Osaka Castle and the pleasant park grounds surrounding it make for a relaxing escape from the city's concrete sprawl. Ascend to the top of castle keep tower to look over the expansive castle grounds and neighboring skyscrapers. Or bring a bento box and enjoy a picnic surrounded by groves of cherry and apricot trees which are amazing in bloom in the spring.
From Osaka/Umeda Station, take the JR Loop Line to Morinomiya Station. You will arrive directly adjacent to Osaka Castle Park.
The original castle was built between 1583 to 1598 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who re-unified Japan in 1590 after a century of civil war. His regime was replaced in 1603 by the Tokugawa Shogunate, located in Edo (Tokyo). The last of the Toyotomi line committed suicide here at the castle when it was burnt to the ground in 1615.
The current castle is a reconstruction of the castle that the Tokugawa built to replace Hideyoshi's castle. The castle was under the direct control of the Shogun, and the massive double moats and stone walls were a daunting obstacle for any would-be invaders. This history is still celebrated and remembered, as the fall of the castle corresponds closely with the start of the Edo Period — an altogether peaceful and prosperous time for Japan.
The early April cherry blossom season sees hordes of high-spirited locals spending the afternoon and evening hours drinking and partying under the pink canopy of the blossoms, with the illuminated castle adding historical depth to the scenery. Such parties are a significant part of Japanese culture, with the season and affiliated memories referenced throughout literature and film.
Learn more about the castle's history and Japan's Edo period at the adjacent Museum of History. The multiple floors and abundance of exhibits provide a stimulating look into how Japan flourished during the 260-year period of peace and suddenly rocketed onto the global stage, spurred by massive development starting in the late 19th century.
The swath of skyscrapers visible to the north of Osaka Castle is part of a business district called Kyobashi. Take an evening journey through the streets to find a slightly seedier, grittier version of Umeda's business district. There are a number of bars and restaurants to enjoy a meal in the company of white collar employees who have loosened their ties and rolled up their sleeves after a long day of work.
Part of what makes Osaka so appealing is that the city is packed into a relatively small area within the JR loop line. Osaka Castle is easily accessible from both the north and south side of the city, meaning you can visit it for anywhere from an hour to a full day without needing to adjust your accommodations or concern yourself with the train schedules.