While exploring Japan, there is an impressive range of attractions that tourists look forward to. Of course, most people are interested in Japanese cuisine, pop culture, and temples, but one of the most underrated attractions are Japan’s castles.
In James Clavell’s novel Shogun, castles in Japan played a huge part in the country’s feudal past. Many Japanese castles are architecturally impressive structures with unique styles and beautiful features that attract thousands of visitors every year. So channel your inner samurai and visit some of these remarkable castles in Japan.
- Castles in Japan
- 20 Fairytale Japanese Castles
- 1- Himeji Castle
- 2- Matsumoto Castle
- 3- Nagoya Castle
- 4- Osaka Castle
- 5- Hirosaki Castle
- 6- Hikone Castle
- 7- Matsue Castle
- 8- Odawara Castle
- 9- Okayama Castle
- 10- Kumamoto Castle
- 11- Takeda Castle
- 12- Tsuruga Castle
- 13- Shuri Castle
- 14- Shimabara Castle
- 15- Nijo Castle
- 16- Hiroshima Castle
- 17- Nakagusuku Castle
- 18- Inuyama Castle
- 19- Ueno Castle
- 20- Kochi Castle
- 20 Fairytale Japanese Castles
Castles in Japan
20 Fairytale Japanese Castles
1- Himeji Castle
Located west of Kōbe in Hyōgo Prefecture, Himeji Castle is an ancient yet elegant feudal Japanese castle built in 1333.
The castle is popularly known as the White Heron Castle because of its splendid white exterior that resembles the shirasagi bird.
This beautiful structure is also the largest castle in Japan and one of the country’s early UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Its structure might also be the largest, as it has over 80 buildings connected by gates and winding pathways.
Around the beginning of April, visitors flock to the castle grounds to gaze at cherry blossoms in season.
Himeji Castle is at 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo, Japan.
2- Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle is a fascinating site to visit in Japan in the Nagano Prefecture, thanks to its original structure, imposing frame and unusual flatland surroundings.
It’s a 500-year-old fortification set on the structure of stone surrounded by a large moat.
The main keep of this castle is black, hence the nickname Crow Castle.
It’s one of the oldest castles in the country and a National Treasure.
Matsumoto Castle is at 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan.
3- Nagoya Castle
Built during the Edo period, Nagoya Castle is another castle with a rich history.
During World War II, the castle served as a military headquarters and was almost destroyed during the air raid in 1945.
The ferroconcrete reconstruction of the castle keep dates back to 1959 and had a museum with exhibits on the castle’s history.
The park that surrounds the keep features two circles of moats and beautiful walls with corner turrets.
Nagoya Castle is at 1-1 Honmaru, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan.
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4- Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most famous castles and has played a significant role in the country’s unification.
It is an eight-story castle constructed on an artificial stone wall that dates back to 1583.
The current castle keep was completed in 1931, after getting destroyed by lightning and fire in the Edo era a couple of times.
The observation platform overlooking the city and the history museum housing holograms, 3D pictures, and other advanced technologies in its exhibits is not to be missed here.
This castle is now among the most important attractions, especially during the cherry blossom season.
Osaka Castle is at 1-1 Ōsakajō, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan.
5- Hirosaki Castle
Hirosaki Park in Aomori Prefecture is home to the only original castle in the Tohoku region.
It is one of the oldest rebuilt castles in Japan as it was constructed in the early 1600s but got struck by lightning a few years later.
Surviving elements here include a three-story castle tower, gates, and fortified moats.
Hirosaki Castle is lovely during the snow lantern festival in February and the cherry blossom festival in April.
Hirosaki Castle is at 1 Shimoshiroganechō, Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan.
6- Hikone Castle
Constructed in 1622, it is among the most impressive castles in Japan, dating back to the Edo era.
The impressively preserved features of the castle are the façade of its keep and many gates, guardhouses, and collapsible bridges.
In addition, it is the most important historical structure in Shiga Prefecture.
At its base is the Hikone Castle Museum attracting people with the partial reconstruction of the former palace structures.
