Whether you’re looking for reminders of a bygone era or the pulsing lights and sounds of the modern age, Ōsaka’s bound to have something that will suit your itinerary.
Returning to Ōsaka on JR West’s Kuroshio limited express service after my day trip to Wakayama, I transferred to the Tanimachi subway line at Tennōji Station and got off at Tanimachi Yonchōme Station. From here, a short walk brought me to the broad plaza in front of the Ōsaka Museum of History.
But before heading into the soaring sail-shaped building where the museum was housed . . .
. . . I spent a few moments looking at the large rectangles set into the pavement outside the entrance. These are outlines of the foundations of sixteen ancient warehouses – dating from the 5th century A.D. – that were excavated on this site. The following satellite view shows them quite nicely (that is, assuming Google Maps displays it on your side just as it does on my computer).
One of the warehouses has been reconstructed, and today it was pressed into service as a nice backdrop for a party of elderly visitors.
Similar to the path I took at the Kaiyūkan, the normal route for visitors at the museum brought me to the top of the building, from which I gradually worked my way down through various layers of Ōsaka’s rich history. It began with a partial interior reconstruction of the Daigokuden (the main audience hall) of the palace of Naniwa-kyō, one of the former imperial capitals of Japan. Note the similarities between the architectural elements of this reconstruction and those of the rebuilt palace of Heijō-kyō (another former capital, located in modern-day Nara).
The ruins of the palace are actually visible from here, since the excavation site – now maintained as a leafy park – is located just a stone’s throw from the museum.
From here, the downward path brought me forward through history, detailing various stages in Ōsaka’s development as one of Japan’s most important cities. Amongst the highlights of the museum was a collection of detailed scale models showing major buildings and selected areas of the city at different points in time.
I also passed many other exhibits on the long way down, including an interactive display made up to look like an archaeological excavation.
At the lowest permanent exhibition floor, I was greeted by a life-sized recreated street scene depicting Shinsaibashi and Dōtonbori in the early 20th century.
The museum also hosts special exhibitions, which can be accessed at an additional cost. At the time of my visit, they were running a very well-attended exhibition titled Manga no Chikara (The Power of Manga), focusing on the life and art of manga legends Tezuka Osamu and Ishinomori Shōtarō. The event featured an extensive display of original hand-drawn art, as well as biographical exhibits and samples of works by succeeding generations of mangaka inspired by these great artists.
Sadly, as one might expect (given the obviously complex copyright/estate issues involved), photography was absolutely forbidden within the special exhibit. All I have to show is this standee (note the sign behind it specifically permitting pictures – but only here!) . . .
. . . and signs from outside the museum promoting the event.
From here, another short walk brought me to the southwestern corner of Ōsaka Castle‘s sprawling compound, where I spent some time on a leisurely stroll through the ancient fortifications. I was last here just a few years ago, but the sight of the castle’s towering walls still didn’t fail to impress.
I vaguely recall entering by a different gate (of which there were several) on my first visit. Today, I came in through the Ōtemon Gate, built in 1628.
Some of the stones used in the castle’s construction are absolute monsters, like this enormous slab set into one wall.
The sprawling compound has seen many buildings and curiosities added to the landscape over the centuries. Amongst them is a marker indicating the burial spot of a time capsule, interred during Expo ’70 and scheduled to be opened after 5,000 years.
The castle’s long-destroyed main tower was rebuilt using concrete in 1931, and today hosts a history museum in its modern interior. I stayed outside on this occasion (having already seen the museum on my first visit here) and simply enjoyed the views of the soaring structure set against the bright blue sky.
Also within the castle compound is a plum orchard. It was a little too early for the peak of the blooming period. . .
. . . although there were a few lovely blossoms sprinkled here and there amongst the seemingly lifeless branches.
Afterwards, it was back to the hotel for a simple bentō supper of dashimaki tamago served with premium Uonuma koshihikari rice.
To cap off the day, I headed back out after dark and dove straight into one of the city’s brightest night spots, the area along the Dōtonbori canal in the Nanba district.
The area is filled with restaurants and shopping arcades, whose brightly lit signs made for a rewarding visit even though I had neither food nor shopping in mind.
The following morning, I reached a very important milestone in my years of journeying across Japan – but let’s save that for another post.