There are only twelve castles that Tenshukaku (castle towers) remain in Japan. Most of the castles were built around the Edo period and were repaired over and over again over hundreds of years. Some of them are registered on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and others are national treasures of valuable historic sites. These castles have overcome hard times in the history such as Ordinance abolishing castles, wars and more. Why don’t you visit the noble and beautiful castles in Japan?
“Hirosaki Castle” — The only castle tower that remains in the Tohoku (Northeast) region (Aomori Prefecture)
Hirosaki Castle, also known as Takaoka Castle is located in former Mutsuno-kuni, Hanawa-gun and present-day Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. The castle was built in 1611 during the Edo period, and become a center of the economy and politics of Tsugaru region. The castle had experienced tragic events like fire caused by lightning, but had been repaired several times thereafter, but luckily some parts such as Tenshu (main castle tower), Yagura (guard tower), Hori (moat), Mon (gate), Ishigaki (stone wall), Dorui(earthworks) and more, remained in their original shape. Now those parts of the castle are designated as national important cultural properties and national historic sites. The castle is recognized as the only castle tower that remains in Tohoku region and as a valuable historic property.
1-1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori prefecture (Hirosaki Park)
15 mins from Hirosaki station by bus
“Matsumoto Castle” is the oldest national treasure castle out of all existing five-story castles in Japan. (Nagano prefecture)
Matsumoto Castle is also called either “Fukashi Castle” or “Karasu Castle” and its origin goes back to the Azuchi-momoyama period during the civil war, is known as the oldest national treasure castle out of all existing five-story castles in Japan. The castle is the only “Hirajiro” (a castle built on plains rather than on a hill or mountain) out of all the existing original-construction castles in Japan, and has the “Fukugo style keep” structure, a unique style of this castle. The castle ruins are designated as a national historic site. The castle’s black-and-white walls make a great match with the amazing background scenery of the Alps, the surrounding mote and the red bridge.
4-1, Marunouchi, Matsumoto Shi, Nagano prefecture
15 mins walk from Matsumoto station
“Maruoka Castle” –the castle with a legend that a huge snake blew mist to hide it. (Fukui prefecture)
Maruoka Castle, also known as “Kasumi-ga-jo Castle” was built in 1576, is one of the oldest existing original-construction castles in Japan. The origin of the name “Kasumi-ga-jo Castle” comes from the legend that a s snake blew “Kasumi” (mist) to hide and protect the castle. The main castle tower was designated as a national important cultural property, with its original stone wall still existing. Maruoka Castle is the only castle tower still existing in its original-construction in the Hokuriku region. It is also well known for its beautiful scenic place of cherry blossoms in the springtime and snowy scenery in the winter.
1-59 Kasumi-cho, Maruoka-cho, Sakai-shi, Fukui prefecture
20 mins bus ride from Awara-onsen station
“Inuyama Castle”, the longest privately owned castle in Japan.(Aichi prefecture)
Inuyama Castle was initially built in 1469 by the Oda clan and had been the only privately owned castle in Japan up until 2004. Otherwise known as “Hakutei Castle” , the castle tower is designated as national treasure and its ruins were as a national historic site. Inuyama Castle is a very photogenic place by the Kiso river. There are many castle ruins around Inuyama Castle indicating the tension at that time. In comparison to other castles, Inuyama Castle has hardly undergone renovations including no elevator installation, thus making it even more so attractive as the condition of the past is still maintained.
65-2, Kitakoken, Inuyama, Inuyama-shi, Aichi prefecture
15 mins walk from Inuyama-Yuen station or 20 mins walk from Inuyama station
“Hikone Castle”– A highly important cultural property and a world heritage candidate.(Shiga prefecture)
Hikone Castle, was initially built in 1622 by Ii clan, is national treasure such as the main keep, “Tsuke Yagura” and “ Tamon Yagura” (yagura = guard tower), and the ruins are a special historic site designated by the country. The two “Daimyo (feudal lords) Gardens” called Genkyu-en and Rakuraku-en are national-designated sites of scenic beauty and are one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Japan. Hikone Castle has a huge “Umaya (stable)” which is very unique as it is the only stable in Japan still existing within a castle site.
1-1 Konkicho, Hikone-shi, Shiga prefecture
15 mins walk from Hikone station
“Himeji Castle” The only UNESCO World Heritage castle in Japan! (Hyogo prefecture)
Himeji Castle, also known as either “Hakuro-jo castle” or “Shirasagi Castle”, was built in 1346 at the beginning of the Edo period by the Akamatsu clan. It has many main parts like the main keep, guard tower etc. Inside the internal moat is a national-designated special historic site, the Himeji Castle ruins. Moreover, the castle became world-renowned when it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is selected as one of the various “Japan’s top 100” lists like the top 100 castles in Japan and is recognized by enthusiasts in Japan. It is a miracle that the castle has survived many disasters and wars, not loosing any important cultural properties and to be one of the greatest castles in Japan.