Exhibition rooms display the clan’s family treasures like kimono, arms, documents, and musical instruments.
Hikone Castle is at 1-1 Konkichō, Hikone, Shiga, Japan.
7- Matsue Castle
Officially selected as one of the twelve original castles in Japan, Matsue Castle, or Black Castle is a landmark in the Shimane Prefecture.
The hilltop fortress was constructed after the last feudal war in 1611.
Most of the castle complex was destroyed in 1875, but the main keep and the stone walls remain intact.
The reconstruction of the fortification began during the 1950s.
It’s among the oldest castles in the country and the only one remaining in the Sanin region.
In addition to touring the castle keep, you can enjoy a riverboat cruise around the castle moat, which departs every 30 minutes.
Matsue Castle is at 1-5 Tonomachi, Matsue, Shimane, Japan.
8- Odawara Castle
Constructed in the 15th century, Odawara Castle is another important landmark near Tokyo.
It has been listed among the 100 Fine Castles of Japan by the Japan Castle Foundation.
Located close to the Odawara Station, the imposing white building looks down upon beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, making it an important site for hanami lovers.
Visitors can learn the rich history of the castle through exhibits and artifacts displayed inside the castle and enjoy views from the top floor.
Odawara Castle is at Jonai, Odawara, Kanagawa, Japan.
9- Okayama Castle
Also called Crow Castle due to its black exterior, Okayama Castle is another castle located in Okayama full of history.
The origins of this majestic castle date back to 1573.
In WWII, an air raid destroyed its original Azuchi-Momoyama style structures, so it went under heavy reconstruction in 1966.
Though the castle maintains its feudal look, it is a modern structure that features air conditioning and elevators.
Learn about its fascinating history from exhibits displayed inside the keep.
Okayama Castle is at 2 Chome-3-1 Marunouchi, Kita Ward, Okayama, Japan.
10- Kumamoto Castle
Kumamoto Castle is a castle in the Kumamoto Prefecture constructed in 1607 by the feudal lord of Kumamoto, Kiyamasa Kato.
Kumamoto is one of the three most well-known castles in the country, the other two being Himeji and Matsumoto.
Unfortunately, this castle suffered severe damage during the earthquake of April 2016.
The castle’s keep has reopened to the public and a close-up view of its exterior is also worth seeing.
Within the building, there’s a modern museum with displays of the castle’s history and construction.
With over 800 cherry trees, the castle becomes a beautiful cherry blossom spot in late March and early April.
Kumamoto Castle is at 1-1 Honmaru, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, Japan.
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11- Takeda Castle
Takeda Castle, known as the Machu Picchu of Japan, is a historic castle located in Asago in the Hyogo Prefecture.
Today only the ruins of the 15th-century castle can be seen, but visitors are still attracted to the site’s mysterious landscape.
The grounds are on Mount Kojo, which stands 353.7 m high.
In October or November, the castle is shrouded in clouds that create a breathtaking view to make it look like the castle is floating in the sky.
Because of its altitude, you can enjoy amazing views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
Takeda Castle is at Japan, 〒669-5252 Hyogo, Asago.
12- Tsuruga Castle
Situated in Fukushima Prefecture in the Tohoku region, Tsuruga Castle was constructed in 1384 and became a battleground for the Boshin War between 1868 and 1869.
Inside the building is a museum with displays of the castle’s history and the samurai lifestyle.
The Tsuruga Castle Park surrounds the castle with manicured lawns and cherry trees.
The surrounding stone walls and moat, which were once part of the castle’s defence system, now add to the tranquillity of the park.
There is also a teahouse in the park, where the feudal lords used to have a tea ceremony.
Tsuruga Castle is at 1-1 Ōtemachi, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima, Japan.
13- Shuri Castle
Built between 1429 and 1879, Shuri Castle is a fantastic Gusuku-style site in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan.
Fire and war have destroyed this property multiple times over the centuries, most recently in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
The present structure is a beautiful reconstruction dating from 1992.
Its hilltop location allows for gorgeous views over Naha along the way.
