Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the city, Ôsakajô
towers over the east side of Chuo Ward
Osakajo was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi between 1583 and 1598, on the former site of the Ikko Ikki temple of Ishiyama Honganji. It is modeled after Azuchi Castle, the headquarters of Oda Nobunaga. Toyotomi wanted to build a castle that mirrored Oda's, but surpassed it in every way. He built a five-story main tower, with three extra stories underground, and covered the sides of the tower in gold leaf to impress visitors. This portion was complete by 1585, but Toyotomi continued to extend and expand the castle, making it more and more formidable to attackers.
In 1603, however, Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated Toyotomi at Sekigahara, and started his own bakufu in Edo. Toyotomi died and passed on control of Osaka Castle to his son, Toyotomi Hideyori, who was attacked by Tokugawa in the winter of 1614. Although Toyotomi's forces were outnumbered 2 to 1, he managed to fight off Tokugawa's 200,000-samurai army and protect the castle's outer walls. However, Tokugawa attempted to muzzle Toyotomi by filling up the castle's outer moat, rendering it largely defenseless. The next summer, Toyotomi had begun to dig the outer moat once more. Tokugawa, in outrage, sent his armes to Osaka Castle again, and routed them inside the outer walls. In the summer of 1615, Osakajo fell to Tokugawa, and the Toyotomi clan disappeared.
In 1620, the new heir to the shogunate, Tokugawa Hidetada, began to reconstruct and rearm Osaka Castle. He built a new elevated main tower, five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, and assigned the task of constructing new walls to individual samurai clans. The walls built in the 1620's still stand today, and are made out of interlocked granite boulders with no mortar whatsoever: they are held together solely by each other. Many of the stones were brought from rock quarries in the Inland Sea, and bear inscribed crests of the various families who laid them into the walls.
Lightning strikes burned down the main tower in 1665, and claimed several more portions of Osaka Castle over the remainder of the Edo period. The castle was not repaired until 1843, when the bakufu collected money from the people of the region to rebuild several of the turrets, but even more of the castle was burned during the civil wars of the Meiji Restoration.
Under the Meiji government, Osaka Castle was converted to a barracks for Japan's rapidly-expanding Western-style military. The main tower, however, was not restored until 1928, when the mayor of Osaka concluded a highly successful fund-raising drive. B-29's and typhoons in the 1940's and 1950's damaged the reconstructed main tower, and in 1995 the government approved yet another restoration project, with the intent of restoring the main tower to its Edo-era splendor. Work was completed in 1997, and Osakajo now stands proudly over the city once more.
The castle is now open to tourists, and is easily accessible from Osakajo Koen Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line. During festival seasons, and especially during the sakura bloom, the sprawling castle grounds are covered with food vendors, and the sound of taiko drums and the smell of yakiniku are not to be missed.