a castle in Japan at that time.

建設中の天守(The Tenshu under construction)

In the World War II, the area around the castle was attacked several times by the US air raids because the Army facilities were still gathered. The third Tenshu survived while some of remaining old buildings were burned down.

旧第四師団司令部建物(The former headquarters building for Japanese Army 4th divison)

Now, the present Tenshu is the oldest Tenshu among three successive Tenshu, and was designated itself as a National Registered Tangible Cultural Property in 1997.

現在の天守(The present Tenshu)

My Impression

Even the present Tenshu attracts over 2.5 million visitors including many foreign tourists annually. it is also said that many times more people visit the park around it, where many events are held. Osaka Castle is definitely one of successful cases to preserve and use historical heritages in Japan.

西の丸庭園からの天守(A view of Tenshu from Nishinomaru garden)

The remaining buildings of the castle are sometimes open to visitors. D0n’t miss a chance to see them! One of them, “Sengan Yagura” is named after “the very important turret which is worth so much money” , and it is said that a turret of the same name was there since Ishiyama Honganji.

千貫櫓(Sengan Yagura)
千貫櫓の内部(The inside of Sengan Yagura)
千貫櫓からの外の眺め(An outside view from Sengan Yagura)

I recommend you to see the powder house “Ensho-Gura” as well. It is all made of stones covered with plaster rebuilding after the explosion in 1660. it is a very rare style for traditional Japanese buildings.


How to get There

If you want to see Tenshu first, getting out of the JR Osakajo-Koen station or the Osaka Metro Osaka Business Park station would be better.
If you want to see the great stone walls on the outer moat and enter Otemon first, getting out of the Osaka Metro Tanimachi-Yonchome Station or Morinomiya station would be better.

Links and References

・大阪城天守閣(Osaka Castle Museum)
・大坂城全史、中村博司著、ちくま新書(Japanese book)

投稿者: Yuzo

城巡りが好きなYuzoです。日本には数万の城があったといわれています。その内の200名城を手始めにどんどん紹介していきます。 I'm Yuzo, I love visiting castles and ruins. It is said that there were tens of thousands castles in Japan. I will introduce you top 200 castles and ruins of them, and more!

「54.大坂城(Osaka Castle)」への53件のフィードバック