On this page, I will introduce Japanese castles. There are large old castles in Japan. The most famous are Himeji castle and Matsumoto castle. Besides this, Kumamoto castle is popular. Very unfortunately, Kumamoto castle has recently been damaged in part due to a major earthquake and is now undergoing restoration. Matsuyama Castle, Inuyama Castle and Matsue Castle are also listed as beautiful castles in Japan. Please do look at various castles when you travel in Japan.
※ The castles in Japan are particularly beautiful when you go to the cherry blossom season. Please refer to the following article if you like.
Table of Contents
- Hirosaki Castle (Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture)
- Tsuruga Castle (Aizuwakamatu City, Fukushima Prefecture)
- Edo Castle = Imperial Palace (Tokyo)
- Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture)
- Inuyama Castle (Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture)
- Nijyo Castle (Kyoto)
- Osaka Castle (Osaka)
- Himaji Castle (Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture)
- Takeda Castle Ruins (Asago City, Hyogo Prefecture)
- Matsue Castle (Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture)
- Matsuyama Castle (Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture)
Hirosaki Castle (Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture)
Hirosaki Castle is a castle located in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost part of Honshu. Hirosaki Castle was built in 1611. Even now the old castle towers, gates, stone walls etc. still remain. Hirosaki Castle is small compared to Himeji Castle and others, but this castle is covered with snow in winter and has a very beautiful landscape. In spring, spectacular cherry blossoms bloom, and it is crowded with many people. In the summer, a traditional summer festival called the Neputa Festival will be held, of course autumn leaves are beautiful in autumn. In Hirosaki Castle, you can enjoy the beauty of the four seasons in Japan. I strongly recommend this castle.
For details of Hirosaki Castle please refer to the official website below.
Tsuruga castle is a large castle in Aizuwakamatsu city, Fukushima Prefecture. It is also called Aizuwakamatsu Castle. This castle was built in 1384. In the 17th century, it became huge as a base in the Tohoku region of the Tokugawa shogunate. In fact, the landlord of this area called the Aizu clan fought with the new government forces based on this castle until the end even after the Tokugawa shogunate was destroyed in the 19th century. Tsuruga castle endured the attack by the new government for more than a month but finally it fell. In the castle tower of Tsuruga castle, the true story of the samurai who fought until the end is introduced. If you go to this castle, you will know the history of such samurai.
Unfortunately the castle tower of Tsuruga castle was damaged and broken in the war with the new government forces. The present castle tower is a reinforced concrete building rebuilt in 1965. Inside the castle tower is used as a museum to introduce the history of Tsuruga castle and others.
The tile of Tsuruga castle has recently turned into a red tile. The color of roof tiles laid on the roof of Japanese building depends on the soil used. Once in Aizuwakamatsu, there were many red tiles using local soil. The roof of Tsuruga castle seems to have been red in the past. For this reason, a red tile was built by the manufacturer of Niigata prefecture, which has a historical relationship with this land, and the roof of Tsuruga castle was changed to red. I guess the old Samurai people surely saw the red castle as it is now.
Because Tsuruga Castle is in the Tohoku region, it is covered with white snow in winter just like Hirosaki Castle. And in the spring it is colored with cherry blossoms. The green trees are beautiful in the summer and the trees of the autumn leaves are beautiful in the fall. Please come to Tsuruga castle to explore the history of Samurai.
For details of Tsuruga castle, please refer to the following site.
Edo Castle = Imperial Palace (Tokyo)
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo was once the largest castle in the country called Edo Castle. “Edo” is an old name in Tokyo.
Edo was the base of the Tokugawa family who boasted Japan’s most powerful military power from the late 16th century to the 19th century. When the era of the Tokugawa shogunate started in the beginning of the 17th century, Edo became the center of politics of Japan. Edo castle was maintained as a residence of shogun.
Edo castle was 5.5 kilometers east-west, 4 kilometers north and south, and 14 kilometers around. Furthermore, including the outer moat, it was an overwhelming scale. The castle tower was 60 meters tall. However, the castle tower was destroyed by the Great Fire in Edo, which occurred in 1657. Afterwards, the castle tower was not rebuilt. Because the Tokugawa shogunate already dominated Japan completely and it was in a peaceful era for that reason. The Tokugawa shogunate put more emphasis on rebuilding the town of Edo than to rebuild the castle tower.
Currently, Edo Castle is used as the Imperial Palace. You can enter the Imperial Palace on a limited day such as January 2 every year. You can usually enter the East side area of the Imperial Palace (the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace), which is maintained as a park. It is convenient to go from Tokyo station or Nijubashimae station. There is a place where there was once a castle tower in the east garden.
The outer moat of Edo castle remains along the current JR Chuo Line, you can ride a boat there.
