Osaka Castle: The Most Touristy Castle in Japan?
Any of you castle buffs will know that there are hundreds and hundreds of castles to visit in Japan – a tiny number compared to the thousands that used to stand in this country.
But when you’re on a short trip to Japan, how do you choose which castles to visit? In this travel guide, we’ll take a look at Osaka Castle and see if it’s worth a visiting.
As a major city in Japan, Osaka usually finds itself on most tourists hit lists, particularly if you also happen to be visiting Kyoto or Nara which are both close-by.
Top attractions include Kaiyukan (the Osaka aquarium), Dotonbori (the main shopping street) and of course USJ (Universal Studios Japan). Following these, Osaka Castle is another top choice for tourists and sees plenty of visitors on a daily basis.
Amazing Aerial Video of Osaka Castle
A Video Tour of the Castle
Is it Worth Going To?
There are mixed feelings on this frontier. For the hard and fast traditionalist, this castle just doesn’t cut it.
While the museum has some fascinating exhibits, the castle building itself is just too modern, and you don’t get that feeling of stepping back in time that you experience when visiting other old castles.
On the other hand, a reconstructed castle is better than no castle at all, and the grounds surrounding it are stunning.
The bottom line is this – if your visit to Japan is short and you don’t have time to visit many (or any) other castles, then the Osaka Castle is well worth a visit.
It may be reconstructed and a bit gimmicky, but at least you’ll get a feel for the real deal.
However, if you are a resident in Japan or have enough time on your travels to visit some genuine castles, then you may want to give Osaka Castle a pass.
It consistently scores about 4 out of 5 as an attraction, but the vaguely sour reviews it gets indicates that this one isn’t the cream of the crop.
A Brief History of Osaka Castle
Originally built in 1583, the castle fell under siege in 1615. The new owners renovated and improved upon it in 1620, but when it was struck by lightning in 1665 it burnt to the ground.
The structure which stands there now is a reconstruction built in the 1930’s. While it looks authentic, it is actually built largely of concrete.
The reconstruction is even more evident once you get inside and see that you can take an elevator to the top of the keep. Definitely a lot different than the original!
While this may deter many traditionalists, you have to admit that it is nice to have the wheelchair access. Many Japanese castles of antiquity are unable to be modified to accommodate the needs of all visitors.
There is a museum in the main tower and magnificent surrounding park which has extensive grounds of over one hundred hectares.
There are thousands of trees, plants and flowers in the gardens which have peak times for viewing around the year.
The moat is particularly beautiful; at 70 to 90 meters in width, it is a formidable entrance to the compound.
Top seasons for visiting the castle and gardens are during the spring for the cherry blossom viewing, and also in the autumn when the leaves turn red and dramatically change the view.
General hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (last admission at 4:30pm) but sometimes is extended until 6:00pm or 7:00 pm.
The Osaka Castle has different opening times depending on the time of year. Extended hours are offered during peak seasons such as cherry blossom viewing and holidays.
Closed: December 28th – January 1st
Adutls: 600 yen
15 Years and under: Free
How to Get There
By train: Take the JR Osaka Loop Line from either JR Osaka Station (160 yen / 10 minutes) or Tennoji Station (160 yen / 12 minutes) and get off at the Osaka-jo Koen Station.
Or if you would like to enter through the Otemon Gate (which many people recommend) take the Osaka City Subway Chuo Line from Honmachi Station and get off at Tanimachi 4-chome Station (Tanimachi yon-chome). The ride costs 180 yen each way and takes around 2 minutes.
For more information, check out the Osaka Castle website.
There are plenty of things to see within the castle compound, and visitors should be cautioned not just to charge up to the top of the keep and then leave.
Take your time to explore all that the grounds offer to make the most out of your trip.
The “dress-up” experience (with photo shoot) in the castle is certainly cheaper than other similar services elsewhere, but you get what you pay for. It is a rushed affair and personally, I wouldn’t bother with it.
Hi, I’m thinking of skipping this. Which castles would you recommend in Japan? We’re here for 2 weeks and are heading to Kobe, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo. Happy to detour but aren’t castle buffs xx
if you guys aren’t into castles and won’t be in Osaka, I definitely would skip Osaka Castle. It looks amazing from the outside, but is a tourist shop on the inside. While there aren’t any noteworthy castles in Kobe, Himeji Castle is only an hour away by local trains or around 20 minutes by bullet train. Himeji Castle is one of my favorites. It looks stunning from the outside, and is amazing on the inside. Just a fair warning that because the inside is very “authentic” the stairs used to go up and down the different levels of the castle are very steep and/or small. So if you have trouble walking or don’t like small spaces, the inside of the castle might not be for you. Also, if possible, try to go on a non-national holiday weekday. National holidays and weekends are very busy, so if you can’t go on a weekday, make sure to get there early.
A couple of my other favorite castles are Matsumoto Castle in Nagano and Kumamoto Castle in Kyuushuu. Unfortunately, Kumamoto Castle is under repair since it was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 2016. Hiroshima does have castles too, but Miyajima Island and the Peace Park/Museum are much better places to spend time at, in my opinion.