When visiting Osaka, one of the first things you must do is to make a trip to Osaka Castle and explore its surrounding area.
I was so smitten by this castle, exploring every corner and taking photos, that I actually visited 2 times in 3 days when I was there over the summer!
It’s definitely on my top things to do when you visit Japan.
BUT, the big question that you’re probably coming here to get answered is: what’s inside Osaka Castle and is it worth seeing? (You actually have to pay ¥600 to take a look inside the castle).
Yes, you read that right. Although the castle grounds and its surrounding areas are free to explore, there is an entrance fee if you want to go inside the castle tower.
And the last entrance into the castle is at 4:30pm (it closes at 5pm), hence why we ended up going twice since the first time we went, we didn’t leave enough time to explore the outside and interior.
In short, inside the castle, you will find an 8 floor museum (actually 7 floors because although there are 8 floors listed, there is no 6th floor) with exhibits about the castle itself, many exhibits about Toyotomi Hideyoshi – the samurai warlord who had the castle built, and an observation deck on the top floor.
In my opinion, going inside Osaka Castle is worth your time and money.
I love wandering around museums and getting lost in its history and stories, so I easily spent a few hours inside the castle checking out every exhibit it has.
However, I definitely understand that some people don’t like browsing through museum exhibits and even find them boring (gasp!), especially when visiting a new country and city.
So I decided to write this little article to help you decide if you want to spend your time and hard earned moola for the entrance ticket (¥600).
In this post, I’ll go over what you’ll find on each floor of the museum and give you my top 5 reasons why I think seeing the inside of the castle is worth it.
Entering Osaka Castle
After you walk through the main gate called Sakuramon Gate and make it to the castle courtyard area, you will see a ticket booth to the right of the castle entrance. As I mentioned, adult tickets are ¥600 per person, but admission is free if you’re younger than 15 years old.
Once you get inside, you will have the choice of either taking the elevator up to the 5th floor and exploring the museum from the top to the bottom (which is what the museum suggests you do), or you can also walk up the stairs and explore the museum from the bottom to the top.
Taking the elevator up to the 5th floor is the least strenuous way to do it, but the line to the elevator can get really long, especially during peak times.
What I decided to do after I entered the castle was to multitask 🙂
Since the line to the elevator was so long, I started to explore the 1st floor while keeping an eye on the line to the elevator.
When the line to the elevator started to die down a little bit, I quickly ran over, hopped in line and took the elevator up to the 5th floor.
Of course, this strategy will only work when it’s not THAT busy, so for those of you who don’t want to wait in line for the elevator, you will have to walk up – but don’t worry, it actually isn’t that bad.
Here is what you’ll find on each floor of the museum. Since the suggested route of exploring the museum is to start from the top to bottom, I’ll also go through the different floors in that order.
Who Built Osaka Castle?
Most of the exhibits in the museum are about Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the samurai warlord who built Osaka Castle.
Although it might seem a bit overkill to have an entire museum about one ruler of Japan, the way the museum is laid out really gives you a sense of what it must have been like during the era under his rule.
Plus the museum is only modest in size, so you flow through all the exhibits pretty quickly.
Each floor of the museum tells a different story of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and by the end of your visit, you will have learned about his life, what it must have been like during the ‘Summer War in Osaka’, what life was like under his rule, and the type of armor and weapons used by samurai.
If you came for the view, then you’ll like the 8th floor. On this floor, you will find the observation deck, which runs on the outside part of the 8th floor giving you panoramic views of Osaka City from about 160 feet up.
I actually didn’t stay too long in the observation deck because it was getting crowded, but I bet watching the sunset from this place in the winter would be magical.
On the inside part of this floor, you will find a museum shop and two 3D illustrations of what Old Osaka might have looked like from this point of view too.
This floor is all about the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and his family tree which I found to be the most interesting exhibit on this floor.
To tell the story of his life, you will also find 19 different miniature dioramas that use video projection which depict a different important event in his life.
Each scene plays out in Japanese, which I unfortunately don’t understand, but there is an informational card in English which explains what you are watching.
I thought this was a very creative way to tell his life story in a fun and interesting way, while keeping it very easy to understand.
The 5th floor is all about the epic “Summer War in Osaka”, which was a series of battles that took place during the summer campaign in the Siege of Osaka from 1614-1615.
The battle was between the Tokugawa shogunate clan who ruled from Edo Castle and the Toyotomi clan of Osaka.
In the end, after many bloody battles, the Tokugawa shogunate clan won and overtook Osaka Castle.
The main exhibit on this floor is a giant painted screen illustrating what it might have looked like during the intense battles.
I stood here for what seemed like an hour studying every inch of the painted screen because every time I re-scanned a certain area, I would find a new scene that I had skipped over when I first looked at it.
The nice thing is that they also have a movie playing on the opposite side of the room which shows and explains more important scenes depicted in the painting.
This 4th floor and the 3rd floor were by far my favorites in the museum as they hold actual artifacts found from the Hideyoshi Toyotomi era.
Unfortunately, you’re not able to take any photos on these two floors so I’m not able to show you what is exhibited, but it makes sense considering camera flash could damage the artifacts.
On the 4th floor you’ll find artifacts such as letters written by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, every day items that might have been used by him, and also paintings from that time.
The 3rd floor was my favorite in the entire museum and I spent most of my time here.
Like the floor above, this floor also holds historical artifacts from the Hideyoshi Toyotomi era, but this floor contains the weapons and armor that samurai used from that time!
I found the samurai armor to be the most interesting, especially the helmet collection that they had.
