Osaka Castle (Osaka Prefecture)
Toyotomi Osaka Castle Keep
Osaka Castle is one of the many icons of Osaka City, and was constructed in 1853 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the site of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji temple-fortress, and the scene of a violent uprising by warrior monks and peasantry in the late 16th Century, Osaka Castle was modeled on Oda Nobunaga’s elegant Azuchi Castle. Like Azuchi, the original Osaka Castle tenshu (tower keep) was a boro-gata construction featuring five floors visible from the outside, but six floors within, and two underground basements. The scale of the keep was on a par with Azuchi, however the exterior was lacquered black, and decorated with large peony flowers, tigers, birds, the Kiri-mon, Kiku-mon and Tomoemon crests all rendered in gold.
Toyotomi Osaka Castle Keep
Gold was used so lavishly on the exterior of Osaka Castle’s keep, it surpassed the grandeur of Azuchi Castle. The shachihoko- gawara, the roof top decorative devices with the head of a tiger and a scaly fish’s body, other decorative roofing tiles, and the rounded eve edge tiles were all finished in gold leaf. Inside, all pillars were lacquered, red or black, and the walls were gorgeously decorated with gold-leaf and paintings by the leading artists of the day.
Hideyoshi often conducted tours of the luxurious keep to invited guests, and these tours merely served to enhance his power and his authority.
Once the grand tenshu was completed, work continued on the rest of the castle until Hideyoshi’s death in 1598, when the San-no-Maru and entire castle was finally completed. The total construction including dorui (earthen walls), mizubori (water moats) and karabori, (dry moats) covered an area of around two square kilometers. During the Winter Siege of Osaka of 1614, Sanada Yukimura built a vast defensive structure known as the Sanada-Maru, greatly strengthening the karabori protected southern end of Osaka.
Folding screens depicting Osaka Castle
Toyotomi Hideyoshi died not long after the magnificent fortress was completed, and his five-year old son, Hideyori inherited the castle and empire. A five member Council of Regents had been established to assist the child. The peace Hideyoshi had achieved through national subjugation was ripped apart when the designated leader of those regents, Tokugawa Ieyasu, made moves to assume power for himself. The nation was instantly torn in two, the Tokugawa led East and the Toyotomi loyal West, culminating in the Battle of Sekigahara in October of 1600.
The Tokugawa claimed victory, however, the nation was still not 100% in the hands of the Tokugawa. There were still a large number of daimyo loyal to the Toyotomi, a dangerous situation. Concerned at this, and wanting to see the demise of the Toyotomi clan and peace before his own demise, Ieyasu launched the Winter Siege of Osaka in 1614. Although outnumbered two to one, the Toyotomi forces managed to hold off the attack, despite the Tokugawa having filled in the outer moat. The following year, in 1615, the Toyotomi were hurriedly gathering troops and repairing the outer moats. Alarmed, Tokugawa Ieyasu raised 150,000 samurai and again laid siege to Osaka Castle and the 60,000 samurai inside.
Folding screen depicting The Siege of Osaka
Two months of fierce fighting took place before the castle fell, destroyed by artillery shelling and fire. Thousands of samurai loyal to the Toyotomi were killed, and the Toyotomi clan perished.
Early news print of the fall of Osaka
Site of Hideyori and hios mother’s suicide at Osaka
Photograph of Osaka Castle circa 1865
In 1620, the Tokugawa clan rebuilt Osaka Castle from scratch so as to leave no trace of the Toyotomi clans’ fortress. The moats were dug wider and deeper than before, the ishigaki stone walls were re-configured to reach 30 meters in places, much higher than before, and the tenshu was repositioned and rebuild about 45meters west of the former keep. The new chalky white tenshu was 1.5 times bigger than the Toyotomi castle’s tower keep, and a Sanju-yagura, a three-story watchtower was constructed alongside. This castle was partially destroyed when lightening struck a gunpowder warehouse in 1660 causing an explosion and fire. The main donjon too was destroyed by fire five years later in 1665, when lightening struck the keep. Finally, the castle was attacked and burned before surrendering to the Imperial forces during the Meiji Restoration of 1868.
The current castle, a ferro-concrete tower reconstructed in 1931 is an interesting mix of old and new, and of differing clan and colors. It was constructed based on the shape of the Toyotomi castle, but built in the white walled, green roofed design preferred by the Tokugawa clan, on the remaining stone base of the 1620’s reconstructed Tokugawa built Osaka Castle. Thirteen original Tokugawa period structures remain, and have been designated as Important Cultural Assets.
The current reconstructed Osaka Castle keep
Thirteen original structures remain
The castle’s walls are in superb condition
Gates, watchtowers and other structures hard back to the Edo period
The great stone walls of Osaka Castle are worth noting, as they are one of the very few not to have been damaged by demolition, war or earthquake since being constructed in the 1620s.