10 Most Beautiful Castles In Japan To Visit

By Sameer Kapoor on Oct 06, 2016
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As soon as we think of stunning castles, we think of Europe! But, did you know that even Japan boasts of some of the most beautiful and awe inspiring castles that are kept like hidden treasures. A look at them is a study in art, architecture and culture of Japan that will leave you struck with wonder and amazement. These castles were actually built as fortresses during 16th century to guard significant sites against frequent attacks by warlords. Made of wood and stone, these structures still look magnificent and offer a journey into the ravishing past of cities and towns in which they are incorporated. Take a look at some of the best castles in Japan to visit for an enchanting experience.

1. Himeji Castle - the most famous castle in Japan

Located on the hilltop of Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture, the Himeji castle is perhaps the best known and visited castle of Japan. Flanked by lush emerald green nature, this castle looks resplendent and elegant in white. The castle is a world heritage site that looks spectacular and enchanting especially when the cherry blossoms bloom. Originally built in 1346, this castle was built for a strategic defence along the western approach to the former capital city of Kyoto. There are atleast eighty buildings spread across multiple baileys connected through a series of gates and winding paths. Destroyed during world war and earthquakes, this castle retains the historical aura with its restored structure today.

Best time to Visit: March to October

Timings: Summers: 9:00am to 6:00pm, Winters: 9:00am to 5:00pm

2. Matsumoto Castle - a reminder of the feudal past

Matsumoto castle is one of the best castles to visit in Japan owing to its historicity and architecture that spellbinds all. Quite conspicuously, this castle is built on plains rather than hill, which is characteristic of most of the other castles in Japan. It is also distinctive for having both a secondary donjon and a turret adjoined to its main keep. Steep wooden stairs, openings to drop stones onto invaders, openings for archers, as well as an observation deck at the top, make it an engaging visit for the tourists. Visit it during the spring season when the cherry blossoms bloom and offer a picturesque view against its black wooden structure. This castle also suffered a threat of demolition during the Meiji Restoration, when feudal castles were considered obsolete and irrelevant, but with the help of influential locals, it was saved and preserved well.

Best time to Visit: April to September

Timings: 8:30am to 5:00pm daily

3. Osaka Castle - A Fine Japanese Castle

PC: wallpaperfolder

Politically and historically, Osaka Castle is one of the most important structures that played a significant part in the process of unification of Japan, under Hideoyoshi Toyotomi. Perched high, this castle looks ravishing with its gleaming stone structure. Originally built in 1583, this castle was destroyed by Tokugawa troops in 1615 and later on by lightening in 1665. Miraculously, this castle survived the frequent air-raids of WWII and looks royal even till today. A visit to this castle is a must for your travel plans to Japan next time.

Best time to Visit: November to February

Timings: 9:00am to 5:00pm daily

Explore Osaka with Osaka Itinerary 2 Days

4. Matsue Castle - the legendary castle of Japan

One of the few remaining original castles in Japan, Matsu Castle is also called as the "black castle" due to its darkly-coloured, austere exterior. Built in 1611, this castle was given its shape by Matsudaira clan who were the relatives of the ruling Tokugawa. Although it was built with the purpose of defending against battle, this castle actually never saw one. Today, there is a museum inside that displays period arms and artefacts. In order to extend your stay here and to make it even more alluring, you can take a river boat cruise around the castle moat for a royal experience.

Best time to Visit: April to September

Timings: April to September: 8:30am to 6:30pm, October to March: 8:30am to 5:00pm

5. Odawara Castle - one of the most popular castles near Tokyo

PC: commons.wikimedia

After falling into the hands of the Hojo Clan, the most powerful clans during the Warring States Era in the mid-15th century, the Odawara castle started to be used as a base for controlling the region around Tokyo. However, the castle soon saw the shift of power as Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated the Hojo Clan and reunited Japan. As you have a look at this castle, you will see three stories on the outside but actually there are four stories on the inside. There are regular interactive exhibitions to make the visitors more well informed about the history of this castle and its role in the history of Japan. A list of things to do in Tokyo can never be a complete one without a visit to Odawara castle.