For details, please refer to the official Tokyo Guide.
Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture)
Matsumoto Castle is located in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, central Honshu. It is said that the castle tower of this castle was built from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century. This castle tower is six stories high. Matsumoto Castle was also called “Castle of Crow” because the castle tower is black.
Since the castle tower was built in the era when the war was one after another, various ingenuity for defense were made. The windows are small and there are many mechanisms to drop stones.
In the vicinity of Matsumoto city there are mountains around 3000 meters, representing Japan. From winter to early spring, Matsumoto Castle looks very beautiful against the background of the mountains that became whitish with snow. You can look over the mountains from the castle tower of Matsumoto Castle.
Matsumoto Castle is located 15 minutes on foot from JR Matsumoto Station. For details of Matsumoto Castle please refer to the following official website.
Inuyama Castle (Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture)
Inuyama Castle is an old castle on the hill of 88 meters high at the border of Owari (now Aichi prefecture) and Mino (present Gifu prefecture). The Kiso river in front of the castle is beautiful.
Inuyama Castle was built by the Oda family who dominated this area in 1537. The castle tower is said to be the oldest wooden castle tower existing. It is about 19 meters in height including the stone wall of the foundation, the interior is open to the public.
In the latter half of the 16th century, Nobunaga ODA, who unified Japan almost, looked at Kisogawa and Mino from this castle town in a young age. And he attacked the Saito family in the Mino on the opposite bank and started to expand the territory.
Inuyama station which is the nearest station of Inuyama Castle is approximately 30 minutes by Meitetsu Express from Nagoya Station. It takes about 15 minutes on foot from Inuyama station to Inuyama Castle.
Nijo Castle is the only castle in Kyoto city. This castle was built as an accommodation facility when Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, arrives in Kyoto in the first half of the 17th century. After that, Iemitsu who is the third shogun made this castle even bigger.
Nijo Castle is a small castle about 1.8 kilometers around. The castle tower was destroyed by a lightning strike, and then it was not rebuilt. This castle seems to be inferior to other big castles at first glance. However, the satisfaction level of the tourists who actually went to Nijo castle is quite high.
There are several points where Nijo castle attracts tourists. Firstly, Nijo Castle is a precious tourist attraction that makes you feel the power of the Tokugawa Shogunate who dominated Japan for 300 years. After seeing the beautiful shrines and temples in Kyoto, when you come to Nijo castle, you surely feel the power of samurai that is different from the aristocrats and monks of Kyoto. Although Nijo Castle is small, the walls and moats are actually reasonably built, as if looking at a sample of the castle. Such sightseeing can only be done in Nijo Castle in Kyoto city.
Secondly, in Nijo castle, you can surely feel the history of Japan realistically, such as wooden building called “Ninomaru Goten”. At Ninomaru Godou, Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, declared that Yoshinobu would return the political power to the Emperor. The hall of tatami mat which was used at that time is left intact. In that hall, many dolls of life – sized warriors are arranged.
If you are planning to visit Kyoto city, please drop in at this Nijo castle. For details of Nijo Castle, please see the official website below.
Osaka Castle was built in 1585 by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, a warrior who unified the whole country. Hideyoshi dominated warlords nationwide based on this castle.
After Hideyoshi died, his son Hideyori became the Lord of this castle. However, in 1600 a great war brought about between the Toyotomi family and the Tokugawa family. The Tokugawa family won the victory in this war called “Battle of Sekigahara”, the era of the Tokugawa shogunate began. For the Tokugawa family, the Toyotomi family was a disturbing entity. For this reason, the Tokugawa family attacked Osaka Castle from 1614 to 1615 and made this castle fall. Hideyori self-damaged, Osaka castle was completely destroyed.
The current Osaka Castle is a castle newly built by the Tokugawa family from 1620 to 1629. It is said that the castle tower built by the Tokugawa family was about 58 meters in height, including the stone wall of the foundation. Afterwards, the castle tower was burned down by a lightning strike, but it was rebuilt in 1931. The current castle tower is an 8-story reinforced concrete building with a height of about 55 meters. From the top floor you can see the Osaka plain.
Himeji Castle is very famous as a castle representative of Japan. In this castle, important buildings such as the castle tower remain as it was. It is one of the popular tourist attractions among foreign tourists.
Himeji Castle is located in Himeji city, Hyogo Prefecture. This place is a key hub of traffic, so the Tokugawa shogunate, which was established in 1600, decided to build a big castle in this area. At this time, the technology for building the castle of Japan reached the highest standard. Himeji Castle was built on the basis of technology and knowledge at this time, and it was completed in 1607. Later, at the time of World War II the bomb was dropped on the castle tower, but fortunately it was a misfire bullet.
In this way, the castle built with the highest standard of technology in Japan was miraculously left.