68 Hommachi, Himeji-shi, Hyogo prefecture
15 mins walk from Himeji station
“Matsue Castle” has been designated as a national treasure again! (Shimane prefecture)
Matsue Castle is the only castle in the Sanin region where the castle tower still exists. It was built in 1611 by the Horio clan who had governed the Izumo and Oki region. The main keep was designated as a national treasure and the ruins as a national historic site. The castle is counted as one of the 100 best townscapes and 100 best cherry blossoms viewing spots with a photogenic scenery around the castle. Not only the exterior but also the interior which has an old well, food stocker and details of the structure inside make a big impression on visitors all the time.
1-5 Tonomachi, Matsue-shi, Shimane prefecture
10 mins bus ride from Matsue station
“Bicchu Matsuyama Castle” — One of Japan’s three major mountain castles. (Okayama prefecture)
Bichu-Matsuyama Castle is surrounded by a huge quay reminiscent of the elegance of the Warring States period. It was assumed that it was initially built in 1681 but predecessor of the castle say it was built during the Kamakura period. It is an unusual fortification-type mountain castle for a modern castle, and is one of Japan’s three largest castles. It’s a mountain castle at an altitude of 430 meters, which makes it a little hard to get to, but the view overlooking the castle town from above is amazing! The early morning hours between Autumn and Spring time are especially magical as Matsuyama Castle floats in the sea of clouds making it another reason to continuously attracting many people.
1 Uchisange, Takahash-shi, Okayama Prefecture
10 min taxi ride from Bicchu-Takahashi station
“Marugame Castle” is famous for having three of the best in Japan! (Kagawa Prefecture)
The main keep of Marugame Castle is the smallest out of other existing original-construction main keeps, but its 60-meter-high stonewalls are the tallest. The size of the main keep becomes less important as the huge stonewalls on the hill are so impressive! Marugame Castle is counted as one of the 100 top Japanese castles, the castle tower, tower, and castle gate are important cultural properties, and the castle ruins are designated as national historic sites. The castle is also known as a castle with three “Japan’s best”. One is the stone wall’s height, the second one is the smallest main keep and the third is the depth of the well that is 65 meters!! Marugame Castle is a small but attractive castle full of presence.
Ichiban-cho, Marugame-shi, Kagawa prefecture
10 min walk from Marugame station
A Michelin 2-starred famous castle — “Iyo Matsuyama Castle”. (Ehime prefecture)
Iyo Matsuyama Castle is the only castle out of other existing original-construction castles that was built by The Shinpan (a type of family status for daimyo), the Matsudaira clan, is honored with Tokugawa’s family crest. The ruins are designated as a national historic site, includes the main keep and 21 other historical buildings that are important cultural properties. Iyo Matsuyama Castle has such an attractive castle with many highlights such as two Shachihokos (dolphin-like fish) named Tenmaru and Matsuhime, Samurai face drawing fromthe Edo period, details of the castle structure and more!
1 Marunouchi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime prefecture
10 mins from Matsuyama station to Okaido
See the oldest and largest gates of “Uwajima Castle” (Ehime prefecture)
Uwajima Castle is located in Uwajima City where there are many historical sites related to the-Date-clan, such as Tenshaen garden, Kabasaki Battery, Date Museum and more. Because the north side faces the sea, it is a castle with many ideas at the design stage, such as being in a place where it is difficult for enemies to attack and having a pentagonal outer shell. Notable is the rising gate on the south side of the outer rim. It is said to be the oldest surviving pharmacy gate in addition to the largest size of the pharmacy gate.
1 Marunouchi, Uwajima-shi, Ehime prefecture
5 min bus ride from Uwajima station
A lot of buildings still exist as they originally were. “Kochi Castle” (Kochi prefecture)
Kochi Castle, also known as Taka Castle, is one of the most precious castles in Japan because the main keep and other buildings still exist as they were in the Edo period. Especially Honmaru Palace (residence) called “Kaitokukan” is designated as an important cultural property, making its exists extremely rare. The castle has many precious facilities still existing such as its unique drainage facility, defense system, the largest horse-riding statue and more! The view from the top floor of the castle tower is superb, overlooking Kochi city.
1-2-1 Marunouchi, Kochi-shi, Kochi prefecture
30 min walk from Kochi station or 10 min streetcar ride.
Japanese castles are so unique among other castles around the world. It will be more interesting for you to learn the history to know more about their appeal and attractions!
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