Japan Tour 3:
Osaka, Kobe, and Okayama

I toured these three areas in June of 1991. I put together five hundred dollars, bought a two-way bus ticket, and took off south. I rode the bus during the first and last night to save the price of a hotel as well as that of a more expensive train ticket. When I ran out of money in Okayama, I turned around came back north. That $500 went very fast, even sleeping in the "Y" in Osaka.


Osaka's founding pre-dates that of Kyoto. However, the emperors used it only briefly as the capital before they selected first Nara and then Heian ("Kyoto") as the center of their rule best viewed in Tour 1: Nara and Kyoto. Osaka rose to prominence later as a regional center under the samurai and one particular shogun, Hideyoshi.

After the fall of various centralized shoguns ruling first and last from traditional capital Kyoto, (see Tour 1: Nara and Kyoto) but most effectively from Kamakura (see Tour 2: Kamakura and Yokohama). Japan descended into feudal (or futile) anarchy. A series of three warlords subdued the countryside in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The first of these Nobunga, probably the most ferocious of the group, particularly enjoyed burning Buddhist monasteries-with the monks still inside. He died of assasination.

His erstwhile second-in-command, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, took up where Nobunanga left off. A rare peasant general in a country that honored noble blood, he managed to conquer the entire country, except for the area around Tokyo that he left to his sometime ally Iaesu Tokugawa and proclaimed himself shogun, "war leader," not emperor, the emperor remained a revered captive in Kyoto, following the precedent of the Genji (see Tour 2: Kamakura and Yokohama) before him.

Hideyoshi took his armies into Korea, first to back a Japanese ally, but later to attempt the conquest of the entire country. The brutality of this invasion gave the Koreans a taste of what would happen after their conquest by Japan in the 20th century. When the Chinese backed the Koreans, Hideyoshi attacked China itself, another ominous foreshadowing.

Hideyoshi centered his government in Osaka but spent much of his time campaigning. Only as an old man, however, did he finally produced a male heir. Iaesu more or less promised his master he would do nothing to stop the young, future shogun and even served as the young Toyotomi's regent after Hideyoshi died.

However, the inevitable rivalry arose. When the two armies met at the battle of Seikehara in 1617, Iaesu's armied triumphed. The son died in battle, and the Tokugawas exterminated the whole clan, standard practice for the day. Edo (Tokyo) became the capital which continues the story in Tour 4: Tokyo and Nikko.

Today, Osaka remains the second or third largest city in Japan and an important business center. It also hold a reputation for having the fierciest Japanese gangs, the Yakuza as shown in "Black Rain."


Kobe started out as the port for Osaka. Gradually, however, Osaka developed its own port, and Kobe became essentially a sister city to Osaka.

I regret now that I didn't take more pictures of Kobe since many of those structures might no longer exist. Japan, sitting on fault lines, suffers from earthquakes.

Okayama and Kirishiki

Originally, I intended to try to travel all the way to Hiroshima and fly back courtesy of the military, but I ran out of money about the time I reach Okayamaed. Okayama offers yet another powerful fort. Also, the nearby village of Kirishiki functions as Japan's "Greenfield Village," shows life in the time of the Tokuga was a hundred years ago (see Tour 4: Tokyo and Nikko).


Hideyoshi hardly looks like a tough shogun.

Osaka castle probably appears in th most tourist pictures.

This view comes from across the moat.

The samurai rattles his sword.

This view shows how the castle dominates the
modern city below which grew up in its shadows.

Another view.

Notice the wet and dry moats.

This fish emblam supposedly wards off evil,
but it didn't ward off the Tokugawas.

This island in the river boasts many of
the most takaii ("expensive") shops.

Every city in Asia, it seems, needs a tower,
but Osaka traditionalists opposed this one.

One of three oldest shrines in Japan, Tenman dates from that very brief period in the 7th century when Osaka served as imperial capital before it moved to Nara.

This shows more of the shrine.

Like many another very old Buddhist temple, Tennoji claims Shokotu, a semi-legendary Japanese emperor, as its founder. If Shokotu had really founded all temples claimed, he'd have had little time to do much else.

This shows some interior details.

This shows a bit more.


This flower display welcome(d?) visitors to Kobe.

A Jain Temple stands out a bit in
Buddhist-Shinto (atheist) Japan.

This shows some of the port.


This canal runs through Kirishiki, a village set up to appear like Tokugawa Japan on Tour 4: Tokyo and Nikko.

This man told me all about the site and various Shinto beliefs. The war, he says, undermined belief. "We all prayed for the emperor, and when it was over..."

Okayama looks a lot like any other Japanese city.

Okayama Caste has the nickname
of "Ujo," the "Black Crow."

The Korakuen gardens get their fame from the acres
of grass, a rarity in space conscious Japan.

The battlements overlook the park.

The name "Black Crow" seems to fit.

I kept thinking I saw better angles.

A trip to the center of town, and the train station,
produced the bus that took me home.

Related Japanese Tours:
Back to Tour 2: Kamakura and Yokohama
On to Tour 4: Tokyo and Nikko

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