Himeji Castle is white. It is elegant as White Heron spreads its feathers from a distance. For this reason, this castle is also called “White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo)”.
There are several castle towers at Himeji Castle. The enemies who attacked from outside can not fall down this castle without having to conquer a number of castle towers. The biggest castle tower in Himeji castle (Dai-Tenshu) is a very high wooden building, 92 meters above sea level. It was built on a hill with an altitude of 45.6 meters. The stone wall of this castle tower base has a height of 14.85 meters. A 31.5 m wooden tower was built on this stone wall.
Himeji Castle was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the first time in Japan in 1993. This castle is truly worth seeing.
For details of Himeji Castle, please see the official website below.
Takeda Castle Ruins (Asago City, Hyogo Prefecture)
Takeda Castle Ruins spread to the top of the mountain at 354 meters above sea level in Asago City, Hyogo Prefecture. There is no longer a castle tower or a gate at Takeda Castle ruins. However, stone walls are left in nearly perfect form for about 100 meters in the east and west and about 400 meters in the north and south. There are few ruins that convey the appearance of the mountain castle in Japan on this large scale. So Takeda Castle Ruins are crowded with many tourists. Fog occurs in this area, especially on a fine sunny morning in autumn. At that time, at Takeda Castle Rock, you can see the fantastic world as if floating above the clouds.
In Japan, a large castle like Osaka Castle and Himeji Castle began to be built in the latter half of the 16th century. However, before that, the castle was often built on the mountain. Takeda Castle is a representative example of such an old castle. Takeda Castle was built in the middle of the 15th century and has since been expanded by successive castle owners.
Current Hyogo Prefecture with this castle was the forefront of the conflict between the Oda family who is aiming for Japan’s unification and the Mori family aiming for the winner of Western Japan. For this reason, in Takeda Castle, fierce battles have been fought over and over. However, when the Tokugawa shogunate was established in 1600 and a peaceful era has come, the role of this castle has ended. Takeda Castle was abandoned in 1600.
It takes about 50 minutes to walk from JR Takeda station at the foot to Takeda Castle Ruins. Since the bus runs from JR Takeda station to the middle of the mountain, you can reach the Takeda Castle ruins from the bus stop in 20 minutes if you use that bus. Takeda castle ruins are sometimes closed due to snow in winter, so please get the latest information.
In order to experience the landscape of fog at Takeda Castle Ruins you have to go early in the morning. Even if you go, there may be no fog. In the field, English signs are not enough. Since you may lose your way in the mountains, please be careful not too much.
For details of Takeda Castle site, please refer to the following official website. This official site is written in Japanese, but the site also has a Google Translate button on the upper right. Please use Google Translate to convert it to your language of your choice.
The area on the side of the Sea of Japan in the western part of Honshu is called “Sanin”. There are a lot of old Japan lost in the big city in this area. Matsue Castle located in the center of Matsue city, Shimane prefecture is one of them.
Matsue Castle was built in 1611. Even now, the castle tower at the time is left as it is. The castle tower at Matsue Castle is black and powerful. When you enter the basement of this castle tower, you will see an old well there. Many foods were stockpiled on this floor in preparation for the battle. The stairs which climb to the above floor is very steep slope, you can see that it is easy to defend. In the interior of the wooden, armor and swords of the samurai are exhibited. From the top floor, you can watch the beautiful lake called Lake Shinji.
At the moat around Matsue Castle, small sightseeing vessels are currently in operation. Take this sightseeing ship and go around Matsue Castle, you can enjoy the atmosphere of this old castle town. For sightseeing boats, Japanese heating equipment called Kotatsu is installed, so you can sightseeing even in winter comfortably.
For details about Matsue Castle please refer to the official website below.
Matsuyama castle is located in the center of Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture in the northern part of Shikoku. Although it is in the center of the town, it is on a small mountain with an altitude of 132 meters, so the beautiful figure of this castle can be seen clearly from afar.
Matsuyama Castle was built in the early 17th century as an important base of the Tokugawa shogunate in Shikoku. On the top of the mountain there is “Honmaru (main enclosure)” around the castle tower. At the foot of the mountain there are “Ninomaru (outer citadel)” and “Sannomaru (outermost region of the castle)”. In other words, the whole mountain is a castle.
The three-story castle tower is left as it was originally built. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the foot to the castle towers. If you want to experience the samurai mood that attacks the castle tower, I recommend walking, but if you do not, you can use a ropeway or a lift. Both the ropeway and the lift are operated to the middle of the mountain. After getting off of them, it is about ten minutes’ walk to the castle towers. From the top floor of the castle tower, you can watch Matsuyama city and the Seto Inland Sea.
For details about Matsuyama Castle, please see the official website below.
Thank you for reading to the end.