Japan, the land of the rising sun or what we more commonly refer to as the land of ramen, sushi, kabuki, and heated musical toilet seats. Japan is massive, with one metropolis (Tokyo), one circuit ( Hokkaidō), two urban prefectures (Ōsaka & Kyoto) and 43 other prefectures. For this week, let’s look at Ōsaka. Over the next few days, we are going to be talking about things to do in this city, its attractions, indigenous cuisines and Japanese culture. Located in the Kansai region of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Ōsaka is the third largest city in Japan, with a population of over two and a half million people. If you are planning a trip to Ōsaka in the upcoming months, here are some of the attractions you may want to visit!
Ōsaka Castle is possibly Ōsaka’s most famous and prominent landmark and as the name suggests, it is a classic style Japanese castle. Located in Ōsaka Castle Park (previously known as Chou-Ku), this beautiful symbol was originally built in 1583 by the order of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period) and became an emblem of his power and fortune. Designated as a cultural site by the Japanese government, Ōsaka Castle attracts both domestic and foreign visitors attracted by the rich and poignant history of this place. Today Ōsaka Castle is more like a museum built in the shape of a castle (the actual original castle was destroyed by fire), still nevertheless it’s pretty enough from the outside, especially in the cherry blossom season when Osakans gather at the castle park for picnics and to watch the cherry blossoms. When visiting the castle, do check out the observation deck located at the top floor. Panoramic views of the spacious Osaka Castle Park, modern high-rise buildings, the Osaka landscape, and the majestic mountains in the distance are breathtaking.
Sumiyoshi taisha, more commonly known as Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, is a Shinto shrine in the city of Osaka. Called “Sumiyoshi-san” or “Sumiyossan” by the locals, it is the main shrine of all the Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan. Built in the third century, it is believed to be the first of the approximately 2000 Sumiyoshi Shrine throughout Japan. Sumiyoshi Shrine was officially designated in ancient times as one of the highest ranked shrines. Sumiyoshi-sanenshrines three deities that have long been worshiped for protecting the nation, sailors and for promoting waka (31-syllable) poetry. Ergo Sumiyoshi Shrine is a place of pilgrimage for sea travelers, students of the military arts, and waka poets. One thing that stands out is the shrine’s unusual architecture, the straight shaped roof of the main hall of this shrine is one of the specific features of ancient architectural style, very contrastive to the later Buddhist style. At the beginning of a new year, over three million people visit the shrine for Hatsumōde (Japanese people’s first shrine visit of the year), so to fully experience the culture and history of the Sumiyoshi Shrine, be sure to visit the place at the start of the new year.
Shitennō-ji temple is a Buddhist temple built late in the 6th century by Prince Shotoku-taishi, a son of Emperor Yomei, as a token of his gratitude to the Four Devas (Shi-tenno), the guardians for Buddhism and Buddhists, for responding to his prayer to let him overthrow Mononobe-no-Moriya, an anti-Buddhist administrator, in the 6th century. With raked-gravel grounds surrounding the temple, Shitennō-ji is one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples. The temple’s beautiful architecture sees its middle gate, tower, main hall and lecture hall arranged from south to north in a beeline, which is known as “Shiten’no-ji type temple layout” modeled after the then Chinese style of architecture. The Shitennō-ji Temple typifies the Buddhist structures built in the Asuka Period from the late 6th century through the early 7th century making this place is a must-see for architecture buffs!
Osaka Museum of History, opened in 2003, is next to NHK Osaka and just across the street from Ōsaka Castle. The museum offers excellent views of Ōsaka castle from its top floors and the top floor of this museum is a full-size re-creation of the inside of the Naniwanomiya Palace! Featuring scale models, films, life-size reconstructions and photos, the museum is designed to give visitors a multi-dimensional experience of the Osaka’s 1,400 years of history. Start from the top and as one moves down from the Naniwanomiya Palace exhibit, each of the other floors shows a different period in Osaka’s illustrious past, using exhibit models and going from ancient days to more recent times as one moves down.