Osaka-jo and Osaka Museum of History

Today we started slowly. We skipped our crappy breakfast at our crappy hotel and went to a Matchikadoya shop for breakfast. Afterwards we strolled through the city to Osaka-jo – Osaka castle. Osaka-jo was built in the late 15 hundreds by Hideyoshi Toyotomi and his son Hideyori. The former was the first feudal lord to unite the warring Japan.

Osaka-jo is the setting of the Osaka winter and summer campaign, two wars between Hideyori Toyotomi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who ultimately won the summer campaign in 1615 and founded the Tokugawa shogun dynasty. When Osaka fell in 1615, the castle was completely destroyed, but only 5 years later the Tokugawa regime started to rebuild Osaka castle.

Like many other buildings most of the castle buildings were wodden constructions and the new main tower lasted only for 30 years before it was burned down after being hit by lightning. It was then rebuilt under emperor Meiji. The current main tower survived the air raids of the second world war. Today it holds a museum which details the lives of the Toyotomi protagonists of Japans unification and the events of the Osaka war, which ultimately ended the Toyotomi lineage. The exhibition is centered around two large folding screens which depict the war and fall of Osaka in great detail.

A summary? War and nobles are the same, whether in medieval Japan or Europe.

Then we went to the Osaka Museum of History. This museum tells Osakas history from the first settlements in the area of the Osaka delta to the Meiji restoration. It is really interesting, as it shows what happend before all the samurai stuff. Unfortunately almost all exhibits are only explained in Japanese. So the audio guide is really important, if you can’t read Japanese well.

The museum itself is very nice. Beside the traditional showing of broken, bent or reconstructed vases, swords, coins and whatevers, there are many displays with puppets or miniatures which paint a vivid picture of ancient Osaka. I found the main hall of the Naniwa palace very interesting. Half of a museum floor is dedicated to this pre-Nara palace building and the hall is rebuilt inside with life-sized figures of ladies in waiting and court nobles around a painting of the emperor’s thone. The windows allow the visitors to see the site, where the rests of the buildings foundations were excavated and where the stone base for the building was rebuilt.

Overall the museum offers a wonderful view of Osaka. As the exhibition starts on 9th floor (German couning, 10th in Japanese counting) one can see Osaka castle whenever going from one floor to the next.

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