Osaka Castle Park:4 things you should see!

Osaka Castle’s main tower is the indisputable main attraction Osaka Castle, especially for first time visitors. But there are plenty of other things you should be on the look for during your visit. From the gardens and flowers groves dotted throughout the castle grounds to the shrine of the Toyotomi clan, there are little nuggets of the castle’s history scattered everywhere, as long as you know where to look.

view of Osaka Castle with pond in foreground and Japanese style garden

Osaka Castle

 Check out our previous post for a virtual tour of the castle grounds and the history of Osaka Castle.

1. Nishinomaru Garden

Once you enter Ninomaru via Ootemon Gate, you will see Nishinomaru Garden on your left. The entrance fee to Nishinomaru Garden is 200 yen.

entrance to ninomaru garden in Osaka Castle during the summer time

Entrance to Nishinomaru Garden

Nishnomaru Garden had been a part of the castle grounds since Hideyoshi first built the castle and even served as the home for Hideyoshi’s brother Hidenaga, and Hideyoshi’s first wife, Kita no Mandokoro [北の政所], also called Nene.

large grassy field and blue skies

Nishinomaru Garden

This “garden” is more like a giant lawn rather than a traditional garden, or even a Japanese-style garden. Nishonomaru Garden remains largely empty most of the year but in spring, Nishinomaru Garden is one of the best sakura spots in Osaka castle.

old style Japanese building in nishinomaru garden

Osaka Geihinkan: built when Osaka hosted APEC in 1995. It is now a popular wedding hall.

Armory

The armory/gun powder storage room located in Nishinomaru Garden was built in the Edo Period after the original armory in another part of the castle exploded, leading to a massive fire that burned down much of Honmaru.

gunpowder storage room in ninomaru garden

Gun powder storage. Opens seasonally to the public during spring and summer.

 

2. Hokoku Shrine

In front of the Sakurabashi Bridge is Hokoku Shrine. When Emperor Meiji came to Osaka at the beginning of the Meiji Era, he ordered two shrines to be built for Hideyoshi in Osaka, as well an additional one in Kyoto. Hokoku Shrine was originally in Nakanoshima, but it was moved to its current location in 1961. While Toyokuni Shrine in Kyoto enshrines just Hideyoshi, Hokoku Shrine in Osaka enshrines Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi’s brother, Hidenaga and Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori.

Japanese torii to Hideyoshi's shrine in Osaka Castle Gardens

Hokoku Shrine

Despite having extremely humble beginnings, Hideyoshi managed to become a powerful Shogun. As a result, Hokoku Shrine is a popular place to visit for people seeking to better themselves.

statue of hideyoshi with cherry blossoms in background

Statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

History seems to give Hideyoshi the same sort of treatment it gave Napoleon in terms of his physical stature. While his statue at Hokoku Shrine makes him look very tall, Hideyoshi was only 140 cm (4’7’’) tall. Conversely, records say Hideyori was more than 180 cm (6″)tall!

Stone Garden

Japanese stone garden in the autumn and dusk

Stone garden next to Hokoku Shrine

Just off the the right side of the Hokoku Shrine’s haiden is a unique stone garden! It was designed by Shigemori Mirei (1896-1975), one of Japan’s most famous garden architects. If you look carefully, you can see Hideyoshi’s family crest on the stone in the middle of the garden.

3. The Castle Walls and Iconic Stones 

Some people might think a castle’s walls are no big deal, but there are several interesting aspects of the walls of Osaka Castle, and more specifically, the stones that make up the castle walls.

large tokugawa period stone castle walls and moat on a cloudy day

The walls of Osaka Castle

The walls of Osaka Castle that stand today are from the early 17th century, when Tokugawa’s son rebuilt Osaka Castle after the Siege of Osaka. At that time, Tokugawa had already conquered Japan, hundreds of bushi clans from across the country were assigned to rebuild the castle walls. Since they wanted to appeal to the new shogun, these clans tried their best to make these walls as beautiful as possible. They brought massive stones from the Seto Inland Sea, primarily near the island of Shodoshima, to build the castle walls. However, some of the stones are so big that historians are still scratching their heads as to how they were able to move such large rocks. 

large stone at Osaka castle that has the outline of an octopus

Tako ishi, the largest stone at Osaka Castle weighting in at 130 tons! Can you see the octopus?

