Osaka Castle, the greatest symbol of Osaka
In 1997, thanks to major renovations, Osaka Castle was reborn into the splendid structure it was during Hideyoshi Toyotomi's time. There are displays of precious historic materials and important cultural properties in the castle tower, which is now a history museum that uses images and dioramas to both teach and entertain. The 360 degree view from the 8th floor observation room is also amazing. Allow yourself to slip into a pensive mood and feel the weight of the castle's history as you see the turrets from the Tokugawa period and the gigantic stones in the wall that bring to mind how difficult it must have been to build it.
The plum and cherry blossoms and autumn leaves that Hideyoshi Toyotomi enjoyed
Of all the floral-viewing areas in Osaka, this is probably the most famous. Kema Sakuranomiya Park is the best place for viewing cherry blossoms in the spring. Saying that, the trees at the mint, the area surrounding the OAP (Osaka Amenity Park) and Osaka Castle are also unforgettable. You can enjoy flowers year-round in Osaka Castle Park, from the plum trees to the cherry blossoms in Nishinomaru Garden. And if you want to see the blossoms through the eyes of Hideyoshi, try taking in the magnificent spring sights while gliding down the river on the Aqua Bus Aqua-liner.
From OBP to Tsurumi-Ryokuchi, in search of greenery
OBP (Osaka Business Park) is a business district right beside tree-filled Osaka Castle Park. But OBP isn't just a long line of business buildings. There are also major hotels and a great variety of other facilities there: Izumi Hall, which holds classical concerts; Ion Cosmetics Theater BRAVA! where you can see the latest plays; and Osaka-Jo Hall, well known for its events and concerts with big-name celebrities. If you travel a bit along the Nagahori Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Line, you'll come to Tsurumiryokuchi Expo'90 Commemorative Park, famous for its international flower and greenery exhibitions. On the 126-hectare grounds, you can see Sakuya Konohana Kan, one of the biggest nature conservancies in Japan, and the Osaka Prefecture Environment Learning Center Eco Museum of Osaka, which has an international garden. There's also an area with a pool where you can enjoy playing in nature.
Naniwa Palace Ruins and the Osaka Museum of History
South of Osaka Castle, the remains of Naniwa-no-Miya Palace lie on the highest part of the Uemachi Plateau. Naniwa Palace, estimated to have been finished in the year 652, is the oldest standard continental palace ruin in Japan. It burned down in 686 during the Temmu era because of a fire that broke out in the imperial treasury, and the ruins from that time still remain as well. It is believed that the later Naniwa Palace was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Shomu in the Nara period, and all of these ruins are maintained as a historic landmark. To learn more about these 1,400 years of history, visit the Osaka Museum of History, which has hands-on learning events and life-sized replicas and dummies.