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Osaka Castle

June 10, 2010 3 comments

Osaka Castle was built originally by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Japan’s revolutionary leader in the late 16th century who rose from peasantry to become one of the three unifiers of Japan and put an end to a long, bloody period of feudal warfare. Completed in 1597, the castle was the largest, most intimidating castle in Japan at the time, and it overlooked and provided the catalyst for the rapid growth of Osaka, which would become the “merchant’s capital” and economic engine of Japan during the Edo Period (1600-1868). Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori, would resist the forces of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who took power after Hideyoshi’s death. Hideyori would defend against two assaults using Osaka Castle as a base before committing suicide with his mother when the battle was lost.

Hideyoshi’s castle was destroyed after the battle, and the rebuilt version once again during a fire; the current structure is a faithful reconstruction (except for use of concrete) from the 1930s, renovated in 1997 to express the feel of original more closely. The moats and walls are almost all original, and one of the turrets is also an original. The inside of the castle has been turned into an in informative and interesting history museum, and the view from the top of the keep provides a great way to see the whole city. Osaka Castle Park is lovely, especially when the cherry blossoms are blooming, when the plum blossoms are blooming, and when the autumn leaves are changing. You can also see Hokoku Shrine, one of the many temples built to honor Hideyoshi, within the park grounds.
While some criticize Osaka Castle because it is a re-creation, I would argue, without getting into a deep discussion about the true significance of historical monuments, that it is still fulfills the roles it was primarily intended to play–namely, that of impressing visitors and of acting as a symbol of Osaka. Some scoff at the elevator attached to provide access to the entrance, but from my perspective, it provides an equal chance for all people, no matter their physical condition or health, to visit this important site.

In summary, Osaka Castle is a must-see for any visitor to the city, and its park (one of the most beautiful and well-planned around), its event facilities and its sightseeing boat dock pier make this one of the most important sightseeing spots in the city.

Access: Directly outside Morinomiya (Chuo and Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi Subway Lines, JR Loop Line), 5 min. walk from Tanimachi 4-chome Station (Tanimachi and Chuo Subway Lines), 5 min. walk from Tenmabashi Station (Tanimachi Subway Line, Keihan Subway Line), 10 min. walk from Osakajo-kitazume Station (JR Tozai Line), 10-15 min. walk from Kyobashi Station (JR Loop Line, JR Tozai Line, JR Gakkentoshi Line/Katamachi Line, Keihan Lines, Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi Subway Line), 5 min. walk from Osaka Business Park Station (Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi Subway Line), or 5 min. walk from Osakajo-koen Station (JR Osaka Loop Line). Many of the Aqua Bus sightseeing boats stop at the park, also. A PDF version of the map in English, which includes many of the stations mentioned, is available here.

Costs: Osaka Castle Museum costs 600 yen per adult, and is free for guests 15 years of age or younger. There are also group discounts. Entrance to the park is free.

Hours: Osaka Castle, which has a museum and an open-air observatory from the top, is open 9 am to 5 pm (closed from Dec. 28 to Jan.), and guests are admitted until 30 min. before closing time. The park is open at all times. Castle facilities are open until 7 pm during the summer (July 17 to Aug. 29).

For more information about the museum, call 06-6941-3044. Also check out Osaka Castle’s website.

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Nakanoshima Club

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Nakanoshima Club is inside the Chuo Kokaido

Nakanoshima Club (中之島倶楽部) is a Western cuisine restaurant located in the Chuo Kokaido building, which was built in 1918 in the elegant yet flamboyant European-influenced style that became popular in the early part of Japan’s modern period. The building is one of the most beautiful of the historic buildings in the Nakanoshima/Kitahama area, and it has been designated as an Important Cultural Property by the government. While dinners here average out to around 3,500 yen per person, which is a little more than the average diner may want to pay, lunch is an easily-affordable 680 yen (average) per person. Although the lunch menu is more limited, the low price gives you a chance to experience the tasty food and Showa-Period atmosphere of Nakanoshima Club without emptying your wallet. Plus, if you’ve never had a chance to walk around Nakanoshima Island, you make an afternoon out of it!

It is only a few steps to Nakanoshima Club from Naniwabashi Station (Keihan Nakanoshima Line), and only 3 min. on foot from Yodoyabashi Station (Midosuji Subway Line and Keihan Main Line). Simply walk around the side of the Chuo Kokaido building and go in through the basement-level entryway. Restaurant hours are 9:30 am to 9:30 pm (closed on the 4th Tue. of the month and during the New Year’s holiday period). English menus are available for those who don’t read Japanese—menu and further information are also available here. Nomihodai is also available. You can contact them at 06-6233-3580.

A Google Maps access map can be viewed here.

The City as Subject: Seki Hajime and the Reinvention of Modern Osaka

September 1, 2009 3 comments

Academic books in English the focus on Osaka are not very common, as the focus has always been disproportionately skewed in favor of Tokyo, and to some extent Kyoto. However, there are a few good ones out there, and if you have an interest in Osakan history and culture I highly recommend taking a look at them.

This time I want to introduce The City as Subject: Seki Hajime and the Reinvention of Modern Osaka by Jeffrey E. Hanes, a history professor at the University of Oregon (it can be found at Amazon and Amazon Japan). This well-researched work focuses on Seki Hajime, an early-twentieth-century mayor of Osaka who strove to make the city a livable city at a time when it had acquired the fitting nickname “Manchester of the Orient.” Not only does this book focus on Seki Hajime and his career and aspirations, it encompasses urban planning history and political history as well. Among his other projects, this Osaka mayor led the development of Midosuji from a tiny street into the first grand north-south avenue in the city with the country’s second-ever subway line (this is now the most glamorous avenue in Osaka with the busiest subway line in Japan running underneath it). His ideas for a socially progressive style of urban planning to support social equality among citizens of the rapidly expanding industrial metropolis of Osaka have left their mark in Japanese history, and he would be glad to know that Osaka has truly become a vibrant, livable city like none other.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Osakan history, and to any students of Japanese history who want to broaden their horizons and escape the trap of viewing Japan as a Tokyo-centered society.