Osaka Castle - Chikubushima

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Osaka Castle - Chikubushima Island

竹生島

Chikubushima Island hides some great treasures from Osaka Castle. The Karamon Gate (National Treasure) to the Hogonji Temple was famous as the only surviving structure from Hideyoshi's Osaka Castle. It was the gate to the lavish Gokurakubashi. The gate was moved to Hideyoshi's mausoleum in 1600 and was then donated to Chikubushima by the Tokugawa in 1602, ostensibly to create a temple in Nagahama, where Hideyoshi first became a castle holding daimyo. In reality it was to remove this gaudy structure from Kyoto and the constant reminder of Tokugawa's reviled rival in the wake of the Battle of Sekigahara and Tokugawa's desire to suppress the Hideyoshi worship common to this area.

Behind the Kannondo Hall (National Treasure) is a bridge (Important Cultural Property) connecting Hogonji Temple to the Tsukubusuma Shrine (National Treausre). This bridge was fabled to have been built using materials from Hideyoshi's Gozabune boat. The Tsukubusuma Shrine itself was moved from Fushimi Castle. This is what you can read on most blogs, the Chikubushima website and even signs on the site.

BUT WAIT !!!! ...

From 2013-2020 the Hogonji Temple was completely restored to its original colorful splendor and all 5 structures were extensively analyzed. According to Shiga Prefecture, it is highly likely that all 5 structures were originally part of the same structure. The dimensions of the wooden joinery and curvature of decorative portions are exactly the same. This indicates that these structures must have been built at the same time by the same carpenter. Further, the same blue pigment (a rare and expensive material) was used throughout. Other metal fittings and covers were also the same in all 5 structures. It is now theorized that it is HIGHLY likely that these were all parts of the original Gokurakubashi at Osaka Castle rather than trying to create a fantastical story that fits them together from different structures and times. It is likely that the bridge was moved in its entirety to the Toyokuni Mausoleum in Kyoto and then rebuilt to fit the topography of Chikubushima Island.

The Karamon Gate is the entrance to the bridge and is likely to be the most original and unaltered portion. The Kannondo, or main hall, behind the gate was obviously from the same structure as the gate but the outer wall which creates a walkway around it (see photos below) and the roof seem to have been added to the birdge parts. The remainder of the "Funaroka Bridge" to the Tsukubusuma Shrine is obviously more parts from the same bridge rather than Hideyoshi's boat. You can see one place where it was split to fit the shape of the cliffside.

Finally the Tsukubusuma Shrine itself is now thought to have been the second floor of the bridge too (see illustration below) rather than a later structure from Fushimi Castle. Obviously more research and restoration should be done on the sections that have not been restored but this is an exciting treasure from Osaka Castle and must see for castle fans. Regular ferries depart from Nagahama, Hikone and Omi Imazu. The best way to get photos without people seems to be right before a ferry leaves the port so you may experience some waiting time. I actually tried to shoot video here but realized the camera was off the whole time! Maybe I'll visit again some day.

Sources:

  • (1) 琵琶湖に浮かぶ島の5棟 秀吉大坂城の豪華な橋を移築? Asahi Newspaper June 2, 2020
  • (2) 城郭移築建造物大全 (西日本) 2023
Gallery
  • Karamon
  • Compare the description to these parts
  • See a more modern rendition
  • Bridge starts here on the inside
  • Tsukubusuma Shrine
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