Osaka Castle, or Osaka-jo, as it is called in Japanese, is one of Japan’s most famous attractions and well worth a visit! More than 2,5 million people visit Osaka Castle every year. It is the biggest attraction in Osaka and features on all those lists “the best castles in Japan” and “the most beautiful castles in Japan“.
The eight-floor tall bright white Osaka Castle with its golden ornaments and the greenish copper roof is a stunning sight! It is one of our favorite castles in Japan, next to Himeji Castle and Crow Castle.
In the evenings, the castle is beautifully illuminated and looms dramatically above its surrounding moat, looking even grander. The main castle building is built on top of a stone foundation surrounded by a water moat to make it difficult for intruders to attack it.
The castle ground houses thirteen buildings and structures, including several turrets, a tea house, and gates. The buildings at Osaka Castle has been designated as valuable cultural assets of Japan.
To beat the crowds and avoid long ticket queues, buy your ticket to Osaka Castle here (Voyagin).
In this guide to Osaka Castle, we will show you all the must-see highlights of Osaka Castle and Osaka Castle Park, give you the ultimate walking route of the castle grounds, as well as the castle’s dramatic history.
Wondering what else you should not miss in Osaka? Check out our recommended Osaka itinerary with all the must-visit sights.
History Of Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle has a long, bloody, and painful history.
General Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537 – 1598) constructed the castle in 1583 as a center of the newly unified Japan. He wanted to show off his power and made sure that his brand new Osaka Castle was the biggest castle in Japan at the time. The castle only took three years to complete as over 100 000 workers contributed.
The castle was solidly built and was supposed to be impregnable. However, it got attacked and destroyed in 1614 by the soldiers of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. This was at the beginning of the Edo period or Tokugawa period (1603 – 1868) when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. During the Tokugawa conquest, Osaka Castle was burnt to the ground.
Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty, reconstructed Osaka Castle in 1620. He made significant improvements to his new castle. The biggest improvement was a new elevated central tower, five stories tall on the outside, and eight stories on the inside of the castle (similar to what you see today).
He created imposing walls of enormous stones protecting the castle, which still stands today. Many of the stones bear inscriptions of the feudal lords who contributed to the building.
Sadly, Osaka Castle got hit by lightning in 1660, which ignited the gunpowder warehouse, resulting in an explosive fire that burnt down much of the castle. It got repaired in 1843, just to be burned down again in 1868 in a civil conflict.
The Osaka Castle that you see here today is a rebuild from 1931, back then used as a military arsenal. It was attacked by the American forces during World War II resulting in the main tower being totally destroyed again.
The entire castle underwent a full makeover after World War II where they rebuilt the main tower. The total restoration was finished in 1997. Osaka Castle is now brighter and shinier than ever before!
Walking Route Of Osaka Castle
Here is the ultimate walking route of Osaka Castle with all its must-visit highlights.
Map of the highlights of Osaka Castle – Walking route of Osaka Castle
If you want to experience Osaka Castle with a local guide, and fully learn the castle’s history together with the culture of Osaka, you should consider joining this Private Osaka Castle Walking & Dotonbori Food Tour or this Osaka Main Sights and Hidden Spots Guided Walking Tour where Osaka Castle is a big part of the tour.
Or you can follow our recommended DIY Osaka Castle walking tour (all 8 stops are marked in the map above, A – H):
A. Tanimachiyonchome Station
To get to the start of this walking route of Osaka Castle, take the train/ subway to Tanimachiyonchome Station.
You can, of course, do this walking route the other way around, by starting at Osakajokoen Station instead if that suits you better (H in the map above).
B. Boulangerie Gout Bakery & Cafe
Gout (pronounced “goo“, as it is French) is one of the best bakeries in Osaka. Here you can buy all sorts of delicious freshly baked pastries, croissants, baguettes, sandwiches, cakes, coffee, tea, and juices. They also have seatings inside if the weather is not very picnic-friendly.
