Written by Chiara Mischke
Osaka Castle Park - A History Walk Through Nature's Timeless Beauty
Osaka Castle is one of the most popular destinations in Osaka. The park surrounding the castle is also worth a stroll. It is filled with cherry trees, plum trees, peach trees and a lot of history. Let's take a walk!
Osaka Castle is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Japan. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful park that is full of charm in every season. In spring, visitors can enjoy the beauty of plum blossoms, peach blossoms, and cherry blossoms alongside the impressive architecture of the castle.
Osaka Castle Park - Beautiful in Every Season
The park surrounding Osaka Castle was opened to the public in 1931 but it wasn't until after World War II that the area was turned into an urban park.
Osaka Castle Park is home to about 600 cherry trees, a peach grove with about 200 peach trees consisting of 12 different species and 1270 plum trees in its plum grove.
The plum grove is one of the most popular plum blossom viewing spots in Japan. In February, the whole area is covered in dark pink and white blossoms and hundreds of people visit each day.
The peach grove close to the plum grove was opened in 1999. Peach blossoms are so often confused with cherry blossoms which bloom in the same season that many people don't even know about this grove.
When the cherry blossoms are in bloom, all the cherry trees around the castle are lit up at night, creating a magical cherry blossom viewing experience. In autumn, the area is full of many different kinds of trees with foliage in all shades of red, orange and yellow.
Start at Morinomiya Station for a Less Crowded Walking Route
To access the park, you can start from Osaka-jo koen Station (Osaka Castle Park Station) which is easy to get to if you want to visit the castle.
However, this time I decided to start my walk from Morinomiya Station to show you the more quiet, lesser known side of the park. Don't worry, our destination will be Osaka-jo Koen Station itself.
When you exit Morinomiya Station and turn left, you can already spot the park.
Let's enter the park and walk towards the castle.
When you reach the water fountain I recommend to turn left. You will walk past a convenience store. Keep in mind this is your last chance to buy some snacks or beverages until you reach the castle, so you might want to drop in.
You will see a steep staircase in front of you, so walk up the stairs and turn right.
Cherry Blossoms and Road Trains
The cherry blossoms weren't in full bloom yet when I visited but look at the beautiful trees lining this path! It must also be stunning in the summer with the green treetops shielding you from the sun and a slight breeze blowing through the leaves.
After a short walk, you will arrive at the outer moat surrounding Osaka Castle.
On the way, there are many platforms which are located above the treetops. These are great photo locations as you can get overall shots of the park as well as of the castle.
If you have a little bit of time I recommend you take a break here to enjoy the view for a while. The view changes with every season and you can always discover a different charm in this park every time you visit.
Somewhere on the way, you might encounter this strange train. It is called "road train".
If you prefer riding this train rather than walking, look for the nearest road train station. They are all throughout the park. A couple of the trains even go all the way up to Osaka Castle. However, as not all the road trains go up to Osaka Castle, if you want to go there, check the timetable carefully. You can either buy a ticket for just one direction or a round-trip.
You can also buy a round-trip ticket from the Morinomiya bus stop, or you can come from the Osaka Business Park Station and take the road train to Morinomiya Station from Osaka Castle. I saw many parents taking the train with their children and they seem to really enjoy it. It is basically like traveling in a toy train.
Our last stop before Osaka Castle is the Hokoku Shrine build in honor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the powerful feudal lord who commenced the construction of the Osaka Castle in 1583, his son Toyotomi Hideyori and his half-brother Toyotomi Hidenaga. Here you can also see a statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi himself.
Osaka Castle - A Timeless Beauty
Sakuramon ("Cherry Blossom Gate") is the entrance of Osaka Castle. The name stems from a row of cherry blossom trees which were planted near the gate in the 16th century. The name remained, even though you can't find many cherry blossom trees around this area anymore.
Unfortunately, Osaka Castle had to be rebuilt several times. In its tumultuous history, it has even burned down twice. The castle as you see it today was rebuilt and reinforced with concrete in 1930 in an attempt to preserve this important landmark for eternity.
In other words, the castle you see today is not exactly the same castle that Toyotomi Hideyoshi had built in 1583. It is rumored that the original castle was painted black and had ornaments made with real gold. It must have looked really impressive and frightening.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo shogunate, destroyed the Toyotomi clan and reconstructed Osaka Castle after it burned down in battle. The castle you see today is reconstructed after Tokugawa Ieyasu's version of the castle.
The castle houses an impressive museum with exhibitions related to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, while the top floor serves as an observatory. If you have the time, I recommend visiting the museum. If you visit on a weekday, you most probably won't need to wait in line to visit the museum.
A Stroll Through the Plum Grove around Osaka Castle
After you walk out of Sakuramon, turn left. The stone walls surrounding Osaka Castle are known to be the tallest stone walls in Japan. However, taking into account that the castle has been rebuilt a couple of times, parts of the stone walls ended up being buried underground so they are actually even higher than what is visible to the eye.
On the way, you will find a rather large monument. There used to be a temple on the grounds of Osaka Castle before the first castle had been built. The temple had been built by the holy priest Rennyo who was an important figure in the widely practiced Shin Buddhism. The original temple burned down during the efforts to unite Japan.
The monument you can see here marks a place that is believed to be of great importance to Rennyo.
If you continue on the path around the castle, you will spot the beautiful plum grove right away. The grove consists of various types of trees and you will still see some of the trees in bloom even after the plum blossom season.
When the plum trees are in full bloom in February, this is one of the most beautiful places to view them. I highly recommend it.
After a short walk, you will arrive at the Aoyamon gate. Once you go through this entrance you will see Osaka-jo Hall, a hall that is currently used for sport and music events, to your left. If you turn right you will walk directly towards Osaka-jo Koen Station.
Osaka Castle Park - A Place Full of History
Don't be disappointed that the current Osaka Castle is already the 3rd version of the original castle and actually rather new. The castle is not the only place where important historical events took place. The whole park surrounding the castle is full of history. You can discover it while walking among beautiful trees and flowers.
So how about taking a look at all the historic spots in Osaka Castle Park next time you visit?