Seeing Osaka’s Castle

April 5, 2015

On the plane to Osaka, I overheard these group of people who were talking about spending a day shopping and visiting the Universal Studios. They’re from a local Filipino bank and must be on a team building holiday if not a business trip.

The moment we landed in Osaka I immediately reviewed the destinations I listed. Of course, the Osaka castle’s on  top.

A great view of the Osaka castle from NHK Osaka building. One of the turrets; the outer moat. NHK Osaka houses a museum which offers awesome presentation about the history of Japan; I have seen some of these flags back home. Headed to one of the many memorial in the area; this one, near the Otemon gate.

Certainly not an expert but I’m aware of the castle’s significance to the Japanese. The thought that the great samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, fought with the Tokugawa side against the Toyotomi clan fired up my imagination. After the success of the Tokugawa in capturing Osaka, Ieyasu finally had power over all of Japan. He united the country.

It was nice that the day we arrive, plum and cherry blossoms has started flowering. It was not in full bloom yet but its colors and scents was already attracting people. Some had already set up picnic blankets around these low leafless trees with the Osaka castle for a background. They would drink tea and beers, eat out of their lacquer bento boxes. It was a great sight to see.

A samurai at the gates. The building where warriors of feudal Japan once trained; now children and adults practicing martial arts used it. The great castle of Osaka. These balls are takoyakis; I enjoyed watching vendors make them.

Being a martial art fan I was thrilled to see the old building where martial arts were taught in feudal Osaka. Here I saw Japanese children studying karate. Not far is a popular samurai statue that I believe to be Hideyoshi Toyotomi (but don’t take my word here).

Around this area there are food stalls. The best Takoyaki I tasted here.

Everywhere I see people taking pictures. I noticed that majority of the tourists were Japanese. Another curious thing I observed was that most of them have simple, some old, point and shoot digital cameras. You’d expect them to have sophisticated gadgets but these people are very basic in their attire and possessions.

Some of the most beautiful shots I took of Osaka involves Sakuras and other tree blossoms. Japanese would picnic around these low flowering trees.

I remember a story from a friend who visited Japan a few years ago for a job assignment. He was fortunate that instead of a hotel a co-worker offered him one of the rooms in their house for the entire week of his stay. The house is typical Japanese, small and modest. But what surprised my friend was the television was a very old unit; one of those bulky squarish ones. No flat screen. The area he said was not far from electronic shops that offered the best in television technology.

Less is more, they live it.

I was a little embarrassed that day in the Nishinomaru garden when I took pictures of myself beside a man who was smelling and snapping macros of sakuras. Obviously, we see the world in totally different ways.

The castle is among Japan’s most visited historic sites. There’s a queue everywhere. They have converted the entire castle into a multi-level museum, with amazing original period items and interactive audio-visual narrations. They have installed an elevator and in almost every corner there’s a staff. The castle is surrounded by moats, turrets, citadels and gates. The last full restoration was made only in the 90’s. It took damage during WWII but was never totally ruined.

The top floor of the castle provided a magnificent view of Osaka. This is the same view that was once reserved only for the masters of the castle in the days of feudal Japan. Now I stand in the same spot where they used to observe theirs subjects taking selfies. How rude.

One of the things I learned from this trip is how Japanese would saved up and spend time visiting their heritage places. You see them in the train terminal with their traveling cases and bags. Like me, they would stand in front of the train maps, trying to figure out how to get to Osaka’s main tourist attractions. They’re more excited to see the real Japan than those Filipino tourists who went to Universal Studios.

In the castle I observed how Japanese, young and old, would fall in line to watch a presentation or get close to a museum item. You could see how they try to absorb everything in. Even children appears to understand the significance of what they’re witnessing. I don’t know if they’ve been taught to behave that way or if they already have it in them since birth. They are, after all, a very loyal and disciplined race.

A few years ago I found out that Japanese visitors would arrange trips to an obscure site in Muntinlupa where some of their last soldiers were executed. They were the aggressors and committed many crimes but you would have to respect how the succeeding generation still values these men who died so young. I believe it’s not what they’ve committed during that terrible war that the Japanese of today looks up to but those soldiers willingness to die when their country asked them to—it is that spirit that even I respect.

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