Osaka's most visible tourist attraction and symbol, Osaka Castle exemplifies the city's ability to change with the times. Originally built in the 1580s, what you see today is a five-story reconstruction completed in 1931. Instead of leaving a collection of steep wooden staircases and empty rooms, Osaka turned its castle into an elevator-equipped museum celebrating the history of its creator, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the chief imperial minister to unite Japan.
For those more interested in aesthetics than artifacts, the eighth-floor donjon (tower) offers a stunning view of the urban landscape. Watching the sun set behind the skyscrapers is reason enough for a visit. The surrounding park makes for a relaxing break from the energy of the city as well. From Osaka-jo Koen-mae Station, it's about a 10-minute uphill walk to the castle. You can also take the Tani-machi subway line from Higashi-Umeda Station (just southeast of Osaka Station) to Tani-machi 4-chome Station. From here it's a 15-minute walk.