Saturday, 9 April 2016

Osaka: Castles

After our owly adventure, M-san sadly had to leave me and fly back to her home planet native country.

At her recommendation, I wandered over to look at Osaka Castle. It was a surprisingly long way compared to how it seemed on the map, so I did start wondering if I'd just completely missed it. Thank goodness for mapping apps (props to Laura for pointing me at Maps.Me, since Google Maps refused to let me download any Japan maps for offline use).

This is just some kind of bar, but I liked the aesthetic.

I took a couple of panoramic shots from atop this walkway. I think they're pretty cool. Click on them to get a better idea.

This photo makes everything look quite grey, but it didn't feel it at the time. This is crossing the river towards the castle.

This stone is called Higaishi and is apparently the second largest used in the castle. It's pretty massive.

First glimpse of the castle from afar! At this distance you can't see all the tourists...

Ah, there they are.

This is actually a panoramic shot designed to show off the curvature of the walls.

About this time in my holiday I was getting overexcited by the panoramic function, as you can see. In fairness, this really is the only way to capture some of the feeling of looking around these places.

View from inside the walls.

Two views of the castle walls from the grounds.

There's a nice peaceful garden of... some kind of trees... which I spent a little time wandering through. They had gold labels that glinted in the sun. I believe they're Japanese apricot, Prunus mume.

You know I like my close-ups of nature.

A cat lurks amidst the bushes.

There's a temple near the castle, and a couple were getting married in one part of it (not shown) although at the time I think it was still early stages.

Side temple.

A nice flower.

The biggest building in the castle; it's the Osaka City Museum now, although I don't know what it originally was.

Castle restoration

The castle was badly damaged in 1868 during the Meiji Restoration, and partly repaired in the late 1920s, before being badly damaged again in WW2 when it was targeted for its use as an armoury. The restoration was completed in 1997 and is largely concrete - not very authentic, but apparently acceptable. The following maps display some of the archaeological work and restoration.

More castle

Back of the museum. I quite liked it for some reason.

The museum looked pretty striking, and much older, as the sun faded behind it.

It was quite hard to photograph the castle courtyard because of all the crowds. I think this gives a reasonable impression, though.

In the end, I decided against going inside. I'd been inside castles before, and I was a bit footsore after a complete circuit of the grounds and walking quite a lot around Osaka as well. So I just headed back to the hotel and started thinking about food.

This area on the way back from the castle was the largest single expanse of grass I have seen in Japan. I was compelled to walk on it as far as possible, enjoying the faint springiness of the grass under my feet. Since I now live in a city even at home, with very few opportunities to walk on grass, this sort of thing is precious.

I actually ended up buying some healthy ingredients from a shop on the way home, and assembling a loose picnicy sort of meal to eat rather than dining out. It was a nice change, to be honest.


It's worth pointing out that getting to Osaka Castle from central Osaka is a reasonable but lengthy walk. Osaka Castle itself is also large and walking around the walls, while pleasant, takes a long time and is relatively tiring. Combining the two, as I did, is probably suboptimal, and I'd recommend looking for a public transport option to get to the Castle.

I also regretted not having brought a meal with me, as it would have been a nice location to sit down for lunch. It'd also be a good opportunity to take a break and so enjoy the walking around more. I'd recommend doing that, and giving yourself longer than I did.

I do find it striking how different the castle grounds are in Japan compared to anywhere in the UK. I'm used to castles and country houses alike being surrounded by lush fields or rolling lawns, but in Japan, as the courtyard photo shows pretty well, it's mostly a case of bare earth with patches of grass here and there. I suppose it's just the climate. And of course, a lot of them are in city centres or thereabouts, so it turns into city quite quickly.

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