A trip to Japan is never complete without seeing a Japanese castle. A prime source of architectural and historical pride for the country, Japanese castles attract millions of tourists every year because of their rich history and mesmerizing beauty. While Japan has long bid war goodbye, these fortresses were retained to remember the country’s important feudal past. If you’re visiting Japan anytime soon, here’s a helpful list of the most beautiful castles in Japan.
- Osaka Castle
Built in 1583, the Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most famous structures. It is an eight storey-high stone castle built on the site of a temple and a former imperial palace. Under Hideoyoshi Toyotomi’s rule, it was considered as the largest castle of its time and was intended to become the center of a unified Japan.
- Hirosaki Castle
The Hirosaki Castle is a three-storey castle located atop a hill. It was originally built as a five storey structure in 1611 by the Tsugaru clan, but the original tower burnt down in 1627 after a lightning hit the castle. It was rebuilt in 1810 and is now one of the most popular spots in the country for hanami or cherry blossoms viewing as the castle is surrounded by more than 2,500 cherry trees.
- Himeji Castle
Featured in many films and popular culture, the Himeji Castle is said to be the perfect example of traditional Japanese castle architecture. Built in 1346 by Sadanori Akamatsu and expanded in the 17th century by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, it consists of 83 interconnected structures which miraculously survived air raids and bombings during World War II. It is commonly called as the White Heron Castle because of its resemblance to a majestic white heron in flight. Today, the Himeji Castle is considered as the most famous and visited castle in the country and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Matsumoto Castle
If the Himeji Castle is known as the White Heron, the Matsumoto Castle is often called the Black Crow. With its beautiful black facade, this national treasure was built in the 1590s and is one of the original 12 castles of Japan. Unlike many other castles, the Matsumoto is a hirajiro or a castle built on plains. Although it has gone through many renovations, the Black Crow was able to retain its wooden interiors which provide an authentic castle experience to its visitors.
- Hikone Castle
Serving as a seat of the feudal lords during its heyday, the Hikone Castle is one of the few remaining castles in Japan that has not undergone destruction and reconstruction. The three-storey castle keep may be smaller than more famous castles, but it provides the most authentic castle experience thanks to the careful preservation of the edifice. The castle is considered as a National Treasure of Japan and its museum displays treasures from the Li Dynasty.
Each castle is unique in its own way and has its own tale to tell. Don’t miss out on visiting at least one Japanese castle on your next visit!