Buy something to eat and drink and bring it with you over to Osaka Castle Park for a little picnic if the weather permits it. You can take the train to Tanimachi 6-chome Station instead of Tanimachiyonchome Station for an even shorter walk if you want to stop by Gout Bakery before continuing on to Osaka Castle (see the map above).
C. Otemon Gate – Sakuramon Gate
Sakuramon Gate is the main gate/ Otemon Gate of Osaka Castle. The gate leads into the Hommaru/ inner part of the castle grounds.
The grand Sakuramon Gate was first built in 1626 during the early Edo period. It was, however, destroyed by fire in 1868 and reconstructed in 1887 by the Japanese army.
Why is the gate named Sakuramon, you might wonder? Since “Sakura” means cherry blossom, it is presumed that the gate got its beautiful name from the line of cherry trees that was planted near the gate when Toyotomi built Osaka Castle in the late 16th Century. The cherry trees are sadly long gone.
You will notice huge stones on both sides of the Sauramon Gate, called Ryukoishi, meaning dragon and tiger stones. It is said that when it rains, an image of a dragon and a tiger will appear on the stones. Hmm, it did not rain when we visited Osaka Castle, so you will have to check if it’s true for yourself in you are in Osaka on a rainy day….. 🙂
D. Osaka Castle Park
Osaka Castle is surrounded by a vast park, Osaka Castle Park, or Osaka-jo Koen as it is called in Japanese. The park covers approximately two km² and is the perfect place to escape the city noise and urban environment.
Go for a walk or run around the outer moat, or join the locals in a game of soccer or baseball on the huge open fields at the northeast side of the park.
The park has lots of beautiful cherries, apricot, and plum trees, making the park change into a sea of stunning colors during both spring and fall.
Osaka Castle Park is Osaka’s most famous cherry blossom viewing spot/ Hanami in March/ April. During Cherry Blossoms, the park is filled with food vendors selling all kinds of yummy street food and drinks, and taiko drummers keep you entertained. The locals come to Osaka Castle Park for hanami, enjoying the park and its pinkish cherry trees, meeting friends, and work colleagues for a picnic or a drink or two.
The park is also beautiful and colorful during autumn leaves in November.
The park has big open spaces, a baseball field, and a jogging track, as well as Osaka Castle Hall, which is used for events, concerts, and different ceremonies.
Visit the park on the weekend, and you can enjoy local musicians perform small concerts and vendors selling street food.
Or you can do as the locals, buy some delicious food and pastries from a nearby bakery or cafe (like the Boulangerie Gout Bakery shown as B in this walking route). Have a cozy picnic on one of the benches around the park or on the grass if the weather is ok.
E. Nishinomaru Garden
To the west of the castle, you find the lovely Nishinomaru Garden covering 60 000 m² (6 hectares).
Nishinomaru Garden houses several old buildings like the Hoshoan Tea House and the former Osaka Guest House (Geihinkan). You have to pay a small entrance fee in order to visit Nishinomaru Garden.
Nishinomaru Garden is particularly stunning during Cherry Blossom (March/ April) when its around 600 cherry trees are in bloom, making the garden all pinkish. It is the most popular place in Osaka for Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.
F. Osaka Castle
After having a stroll around the park surrounding the castle, it is time to hit the jackpot – the Osaka Castle itself.
Osaka Castle Museum
Inside, the castle consists of eight floors and functions as a museum. It has an elevator so that everybody can easily access it.
The museum houses over 10 000 historical items like samurai swords, armors, and different sorts of weapons. Here you can also see a huge folding screen that tells the story of the Summer War in 1615 that destroyed the original Osaka Castle.
On the second floor, you can see different historical items on display like a golden tiger and a replica of the gold roof ornament shachihoko (the carp/tiger-like mystical creature).
Here you can also try on replicas of helmets and surcoats worn by samurai warriors. You can even try a replica of the helmet (a black one with two big golden horns) worn by Toyotomi Hideyoshi himself. Great fun and they make an excellent photo to bring back home or post on Instagram and FB! 🙂
I particularly loved the exhibition on the 7th floor, where nineteen dioramas (hologram screens) show scenes from the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who built the castle in the first place in 1583. They are very well made and gives an exciting insight into the culture and daily life at Osaka Castle back in the days.
