Gozabune is a lavish, gilded cruise boat that sails in the moat of Osaka Castle. The 20 minute long trip doesn’t just go around the inner moat, it also brings you up close to the massive castle walls. Osaka Castle is hailed as one of the three great castles of Japan with a part of its ruins being converted into the Osaka Castle Park. The impressive castle overlooking Osaka was built by none other than Toyotomi Hideyoshi and is currently registered as a special national landmark. The castle moat surrounded by massive stone walls is one of the most prominent features of the castle and the Gozabune boat takes you on a leisurely cruise around the inner moat. Massive stones from all over Japan were brought in for the construction of the moat and the impressive castle walls, both sights that nowadays attract countless tourists. The appearance of the outer wall and the way the stones are laid slowly changes the further up it goes. In fact, the wall took over a decade to build and during this time the building technology advanced and as a result the changes in the architecture are clearly visible on sections of the walls. As you sail around the biggest castle walls in Japan the guide will point out the hidden little gems visible only from the moat, like the stone with a human face, or one engraved with the personal seal of a feudal lord. The sight of the majestic castle from the boat is quite impressive on its own as well.
As to why the Gozabune is so lavishly gilded, it was created in the image of Hideyoshi's battleship Hōō Maru, Hōō being the legendary divine phoenix of Japanese mythology. Since Hideyoshi was infatuated with gold, it stands to reason that he himself would have had the boat gilded as well. As you board the boat you can imagine what it would feel like to conquer and unite Japan under your rule, just like he did.
Over the years grass and trees started to grow out of the cracks between the stones in the wall, giving it an ancient aura. Embedded into the stone wall are four extremely massive boulders that make you question how on Earth were they able to transport them in the first place, so be sure to find them all!
The boat has a roof attached to protect you from direct sunlight, however please be aware that it has no walls to protect you from rain and thus might not operate in bad weather.
The golden replica of Hōō Maru
The Gozabune is inspired by the Hōō Maru ship as depicted on the folding screen painting of Osaka from the era when Hideyoshi successfully united all of Japan under his rule.
The original painting is currently on display in the Eggenberg Palace in Austria, however when compared with the painting one can tell that the boat is a faithful recreation of the original.
As a tribute to Hideyoshi, who loved gold so much he had two golden carp ornaments installed on the roof of the main keep, and who without a doubt would have had the boat gilded were he alive, the boat was covered with a layer of real gold leaf, offering its passengers a unique, rather lavish experience. To be perfectly exact there are three boats in total, the first and second Hōō Maru and the Kinjou Maru, all of them decorated with more than 3000 sheets of gold leaf. With each season the scenery changes slightly, providing a slightly different experience every month.
The tickets can get sold out so for peace of mind we recommend getting the tickets first before exploring the castle on foot.
A brief moment as a feudal lord
As the boat sways gently on the water a professional guide will explain to you everything you need to know about the sights before you.
Challenge yourself and try to find the stone in the wall that resembles a human face, as your guide provides you with interesting information about its history and meaning.
When you approach the area where the stone is located the boat will slow down and you will be given a pamphlet. In it you will find very comprehensive information about the stone, but finding it is up to you. The stone does have a purpose, it was placed in the direction of the so-called “demon gate” in the northeast, as this direction is believed to be where all the evil spirits enter through and thus the stone acts like a ward against disaster. The boat will not move to the next location unless all passengers have found the stone, so feel free to take your time and do not worry about not being able to find it.
Furthermore there are multiple stones bearing the emblems and insignia of various feudal lords, all of which will be pointed out to you during the boat ride. You will also get to see all the bridges leading to the castle up close, and if you feel like it you can wave back at the friendly castle visitors who might wave at your passing boat.
It goes without saying that English is also available and quite practical to boot, as without it searching for and finding the stones engraved with the insignia of the feudal lords is nearly impossible. The total capacity is between 18 to 34 passengers, however the boat is quite spacious so you can still ride with style. So hop on board and become Hideyoshi for a day, surrounded by the impressive castle walls and the majestic Osaka Castle in the background.
Osaka Castle, one of the most iconic sights of Osaka, is truly impressive in its own right.