If These Walls Could Talk…

The formation of the stones of a castle’s walls indicate the time period that particular wall is from. Older castles, like Hideyoshi’s, would have had much more rounded stones, whereas by the Tokugawa Period, the stones of castle walls had a much more uniform square shape.

section of Osaka Castle wall and moat

Since Tokugawa destroyed practically all of Hideyoshi’s castle, large portions of the original castle walls are gone. 

historically valuable remains of Osaka Castle wall

Some of the stones from Hideyoshi’s castle

Oddly, next to Dawn Center Osaka is a small portion of Toyotomi Hideyoshi original stone wall. You can clearly see how different the stones of Tokugawa wall versus Hideyoshi’s.

You can even find some of the castle’s battle scars, like these bullet marks left over from gun fire during WWII. 

large stones with bullet marks from world war II and stone steps

Bullet marks on castle walls found near Yamazato Maru

If you’d like to get a closer look at the castle walls, consider taking the short boat tour at the castle! The boat will take you right next to the castle walls, allowing you to see carvings left on some of the stones and other interesting features you can’t see far away.

small boat with golden roof in moat of Osaka Castle

Fees: 1,500 yen for adults and 700 yen for children. Free with the Osaka Amazing Pass.

 

4. Osaka Castle Park’s Flower Gardens

Many of Osaka Castle’s flower groves are rather new, with the majority of the trees having been planted after WWII. Regardless, Osaka Castle is famous for its flowering trees, which attract a great many people every year, especially during hanami season.

In the spring time there are an abundance of different flowering trees throughout the castle grounds. Not only can you enjoy Japan’s iconic sakura, but other beautiful spring flowers like ume (plum) and momo (peach).

view of Osaka castle golden roofed boat and cherry blossoms

Sakura at Osaka Castle

Plum Grove [梅林]

The plum grove in Ninomaru opened in 1974. There are more than 1,000 trees in the grove and around 100 different breeds of plum trees.

blooming plum garden of Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle Gardens: Plum Grove

In the Edo Period, a man named Katagiri Katsumoto [片桐且元] lived in the place where the plum grove stands today. Katagri Katsumoto was one of Hideyoshi’s faithful samurai, but he was also on friendly terms with Tokugawa Ieyasu. At the onset of the Siege of Osaka, Katsumoto tried to intervene but Hideyori (Hideyoshi’s son) thought Katsumoto was actually a spy for Tokugawa! After the Toyotomi family betrayed him, Katsumoto became a retainer for Tokugawa and fought with him during the Siege of Osaka.

Beautiful flowering plum trees and blue skies

Plum Grove, Osaka Castle Gardens, Osaka Japan

Peach Grove [桃園]

The Osaka Castle peach grove is located in Sannomaru near Osaka-jo Hall. The grove opened in 1999 with around 200 trees and 12 different breeds. Since the trees bloom roughly around the same time as the iconic sakura, a good number of people, Japanese and tourist alike, mistake them for sakura.

close up of Japanese peach blossoms

Osaka Castle Peach Grove

close up of Japanese peach blossoms at Osaka Castle Gardens

Osaka Castle Peach Grove

Read more here to learn how to tell Japan’s spring flowers apart!

Osaka Castle Park Sakura

When sakura season rolls around, Osaka Castle is easily one of the best places the city. With more than 2000 sakura trees, Osaka Castle is one of the best sakura viewing spots in Osaka, and maybe even Japan! Many people come to Osaka Castle to stroll under the branches of these cheerful and fluffy pink flowers. Regardless of night or day, you can find many people camping out under the trees enjoying the good ol’ Japanese tradition of hanami.

Osaka Castle, Osaka City

Hanami at Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle will always be the symbol of Osaka City and is close to the hearts of everyone in Osaka. With its rich history, this Japanese cultural icon is absolutely a must for anyone visiting the Kansai region. 

Coming next time,

An rare Showa-style cafe, right next to Dotonbori!
American Cafe

The adventure continues…

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