Best time to Visit: February and March

Timings: 9:00am to 5:00pm

6. Kumamoto Castle - the Warrior Fortress

One of Japan’s medieval castles, Kumamoto looks absolutely astonishing with its magnificent structure and an engaging history. The castle was designed by Lord Kato Kiyomasa who was an experienced warrior and it still unfolds stories of the feudal past and another world tales. After a series of exchange of ownership, destructions and reconstructions, this castle is seen as a national treasure of utmost importance. There are two towers out of which the main tower has six stories and a small tower has four stories. You can enjoy great views of the precincts of this castle and beyond from the top floor of the main tower. There are impressive stone walls and moats that render an absolutely stunning surreal image to the castle. Several turrets and storehouses can still be visited.

Best time to Visit: March to August

Timings: Summers: 8:30am to 6:00pm, Winters: 8:30am to 5:00pm

7. Nagoya Castle - one of the largest castles in Japan

Built in the beginning of the Edo period under the governance of ruling Tokugawa family, Nagoya castle claims to be one of the largest castles in Japan. Interestingly, the town that evolved around it also mushroomed to be Japan’s fourth largest city. Unfortunately, this castle was heavily damaged during the World War, and was subsequently restored with the use of ferro-concrete. As you visit this castle, don’t forget to visit its modern museum that exhibits the castle's history. It looks absolutely picturesque with two circles of moats and impressive walls with corner turrets.

Best time to Visit: September to November

Timings: 9:00am to 4:30pm

8. Okayama Castles - the Crow Castle

PC: genkin.org

Popularly known as the "Crow Castle" due to its ebony structure, the Okayama was built in 1597 in the architectural style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. Owing to World War II, this castle was heavily destroyed which led to its complete reconstruction in 1966. The Tsukimi Yagura ("moon viewing turret"), which dates back to 1620, was the only structure that escaped destruction. Located on the Asahi River, this castle looks beautiful and resplendent. One of the best castles in Japan to visit, this castle was built in 1573 by the daimyo Ukita Naoie and was completed in 1597 by his son Ukita Hideie. In 1600 during the Battle of Sekigahara, Hideie sided with the ill-fated Toyotomi Clan and was captured by the victorious Tokugawa Clan. Today, you can visit the museum inside it to know its history and development better.

Best time to Visit: October and November

Timings: 9:00am to 5:30pm

9. Hirosaki Castle - one of the most picturesque castles in Japan

Due to the cherry blossoms that surround the Hirosaki Castle, it is one of the prettiest castles in Japan that inspire awe. Set against the backdrop of majestic mountains, this castle takes you back in an old age full of majesty and scenic charm. Located in the northern tip of the main Honshu island, this castle has been listed in the "100 best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan” selected by the government. It was built in 1611 by the Tsugaru Clan and looks resplendent with its three-story castle tower, fortified moats, castle gates and some corner turrets (yagura) that have survive or were reconstructed.

Best time to Visit: April to October

Timings: 9:00am to 5:00pm

10. Shimabara Castle - the feudal inheritance

PC: wikipedia.org

Shimabara castle is an artistic symbol of the feudal past of Japan that levied heavy taxes in order to build such castles. Built during the early Edo Period as the seat of the local feudal lord, this castle was gargantuan in the sense that it imposed much oppression on the peasant population. Quite understandably, this castle was eventually destroyed during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) which saw the peasant uprising. The current buildings that you see today are concrete reconstructions from 1964. Inside, there is a Castle Tower Museum with a collection of Christian artefacts excavated from the castle ruins, weapons and armor. If you visit the observation deck on the 5th floor, it will offer you views out to Mount Unzen and across the water to Kumamoto on clear sky days.

Best time to Visit: April to September

Timings: 9:00am to 5:30pm

Don’t you find these castles completely ravishing and something different from the European ones? Let us know.

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