It’s a part of the ‘Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom’ sites listed by UNESCO World Heritage in 2000, and today, it’s among Okinawa’s main attractions.
Shuri Castle is at 1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa, Japan.
14- Shimabara Castle
Shimabara Castle is a hirajiro (flatland) castle in the Nagasaki Prefecture near Mount Unzen and Ariake Bay.
It’s a white-walled structure with five stories, built during the early Edo era as the seat of the local feudal lord.
The place is known for its moats, which are up to 15 m deep and 50 m wide.
Over the centuries, it was sieged on many occasions and has been at the centre of many battles.
The castle underwent a heavy restoration in 1964 to return to its former grace.
Today, it functions as a museum exhibiting local culture and the Shimabara Rebellion during feudal times.
Shimabara Castle is at 1-chōme-1183-1 Jōnai, Shimabara, Nagasaki, Japan.
15- Nijo Castle
Situated in the heart of Kyoto, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in the 17th century as the residence of the first shogun of the Edo era, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Originally, there were two palaces within the grounds, Honmaru Palace and Ninomaru Palace, but only Ninomaru Palace stands.
This palace has many buildings connected through the nightingale floors built to make a chirping sound to alert residents of trespassers.
Outside the palace is a traditional Japanese landscape garden with a huge pond, ornamental stones and pine trees.
Nijo Castle is at 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture.
16- Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima, or Carp Castle, is an excellent instance of a hirashiro (plain castle) in the heart of Hiroshima.
Built in 1589 during the Sengoku era as the residence of the feudal lord of Hiroshima, in 1931, the castle joined the National Treasure register.
While it was spared the fate that many other fortifications during the Meiji Restoration and remained a military outpost, Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945.
The Meiji Restoration was a significant event in 1868 when the Tokugawa Shogun lost power and the emperor was restored as the supreme ruler of the land.
After WWII, the castle was rebuilt and inside the keep is an informative museum on Hiroshima’s and the castle’s history.
You can also enjoy the beautiful views of the city from the top floor.
Hiroshima Castle is at 21-1 Motomachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Japan.
17- Nakagusuku Castle
In Okinawa Honto, Nakagusuku Castle is another castle built in Okinawa during the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Only the castle ruins remain today, but they are well-preserved and the castle’s various citadels can still be seen.
It is one of the Gusuku Sites and ‘Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu’, which made the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000.
There are lovely views of the nearby area and Nakagusuku Bay from the castle ruins.
Nakagusuku Castle is at 503 Ogusuku, Kitanakagusuku, Nakagami District, Okinawa, Japan.
18- Inuyama Castle
Initially built in 1537, Inuyama Castle is one of the most impressive castles in the Aichi Prefecture.
It’s one of five castles designated as a National Treasure and sits on a small hill beside the Kiso River.
A unique feature of this Japanese castle is the steep stairs, which you can scale four stories to admire gorgeous views from the top floor over the castle grounds and Kiso River.
You can also view various chambers in the keep, including a lookout used to watch for coming enemies and a room with holes to throw where soldiers threw stones down on invading armies.
Inuyama Castle is at Kitakoken-65-2 Inuyama, Aichi, Japan.
19- Ueno Castle
Ueno Castle is a 16th-century structure located in the city of Iga in the Mie Prefecture of Japan.
Its origin dates back to 1585 when it was constructed on the orders of Takigawa Katsutoshi.
The castle tower was destroyed in the storm within five decades and not reconstructed until 1935.
The 30 m stone walls on its western side are the tallest in the country.
Ueno Castle is at 106 Uenomarunouchi, Iga, Mie, Japan.
20- Kochi Castle
Kochi Castle is one of 12 Japanese castles to have survived the post-feudal age’s wars, fires and other disasters.
Although Kochi Castle was constructed between 1601 and 1611, many of its structures date from 1748, when they were rebuilt after a fire.
An unusual aspect of this castle is that its central tower has been used both as a residence and for military purposes.
Also, its lookout point is a famous spot for its view.
Kochi Castle is at 1-chōme-2-1 Marunouchi, Kochi, Japan.