I know, I know, how can I possibly link a castle in Japan and Game of Thrones together? Well, they both have a pretty bloody and violent history – and some of the fictional characters have a couple of things in common with the real-life fictional ones. Let’s talk about the awesome Osaka Castle first…
You may have already seen I’m tweeting a photo a day from Osaka, as this month is all about Osaka! So check out #OsakaOctober on Twitter every day!
Oana and I spent three nights in Osaka, famed for its fried food and giant Glico man (more of that to come). Our hotel was conveniently very close to Osaka Castle, so once we’d dumped our bags we moseyed on over there. The castle sits in the 2km-wide Osaka Castle Park, which is one of the city’s best cherry blossom (hanami) spots.
Sadly, like a number of other castles in Japan, the original Osaka Castle is no longer standing. It was built in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Hoganji Temple by order of the important daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi is famed for doing much to unify Japan and he intended the castle to become the centre of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule.
However, it wasn’t quite meant to be. After Hideyoshi died, the men he had left in charge of his young son Hideyori began to scheme amongst each other to succeed the Toyotomi. The strongest of these men was Tokugawa Ieyasu, who consolidated his power by outwitting and defeating the rest of Hideyoshi’s former advisers then establishing the Tokugawa Shogunate – essentially usurping and betraying the Toyotomi. By this time, Hideyori was a young man residing in Osaka Castle and seeking revenge on the treacherous Tokugawa family. Tensions came to a head in the winter of 1614 when Ieyasu led a 164,000-strong army to Osaka. They were met by another army of Toyotomi Hideyori’s supporters and a castle siege ensued – which led to Hideyori pledging not to rise in rebellion.
But just a few months later in summer, Ieyasu heard that Hideyori was gathering more supporters and laid siege to the castle again. The so-called summer siege spelled the end of the Toyotomi clan – Hideyori’s commander Sanada Yukimura was killed, the castle was set ablaze and Hideyori committed ritual suicide – seppuku. Osaka Castle was the site of the final battle of the warring states – or Sengoku – period, as it positioned the Tokugawa shogunate as the unchallenged ruling force of Japan for the next 250 years.
As you probably realised, I’m a massive history buff and love my Sengoku-era history, so Osaka Castle was obviously on my bucket list. Not only were we lucky enough to visit it during cherry blossom season but it also happened to be the 400th anniversary of the castle’s siege, so there was a special exhibition dedicated to it. Even though the castle no longer remains, its reconstructed interior is still impressive and you get some fantastic views of Osaka city if you take the elevator to the top. The castle’s interior itself is much more modern and ‘museum-like’ but still worth a visit for history fans.
One of my favourite things about being inside Osaka Castle was the opportunity to dress up as one of the samurai from the castle seige! For 200 yen, it was totally worth pretending to be Sanada Yukimura for a minute. I even engaged another tourist dressed as Toyotomi Hideyoshi in battle!
Osaka Castle is a must-visit place if you’re in the city! It’s cool, full of history and you actually get to dress up as a samurai (well, that’s a bonus for me). But what about the Game of Thrones link? When Oana and I were wondering around the exhibition about the castle siege, we couldn’t help comparing some of the characters with certain samurai! Obviously these comparisons are very loose, in no way canonical and probably don’t even make sense…
(warning: Game of Thrones and Sengoku history SPOILERS below!)
Hideyori Toyotomi: Rhaegar Targaryen
Young men from once-powerful families that were brutally destroyed in a rival family’s quest for power. Both Hideyori and Rheagar should have inherited so much more, but fate wasn’t kind to either of them. Rheagar was murdered and Hideyori took his own life surrounded by flames… there’s a dragon reference somewhere there too.
Tokugawa Ieyasu: Tywin Lannister
Ieyasu and Tywin were both all about building empires through a clever mix of brute force and diplomacy. Family and sons were an important part of this and even when Ieyasu officially retired from being shogun, he was pulling the strings behind the scenes and guiding his son Hidetada during the siege of Osaka castle. Things ended a bit more pleasantly for Ieyasu, mainly because he son didn’t eventually kill him.
Sanada Yukimura: Ned Stark
Poor Sanada Yukimura. A proud and famous samurai, he was forever loyal to the Toyotomi even when many other samurai lords were defecting to the Tokugawa. Eventually, his unwavering loyalty was his undoing and he was beheaded in battle… very similar to Ned Stark, whose misplaced trust in the Lannisters led to him losing his own head.
Date Masamune: Mace Tyrell
Both Date Masamune and Mace Tyrell collaborated with the ruling family (Tokugawa and Tyrell) but it was no secret they didn’t exactly trust them. Date Masamune actually married his daughter Irohahime to Ieyasu’s sixth son Tadateru to strengthen ties between their families, much like Margaery Tyrell and Joffrey Lannister. I think it’s fair to say both these men knew how to play the game of thrones to a certain extent…
Senhime: Daenerys Targaryen
Poor Senhime. The granddaughter of Ieyasu, she was married to Hideyori when she was just seven years old – again to strengthen relationships between the two families. She was rescued when Osaka Castle burned, remarried and had two children – but one of them died and her husband died of tuberculosis not long after. Legend says she was haunted by the vengeful ghost of Hideyori. You can definitely draw a comparison here with Daenerys, Khal Drogo and Rhaego.