Each samurai helmet had a fantastical and whimsical design and I could only imagine how intimidating it must have been to see an enemy samurai wearing one of these helmets in a battle.
This floor is all about Osaka Castle itself with display panels around the floor containing facts about the castle.
There is also a short 3 minute movie about the history of Osaka Castle in the Meiji Period which I thought was worth watching.
When I visited, you could also try on a restored samurai helmet from the Sengoku Era and take photos in it for an extra ¥500, but I decided to save my money for matcha ice cream after we were done with the museum.
The people who did take photos with a helmet on all looked like they were having fun though!
Floor 1 – Museum Entrance
This is the floor that you entered the museum, so if you didn’t have time to explore when you first got here, now is the time.
Honestly, the best thing about the main floor is the gift shop which contains unique food gifts that you can only find in Osaka. Of course, you could buy these snacks elsewhere too, but I thought it was pretty convenient that you could do your snack shopping here too!
Other than that there is also a small movie theater that features 5 interesting programs about the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
5 Reasons Why You Should Visit the Inside of Osaka Castle
As you can see, there are a ton of things to see and do when you are inside Osaka Castle.
The reason why I liked the museum so much is because you were able to learn about the entire history of the castle including the life of the person who built the castle.
Gaining this knowledge really gives you an entirely different appreciation of what you’re looking at while you walk around the castle grounds.
Not only that, learning bits and pieces of Japanese history from the stories you will read inside the museum will give you a better understanding of Japan as you travel through the country too.
With that said, here are the top reasons why I think you really should make sure to visit the inside of Osaka Castle while you’re there.
1. The Museum Tells a Great Story in an Interesting and Easy to Understand Way
First of all Osaka Castle is unique in that it is a reconstruction when you compare it to other popular castles in Japan like Himeji Castle or Matsumoto Castle.
Because of this, in my opinion, Osaka Castle is better able to design the experience of the museum. This allows it to not only tell a better overall story about the castle, but also to make the it more fun and interactive.
Getting to see the original castle like you do at Himeji or Matsumoto is also cool, but its a different experience. At those castles, its more about walking through and experiencing the environment than learning about the history.
At Osaka Castle, there are short movies you can watch, little dioramas you can interact with, large paintings you can get lost in, and many artifacts that teach you about life in that era.
Now, I’m not saying one type of experience is better than the other.
What I am saying is that both experiences, the museum at Osaka Castle and visiting an original castle like Himeji or Matsumoto are well worth your time.
2. The Entrance Fee is Not that Expensive
Yes, it’s a bummer that you have to pay an entrance fee in order to go inside Osaka Castle.
If you really think about it, though, the ¥600 is not that expensive considering how much there is to see in the museum.
I mean look at it this way. The average price for a decent matcha ice cream cone in Japan is about ¥500. If you can say no to just 1 ice cream cone during your time in Japan then you have saved almost enough money for an entrance ticket to Osaka Castle 🙂
I know it’s hard to turn down the matcha ice cream, though.
3. You Will Learn More About the History of the Castle and the City of Osaka
It’s hard to imagine when you’re walking around the castle grounds what it might have been like when samurai warriors roamed the land and controlled the country.
This is especially true since there is now a baseball diamond, a few parking lots, and some office buildings in the outer ring of the castle grounds.
Even right inside Osaka Park just a few feet away from Osaka Castle, you’ll find Miraiza Osaka-Jo, which used to be a military headquarters and now has been converted to a shopping area.
By visiting the museum, you will get a much better sense of what it was like to have lived in or around the castle during the time it was first built.
You will also get a glimpse into how brutal and scary it must have been for the residents who lived in and around Osaka Castle during the Summer War in Osaka.
Most importantly, visiting the museum will give you a better appreciation of what you are seeing when you are walking around the castle grounds.
4. The View from the 8th Floor Observation Deck
Let’s be honest. There are many tourist attractions in the world that make you pay just to visit its observation deck or at least make you pay extra to enter the observation deck area.
At Osaka Castle, the observation deck is included in the price and the view is pretty good too.
From the top, you’ll be able to see the Osaka skyline in addition to a better view of the surrounding Osaka Castle grounds. The best part is that the observation deck spans all sides of the 8th floor, so you’ll be able to get a 360 degree view.
As I mentioned before, you would even be able to watch the sunset if you visited Osaka Castle during the winter months as the sunset time is before the museum closes.
Pro Tip: If you can, get to Osaka Castle as early as you can and visit the observation deck first. The observation deck area is small, so it can get very busy if you go during peak season or during peak times during the day.
5. You Already Traveled So Far, Might As Well See Everything You Can
Come on now! If you’re a tourist from another country like me, that means you took all this time to travel to Japan. Then once you made it to Japan, you had to spend all that time just to make it to Osaka Castle.
The last thing you could do after traveling all that way is to make sure you see everything possible in the time that you have, which includes the museum inside Osaka Castle.
Although you will find mixed reviews online, the museum inside Osaka Castle is definitely worth your time and money.
So if you are looking to visit the castle with the hopes of seeing what it was like when it was first built with original artifacts, you might be disappointed with what you find inside Osaka Castle.
If however, you just want to learn something new and get a better sense of the history of the castle, then a visit inside will be perfect for you.
In my opinion, if you have the time, the best way to explore the area is to visit the museum first before you explore the castle grounds.
This way, you will have a better understanding of the historical events that had taken place in whatever area of the castle grounds you are exploring.
Have you visited Osaka Castle before? If you have, what did you think of the museum inside the castle?