I also enjoyed the exhibition of hundreds of mini warriors with horses and by foot fighting at the second battle Siege of Osaka. It is beautifully done with lots of details and is a fantastic exhibition.
Osaka Castle Observation Deck
On the top floor, Osaka Castle has a lovely observation deck from where you can enjoy a fantastic 360-degree panoramic view of Osaka city.
The roof of the five-story Osaka Castle is decorated with gold leaf ornaments to impress its visitors. From the observation deck, you can admire the cold covered “shachi” – a mystical creature with a carp body and a tiger head. This half tiger half carp fish is supposed to protect the castle against fire.
After visiting the observation deck, head back down to the castle grounds, and out into the park. Head north and you will soon see the beautiful Gokuraku-bashi Bridge.
G. Gokuraku-bashi Bridge
The beautiful wooden Gokurakubashi Bridge takes you across the inner moat that surrounds Osaka Castle. The Gokuraku Bridge connects the outer area of the castle, the Ni-no-maru Bailey, and the inner area of the castle, the Yamazato-maru Bailey.
Just before entering the Gokurakubashi Bridge, you will see the monument “Site Of Yamazato-maru” marking the place where the founder of Osaka Castle, General Toyotomi Hideyoshi, committed suicide.
When Hideyoshi Toyotomi first built Osaka Castle in 1583, he built a bridge called Gokurakubashi. It did, however, burn down in a fire in 1868 when also the castle itself burnt to the ground. The Gokurakubashi Bridge that you see here today was rebuilt in 1965.
The word “Gokuraku” comes from Buddhism and means “the world of peace“. It’s believed that the bridge’s name comes from the Hongan-ji Buddhist temple that stood on this ground before Osaka Castle was built.
Walk across the bridge, and turn right. As you walk along the moat you cannot miss seeing the golden boat Osaka Castle Gozabune.
Gozabune is a tourist boat where you can go for a lovely 20-min boat trip around the castle. The boat is a reproduction of Hideyoshi’s Hooh Maru, a Japanese warship. The boat operates every day from 10:00 AM until 16:30/ 4:30 PM (final departure). Tickets can be bought at the ticket counter located on the Northwest side of the Gokuraku Bridge. Ticket price: 1500 JPY = 14 USD (adult), 750 JPY = / USD (child).
H. Osakajokoen Station
From Gokuraku-bashi Bridge (G), head east, and walk out of Osaka Castle Park to Osakajokoen Station. This marks the end of this walking route of Osaka Castle.
You can take the train from Osakajokoen Station to other areas of Osaka, and for instance, continue on our ultimate 2-day Osaka Itinerary.
How To Get To Osaka Castle
Take the Chuo Subway Line to Tanimachi 4-Chome Station (exit 9), or take the JR Loop Line to Osaka-jo-koen Station. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk from the station to the inner area of Osaka Castle.
See the map at the top of this article to see the walking routes from each station to Osaka Castle.
- Address Osaka Castle: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka
Opening Hours Osaka Castle
09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm, last entry at 16:30/ 4:30 pm
Ticket Prices Osaka Castle
- 600 Yen = US$ 6 (adult, 15 years of age and older)
- Free for children (younger than 15 years of age)
- Osaka Castle’s Official Webpage
There you have it, our guide to Osaka Castle. If you plan on visiting Osaka, you should definitely put Osaka Castle on your list. It is a fantastic castle and its museum is a great place to learn about the history of Osaka and the Edo period in Japan.
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Are you heading to Osaka? If so, do you plan on visiting Osaka Castle? Or have you already been to Osaka Castle or to any other castles in Japan? What is your favorite castle in Japan? We would love to hear from you in the comment area below. If you have any questions about Osaka or the castle, don’t hesitate to contact us in the comment area below. Thanks! 🙂
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