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Osaka Castle in Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan

One of the iconic symbols of Osaka is the Osaka Castle, built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the prominent daimyo in Japanese history. It was made to be similar and yet more impressive than the Azuchi Castle of Oda Nobunaga, and it succeeded in every way, but in 1615, Toyotomi fell to Tokugawa Ieyasu after a long struggle between the two, and the castle went through a few more centuries of rich history that can be explored within the castle walls today.

The castle that stands in Osaka today is far from the original; first Tokugawa Ieyasu reconstructed and re-purposed the castle after the defeat of Toyotomi, and then during the Meiji Restoration after the Tokugawa shogunate fell. It was rebuilt again and again and is the symbol of Japanese military history, and it’s truly a wonderful sight to behold.

Gokurakubashi Bridge

Some of the old ruins

Careful — those stairs are steep!

When you enter the castle grounds, you’ll see a few souvenir and food stands, and in the center of everything is a small, metal bump of a time capsule. It was planted here in 1970 and contains over 2000 cultural assets of the 20th century, and it is not to be opened until 6970, 5000 years from the day it was first placed here.

There is a top capsule above the main one, and that capsule is to be opened every century. In the year 2000, it was opened to reveal seeds for trees, which have been planted and now grow around the capsule on the castle grounds today.

As mentioned previously, the inside of the castle is a museum discussing the history of Japan and Osaka and the wars that the castle were involved with, and the daimyos who lived here. You start at the top floor of the castle where you can see the city of Osaka at large, and even on a cloudy winter day, it’s a sight to behold.

Then, you make your way down each flight of stairs where each floor holds historical artifacts and scenes from the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and the Summer War of Osaka. There are mini holographic videos with scenes from certain key moments in history as well as dioramas and of course, actual samurai armor and weaponry, of which photographs are strictly prohibited.

A miniature reproduction of the Summer War of Osaka

A folding screen depicting the Summer War of Osaka

For something fun to do, for only 300 yen, you can dress up as a samurai on one of the bottom floors; and it seems a popular thing to do among school aged boys and foreigners especially.

All in all, a trip to the Osaka Castle is a must on your journey to Osaka. It has a lot of history, and the grounds are beyond beautiful.

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Dotombori in Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan

When you go to Osaka, one of the stops you have to make is to Dotombori, which has more restaurants, stores, and entertainment than you can shake a fist at. And believe me, I know a lot of you can shake a fist at a lot, but I promise, one look at what Dotombori has to offer, and you’ll be in awe. The food here is incredible, the fashion is top-notch, and it’s perhaps the most “Osaka” place in all of Osaka.

A river runs through the area, and it used to be that geisha roamed the streets on the north side and the south side used to be the theatre district, but now both are filled with restaurants of all sorts of authentic Osaka cuisine. The walk here has stores with all of the world’s latest fashions, and there are even musicians performing about to try to sell their independently recorded albums in the hopes of getting recognized by a big name agent. Or they could have just been there to perform and sell CDs.

Nonetheless, it’s a lively part of Osaka, and you absolutely cannot miss it!

Giant animated crab. I wonder what you can eat here?

A popular snack company in Japan

A super popular snack in Japan

Giant gyoza. Yum!

Release the kraken!

Honestly, who would eat here? And honestly… I probably would.

Giant sushi. In case you were wondering what was served here.

Yes, that is a ferris wheel. No, it was not in operation when we went in early January. Sad days!