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Now that you’ve gotten to know a little more about all of the samurai featured in Bandai’s newest Gashapon collection, I’d like to go further in depth on one of them in particular, the second great unifier and the reason Japan has Osaka castle today, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, born to a peasant foot soldier, there was no traceable samurai blood in him, but that would not hinder him from leading an accomplished life and creating a cultural legacy. While his personal history before 1570 (aged 33 or 34) isn’t particularly clear, there’s no doubt that he remains to be one of the most prominent figures in Japanese history.
His story begins when he returns home to serve the lord of his homeland, Oda Nobunaga. After proving himself at many important battles, the young unifier in the making becomes a samurai. He continues to solidify his position through his efforts and intelligence. It was through his efforts that the Siege of Inabayama Castle became an easy victory for Nobunaga. Using his prowess as a negotiator, Hideyoshi was able to convince many warlords to desert the Saito clan and even persuaded some Saito clan samurai, of which included their strategist, to yield to Nobunaga. In addition to that, he led a very successful campaign that would award him the title of daimyo and the possession of three districts. If that’s not impressive enough, Nobunaga would send him to conquer the western most regions of mainland Japan, but because of Akechi Mitsuhide’s betrayal he was forced to make peace and return quickly. So whether he would have proved victorious there as well will remain a mystery. Though, there is no doubt about Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s competence as a general and warrior.
After avenging the death of his lord by defeating the traitor Akechi Mitsuhide, his path to coming into power would soon be realized. Returning home by sea, he had yet to realize that he had already received control of most of Nobunaga’s territories. Though with that came the struggle of who claimed a right to power within the Oda clan. Toyotomi chose to support the grandson of Nobunaga, Oda Hidenobu, who was only two at the time. While the opposing side chose to support the third son of Nobunaga, Oda Nobutaka. Of course, the winner ended up being the heir supported by Toyotomi after he defeated his once ally, Shibata Katsuie. From then on, the Oda clan would come under his control and he would soon reach the pinnacle of his power. Though, that remains a story for another time. It was during this time that the he commenced the construction of what is known today as one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, Osaka Castle.
In modern day, the main tower of the castle sits on a plot of land roughly one square kilometer. It overlooks a moat and is five stories tall on the outside, but eight stories tall on the inside. Obviously, fulfilling its purpose as a castle, it was also built atop a tall stone foundation to help fend off attacks. The actual castle grounds occupy 60,000 square meters. Those castle grounds house thirteen structures that are nationally recognized as cultural assets.
When Toyotomi Hideyoshi commenced the construction of Osaka Castle, it was the year 1583. The castle was modeled after the castle of his former lord, Aizuchi Castle, but Hideyoshi wanted his castle to be better in every way. The original castle had five stories above ground and three underground. Not only a monument to impress visitors with attractions such as a golden leaf on the sides. The castle was often extended to make it formidable to attacks. It was because of this, that the castle actually wasn’t completed until 1597, a year before Hideyoshi’s death.
The extra effort on the castle would not go to waste. Despite being outnumbered two to one, the Toyotomi family made a valiant final defense during the Siege of Osaka, fighting off Tokugawa’s 200,000-man army. It was only through sly negotiations that Tokugawa created an opportunity to fill the outer moat. Leading ultimately to the end of the Toyotomi family. The history of Osaka Castle would not end there though.
Heir to the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Hidetada would also reconstruct and rearm Osaka Castle. The additions would account to a main tower that was five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, which is what the modern day Osaka Castle resembles. He also had individual samurai construct walls that still stand today.
Osaka Castle was also damaged various times through its history. In 1660, lightning struck the gunpowder warehouse, setting the castle on fire and burned the main tower down. It wasn’t until 1843, after years of neglect that the castle received some crucial repairs. Sadly, the restoration of that time was not meant to be. Only 25 years after its long needed repairs, much of the castle would be burned in the Fall of Osaka Castle. Luckily, after the mayor of Osaka completed a successful fundraiser, they were able to restore the main tower.
Even after the Siege of Osaka, the castle itself would continue to be used in times of strife during the Meiji Restoration and also during World War Two. With all of its use, the castle would go on to be restored another time before becoming the castle the world knows today.
Its interior architecture is very modern in contrast to it’s very traditional exterior. There is an elevator shaft that runs right through the center of the castle that takes you up to the very top floor. The recommended way to tour the castle is the go to the very top and enjoy the view of the castle grounds before slowly making your way down floor by floor. As you go down each floor, you’ll be greeted by some display of Osaka castle and a television giving you more information about the castle and its creation.
There are floors that talk specifically about Toyotomi Hideyoshi, detailing his life and achievements. In general, each floor follows some kind of direction so that by following the recommended path, you explore more than just a castle, you take a journey through history.