Osaka castle

Closing in on the last day in Japan now . .  (chokes back a sob) and it’s a beautiful sunny day to enjoy our last few hours.

We start the day off with a visit to the gorgeous Osaka castle.

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The construction of the castle started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple.

However the castle has had a chequed history as it was then destroyed by troops in 1615.

It was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main tower was then struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down.

It was not until 1931 that the present reconstruction of the castle tower was built.

Somehow it managed to survive the city wide air raids of World War two and now stands proud as a symbol of the city.

The castle tower is surrounded by impressive stone walls and moats and it looks truly magnificent against the perfect blue sky.

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Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle (広島城 ) was built in the 1590s, but was destroyed by the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945.

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It was rebuilt in 1958 and now serves as a museum of Hiroshima’s history before World War II.

Mōri Terumoto, one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s council of Five Elders, built the castle between 1589 and 1599.

It was located on the delta of the Otagawa river. There was no Hiroshima city at the time, instead the area was called Gokamura, meaning “five villages”

From 1591, Mōri governed nine provinces from this castle, including much of what is now Shimane, Yamaguchi, Tottori, Okayama and Hiroshima Prefectures.

Of course, we’re making a bee line for the costumes! Visitors can dress up as a wartime samurai, complete with a samurai helmet. Samurai Gibbs reporting for action!

I get in on the dressing up action as a Japanese princess and this lovely lady helped me make sure I was kitted up correctly.

Here we make the perfect Japanese Royal couple! Although it did take a lot of trussing up to get us there!

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Within the castle walls, three trees survived the atomic bombing: a eucalyptus and a willow at approximately 740m from the hypocenter, and a holly approximately 910m from the hypocenter.

The man manages to magically locate bicycles using his wheely third senses!

Climbing the ramparts

The next place that we explore in Sintra is the impressive Castelo dos Mouros – Castle of the Moors.

(NB the picture below is actually part of the Pena Palace estate, it was a left over from a previous post that I didn’t want to leave out!!)

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The imposing ruin of the Castle of the Moors forms a commanding presence on the town’s hillside. Its ramparts forming a rugged spine, snaking sinuously across the hillside.

We wind our way upto the castle through a verdant valley dotted with huge boulders.

Then we emerge into the open square of the castle to get our first glimpse of the structure.

Built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries, it was an important strategic point during the Reconquista, and was taken by Christian forces after the fall of Lisbon in 1147.

It is a National Monument, part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The castle gradually fell into disrepair and was damaged by an earth quake in 1755 and by 1838 the towers were in ruins.

However, in the mid 19th century a restoration project began under the direction of King Ferdinand II as part of his Romanticist designs on Sintra which included the neighbouring Pena Palace.

From the high vantage points there are wonderful panoramic views over the hills of the Serra De Sintra and the plains stretching west to the Atlantic Ocean.

You can also spot the fantastical Pena Palace and enjoy the toy town vista of Sintra below.

There is a fair bit of climbing involved in order to reach the best vantage points but it’s well worth it.

The weathered old stones shimmer under the baking sunshine and vertiginous views beckon from every rampart.

Even though crowds of tourists pour into the castle each day it is still possible to be secluded and alone.

With the breeze blowing in your face and the dizzying drops to the ground below, you certainly feel a little bit of a pioneer as you scale the multitude of steps.

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