Despite being largely a concrete reconstruction, Ōsaka-jō can be counted a great survivor, a tangible link with the city’s illustrious past as Japan’s one-time seat of power. The castle’s roots go back to the early sixteenth century, when an influential Buddhist sect built its fortified temple headquarters Ishiyama Hongan-ji beside the confluence of the Ōgawa and Neya-gawa rivers. For a decade the monks held out against warlord Oda Nobunaga, before handing their fortress over in 1580. Nobunaga’s successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, decided to build the grandest castle in Japan on the temple site. For three years from 1583, tens of thousands of men laboured on the enormous castle, and craftsmen were drafted in from around Japan to give the eight-storey central donjon the finest gold-leaf decoration.

Toyotomi died in 1598, and his son and heir Hideyori was immediately under threat from rival Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1614, the would-be shogun laid siege to the castle, even though his favourite granddaughter Senhime, wife of Hideyori, was inside. A year later he breached the castle and reduced it to ruins. Hideyori and his mother committed suicide rather than surrender, but Senhime survived and went on to become mistress of Himeji-jō. When Ieyasu allowed the castle to be rebuilt in the 1620s, he made sure it was not on the same scale as his own residence in Edo. In 1665, the donjon was again burnt to the ground after being struck by lightning. It was not rebuilt until the 1840s and then only lasted another thirty years before the Tokugawa troops set fire to the castle during the civil war that briefly raged before the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Ōsaka’s citizens, however, had grown fond of their castle, so the donjon was rebuilt once more in 1931 – this time from concrete – and it has remained standing despite the heavy bombing of the city during World War II.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 reasons why Osaka should be on your radar

6 reasons why Osaka should be on your radar

Osaka is affectionately known as "Japan's kitchen". It's the birthplace of ramen noodles (which celebrate their 60th birthday in 2018) and is home to some of th…

26 Sep 2017 • Tamara Hinson insert_drive_file Article
Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

With its glittering royal palaces, ancient temples and sacred shrines as well as sandy beaches, some of the world’s best skiing and beautiful national parks, …

07 Sep 2017 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

As the biggest city in the world, it’s unsurprising that Tokyo is crammed full of different places to stay – and with each district boasting its own charact…

08 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook