Osaka Castle, or Osakajo, is a 16th-century fortress that lies in the middle of the steel and glass towers of modern Osaka. At one time, the bastion was the largest castle in Japan.
Over the centuries, the stronghold has endured attacks, been burned down, and left decades in a state of ruin. Remarkably, the stone and earthen ramparts somehow survived city-wide aerial bombardments and air raids during World War II. After the war, the city gradually restored the castle to one of Japan’s famous landmark it is today.
Thinking we’d have to leave our bicycles parked outside of the fortress walls while touring the fortress grounds, a security guard kindly informed us our bikes were allowed if we pushed them. How cool is that? The Japanese people are into following the rules, so officials permit bicycles in most Japan’s famous landmarks — unlike many other countries I’ve traveled where some people just hop on their bikes as soon as they clear the entrance gate.
Exploring Feudal Japan
Massive, formidable walls constructed of interlocking granite boulders that formed the steep lower and upper chamfered baileys surrounding the central tower or keep with flanking towers.
Circumnavigating the outer moat and crossing a bridge to the lower bailey it’s easy to see the labor and craftsmanship that went into constructing the steep sloping walls. Walking our bicycle through formidable iron-clad wooden gates, we pushed our cycles up concrete ramps until we finally ascended to the grounds surrounding citadel or central tower.
Placid, glassy waters of the inner and outer moats cast reflections of burnt red Japanese maples and a mottled gray sky like a giant abstract painting. Not a leaf rustled in the still air. Voices carried from far away.
Peering through the embrasures atop of the parapets of the inner wall across the surrounding cityscape of modern Osaka, it’s not hard to image historical Japan, or to see the contrast of the new and old.
It’s late autumn in Osaka. Smatterings of fall color dot the castle ground, but not for long. With each passing day, temperatures have been steadily dropping. Early winter was settling in.
Nearing the end of our journey, exploring the Osaka Castle, an ancient structure situated in the midst of a modern city, made a fitting end to a remarkable adventure. Our day among the battlements of feudal Japan gave us a lasting glimpse before making passage home to China.
Life is good.