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The shrine next door to the hostel, Namba Yasaka Jinja, which we visited first thing.

We decided to do something a little more "cultural" and a little less like shopping, and took the subway to Ōsaka Castle. The stop let out just outside the NHK building and the Ōsaka Museum of History, which are adjacent. Unfortunately, the history museum is closed every Tuesday, so that was out. It was a little rainy, so it would have been a good choice.

We spotted some sort of tower monument before catching sight of the castle, and made our way in that direction. We were stopped before we could get very close, however, and when I tried to explain we just wanted to know what the place was, I got an explanation I couldn't really understand. It was the Kyōikutō ("Education Tower"), and there was something to do with school children, and for whatever reason we couldn't enter and he was sorry -- although there were plenty of Japanese people walking by without being bothered.

Shirai-san offered to take our photo in front of the gate. This is the only picture I have of myself on the trip.

Ōsaka Castle was nearby, and when we approached its main gate, we were promptly greeted by one of the volunteer guides, Shirai-san. He spoke very good if accented English, and offered his services free of charge. The first thing we did was ask him about the Education Tower. Apparently it was built as a monument to both teachers and students who had lost their lives in a 1934 typhoon, and as a prayer against another such disaster. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to know what event was going on.

He led us onward to our tour of the castle grounds, and we got a bit of a history lesson. The castle was originally conceived of by Oda Nobunaga, but he was killed before it could be built. His successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, eliminated his killers and had the castle built. The original grounds were four times the size of the current one, with not two but four moats.

The castle was later lost to Tokugawa, who had it rebuilt, but at its smaller size. In order to build its stone walls, he ordered the local feudal lords to have the stone brought, sometimes at great expense. The largest stones are 5.5 meters high and maybe twice that in length, and had to be brought from as far away as Kyūshū because there was no granite available locally at that size. There was some difficulty finding smaller stone as well, and some of those were made from gravestones. A number of the stones bear family crests or signatures of the lords pledging loyalty to Tokugawa. The whole effort served the added purpose of depleting their funds, weakening their power compared to Tokugawa's.

The main tower of the castle was lost to fire several times, and the most recent incarnation was built in the 1930s, partially from concrete. Because the castle was at that time controlled by the military, there was an agreement made that they would also be able to construct a military building on the grounds. Of the funds donated, 1/3 went into building the castle tower, and the rest went to a military barracks of German design. The latter hasn't been used since 2001, when the museum of history relocated.

One of the moats, where they grew crops during the war.

The incongruous German castle.

Shirai-san's tour ended once we reached the base of the main tower, and we thanked him and explored the grounds on our own for a while. At his suggestion, we tried takoyaki from one of the stands within the castle grounds; it's supposed to be one of Ōsaka's specialties (the other being okonomiyaki), though we had some difficulty eating the doughy balls with toothpicks.

The main castle building.

We took a break for a while at the hostel before wading back into Dōtonbori in search of a shop selling bowls we'd seen earlier. We invariably got lost along the way, but we did eventually find the place and purchased a few nice but inexpensive bowls. We dragged our tired feet back to a cheap restaurant across from the hostel where we had curry-rice, and then called it a day.

December 2016

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