The Osaka Castle Park of which the castle is a part of is incredibly vast and features various venues like the Osaka Castle Hall and even a baseball field. It is one of the top spots for cherry blossom viewing in spring and drows of tourists flock to the western gardens in the peak season. The gardens are popular for the plum orchard as well, which blossom a month or two before the sakura cherries but are just as beautiful.
Apart from the natural charms, Osaka Castle is also home to many important cultural and historical sites starting with the main keep. The 8-story tall keep has been converted into a museum covering the turbulent history of the castle and its importance up to the present day.
With a baseball ground, a Japanese archery target range and the Shudokan martial arts training hall, it is truly an indispensable part of Osaka.
The main keep can be entered for a modest fee of 600 yen, but is well worth the investment.
One of the experiences that should be on the to-do list of all visitors to Osaka would definitely be the costume experience at the castle, where you can try on various helmets and war surcoats and commemorate the occasion with a snapshot. The helmets featured here belonged to the great figures of the period of the warring states, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi or Sanada Yukimura. There is also a selection of helmets and haori overcoats available for the ladies and even though there is a modest fee of 300 yen required, it is definitely worth it.
Furthermore there are 10 designated historical and cultural properties strewn across the castle grounds, some of them dating back to their original construction. The gold storage for example escaped the ravages of war and was used to store precious metals even by the Tokugawa shogunate after defeating the Toyotomi clan and usurping power over Japan.
Gozabune private charter
All the boats are equipped with benches covered with cushions for extra comfort. For those wishing to enjoy the ride with a bit of privacy or with a group of friends, colleagues, classmates or family members there is also a private charter option available.
The prices range from 20000 JPY for a 20 minute ride on the smaller boats for up to 18 people, all the way to 68000 JPY for a 110 minute ride on the larger boat with a capacity of 34 passengers. However please be aware that in the cherry blossom season there is an additional 20% price increase due to popular demand. The boats can be chartered from 10AM until sunset.
Chartering privately enables you to choose your route freely and even though it does not come with a guide, the boat captain will take you to wherever you choose. The standard boat ride can cover only a few of the many stones engraved with insignia and emblems of the various feudal lords. If you would like to explore them more in depth, or if you would simply like to enjoy a bit of luxury in private this option is perfect for you.
In the vicinity
Apart from the obvious Osaka Castle Park, there are countless interesting spots to visit in the vicinity, like the Osaka Castle Hall, the western castle gardens, Hokoku shrine, Mirai-za, JO-TERRACE and many more.
Many popular concerts and performances are being periodically held at the Osaka Castle Hall and the neighboring baseball field is quite popular as well. The gardens in the west part of the castle are a popular cherry blossom viewing spot, with more than 300 cherry trees planted throughout the garden. The lush green grass fields in the garden provide a beautiful contrast to the majestic Osaka Castle in the background, attracting countless visitors not just in the peak season.
Hokoku shrine is dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who is deified and venerated as the deity of success and getting ahead in life due to his exploits and successes. The popular gourds that were also the emblem of Hideyoshi are decorating the shrine grounds in large numbers.
The Mirai-za is a multifunctional complex featuring many restaurants and shops. The building was constructed to commemorate the ascent to the throne of Emperor Showa and its interior is designed in a luxurious, almost royal fashion with red carpet adorning the massive staircase.
JO-TERRACE is another multifunctional complex located on the castle grounds, however in contrast to the historical and solemn Mirai-za it is a modern design surrounded by greenery and very popular with the younger visitors as evidenced by the presence of stylish cafes and pancake restaurants. Close to it you can find the boarding location for the Osaka Aqualiner cruise, offering a unique perspective on Osaka, also known as the “water capital of Japan”.
Venue Name: Osaka Castle Gozabune Boat
Business Hours: 10:00 - 16:30 (departs every 15 - 30 minutes)
Phone Number: 06-6314-3773
Regular Closing Days: End of year, New Year, in case of bad weather
Address: 〒540-0002 Osaka, Chuo Ward, Osaka Castle 1-1
Access: 10 minutes from Osaka Loop Line, Osakajokoen Station
or 15 minutes from Osaka Loop Line, Morinomiya Station
Tour Osaka’s Sightseeing Spots with the “Osaka e-Pass” 1-Day Pass
Osaka City Kita Area(Umeda, Fukushima, Temma)
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