3rd November, 2006 - With a heavy heart we set out, our last day in Japan - though we didn't know how long. After a short side trip to Yodobashi's to pick up some last minute deals (actually Sapporo was better for prices than Osaka), we arrived at the last stop on our journey. Osaka-jo. The great white shark of Japanese tourist attractions. When you come out of the subway station, it stands high above the surrounding landscape... dominating the skyline.
Yet the outer defences have a feel of quietness as compared to the main keep's brashness. In spring the cherry blossoms define the perimeter, but there were no falling blossoms to greet us this afternoon.
|The Main Keep|
By the time that Ieyasu struck, he had already abdicated his role of Shogun to his son (in 1605), thus commencing the Tokugawa reign over Japan...The first campaign in 1614 failed to be decisive, but it lead instead to a begrudging compliance by the Hideyori's followers. As part of that cease-fire agreement, the moat of Osaka-jo was filled in - thus providing a fatal chink in it's protective armour. Yet tension once again rose in 1615 and the two armies once fired into action, culminating in the battle of Tenno-ji in which the 70,000+ strong army of Hideyori took on the 165,000 strong army of Hidetata (Ieyasu's son and current shogun). The wheel of fate turned and in the end the Tokugawa army prevailed and in the resulting retreat the castle was destroyed. Hideyori at the age of 22 commited suicide, along with his mother Yodogimi, rather than be captured. The remaining family members were captured - and they suffered the fate often meted out to the losers... they were killed. This included Hideyori's 8 year old son, Kunimatsu, who was beheaded. His daughter was the only survivor, who went on to become an abbotess at Tōkei-ji in Kamakura.
The action of Ieyasu was to cement the power of the Tokugawa for the next 250 years.
|Shachihoko ornament atop the observation level of the Osaka-jo|
|The view from Osaka-jo|
There's no doubt that Osaka-jo is a must-see attraction in Osaka... but if you've seen the real thing (like Himeji-jo) you might be a little disappointed. Still, that's part of the fun of holidays - and different cultures - it's not what is disappointing, but the fun and excitement of discovering new things (good or bad). And there was a great festive atmosphere to the castle that made it an extra enjoyable experience.
As the sun sank slowly closer to the horizon, we knew that it was setting also on our holiday. With heavy hearts, bodies weary from two weeks of constant adventure, and heads full of amazing memories we made our way back to the hotel - and then on to the airport.
Osaka-jo is a strange symbol of Japan... history fused with the modern. Japan is rarely what it appears from the outside - and every time you feel you know it, and it's people, a bit better... you discover you only know a bit more of the mystery.