The majesty of Osaka Castle, arguably Osaka's most prominent landmark, belies bloody power struggles leading up to the 1603 foundation of the Edo era. While its history dates back to 1583, the landmark main tower that is the castle's icon was only re-constructed in 1931.
From Osaka/Umeda Station, take the Osaka Loop Line to Morinomiya Station, which will bring you to the southeast side of the park.
Alternatively, you may choose to alight at Osakajokoen Station, to the northeast side of the park.
Famed general Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who has been described as the Napoleon of Japan, began the construction of Osaka Castle in 1583. The castle, which was the largest in Japan at the time, was to be the center of a unified Japan under the rule of the Toyotomi clan.
Two years after Hideyoshi's death in 1598, however, his military rival Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated Toyotomi troops in the great Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
The decisive victory gave the Tokugawa full control of the whole of Japan, leading to the start of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Edo period in 1603.
Osaka Castle fell to the Tokugawa's army in 1615, in a siege that resulted in the total annihilation of the Toyotomi clan.
Osaka Castle sits on a hill and towers above many contemporary office buildings. It is surrounded by a huge park with pleasant picnic areas, making it a perennial favorite in spring during the hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season.
For a panoramic view of the city skyline, climb the stairs or take the elevator up to the observation deck at the top of the castle.
The castle also houses a museum with over 10,000 historical artifacts, which will give you a deeper insight into the prominent role Osaka played in Japan's history.
Osaka Castle is surrounded by 106 hectares of open park, making it a pleasant refuge from the urban concrete jungle.
Join the runners on their run around the outer moat, or take part in amateur sports at the playing fields on the northeast side of the park.
With an abundance of cherry, apricot and plum trees, the diverse flora promises beautiful displays in both spring and fall.
Exploring Osaka Castle and its surrounding park may take anywhere from two to four hours. Consider combining your visit with a trip to the neighboring Osaka Museum of History.