See Japan's castles the easy way

Japanese castles – Top 20 Countdown!

Article posted on Wednesday, December, 7th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I was recently asked which Japanese castles were fascinating. I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know exactly where to start. Not only did I struggle with what might be universally considered fascinating, I wasn’t sure how to organise a large number of castles into a concise & ordered list. I did give it some thought though, and here’s what I came up with.

The top 20 Japanese-castles Countdown

Even though I’ll be running through my top 20 Japanese castles in reverse order, I feel it’s the ones from 20 ~ 11 that are the most interesting. They’re are the ones less likely to be visited by jet-setting tourists, consequently they are the very ones you are least likely to have heard of.


Hizen Nagoya castle

Sweet! This castle is fascinating. Let me tell you why. This castle was the one and only to be built with the purpose of conquering foreign lands. Also, it is the largest remaining of the Momoyama period (1568 – 1600).


Takamatsu castle

The city of Takamatsu sits very much at the doorstep of this fine, little castle. At this very moment, work is underway to rebuild what can only be described as a real ugly-duckling of a central tower.


Ōzu castle

No expense was spared to bring back to life the keep of Ōzu castle. Completed in 2004, it was made as close to the original as was humanly possible. It doesn’t even comply to modern building standards!


Yamamto Kōriyama castle

Forget about the actual buildings, well, the actual castle buildings. Make sure you check out the non-castle buildings though. And, the huge stone walls have been neglected to perfection.


Hagi castle

Hagi City needs your love. Consistent drops in population has meant it has received little development. This place, and indeed the castle (with is surrounding, old castle-town), exude rustic charm by the bucket-load.


Matsushiro castle

This place rules! Diminutive it may be, the compact castle grounds and the kinda large, old castle-town are actually a pretty awesome combo. There’s a nice sense of remoteness about it too.


Azuchi castle

This is the castle that redefined Japanese castles. It was grand, it was bold, it was decadent. It was the most spectacular castle Japan had seen. What a shame that it stood for just three years.


Akashi castle

My visit here could not have been more perfect. What looked from the station to be some bizarrely-proportioned castle theme park, turned out to have plenty of surprises up it’s bizarrely-proportioned sleeves.


Uwajima castle

“Look at me! I’m a samurai. And, this is my cute castle.” Seriously, could a castle be any cuter? It was probably never laid siege to because of the overwhelming urge to pick it up and hug it when looked at.


Kōchi castle

Serious hat on now. The castle’s buildings date from the mid 1700’s and are unique in that it is the only castle to have retained all buildings of the Hon maru, the castle’s main enclosure.

So, that’s the smaller, out-of-the-way, yet still totally interesting castles done. Do check them out if you are able to. And, to make the most out of your visits, I recommend finding out as much as you can before you visit. (click on the pictures!) Just because you’re on holidays, doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two.

Next are the big boys! I’d say for anyone with an interest in Japanese castles, there’ll be no real surprises except perhaps the order, which is just a matter of personal taste.


Kanazawa castle

The last decade or so has seen the resurrection of large sections of this castle. Still remnant are the myriad styles of stone cutting & stacking. There’s also the extant Ishikawa gate complex.


Nagoya castle

This castle may just get bumped up the list in the coming years. There are some big, old turrets, and the extravagant Hon-maru palace is slated for completion in 2017.


Matsue castle

With the main tower of this castle, you get a real sense that it was built with purpose, which of course, it was. I think I mean it just isn’t elegant like other castles.


Hikone castle

Japan’s most graceful main tower? Yeah, I think so. Those gables are just mesmerizing. There’s plenty to see within the castle grounds, not to mention the attached Edo period (1603 – 1868) garden.


Matsuyama castle

Matsuyama castle is a largely-complete, hilltop castle. It’s beautiful, and it is filled with interesting historical displays. You can even try on samurai armour! Warning – Requires patience.


Matsumoto castle

The main tower is absolute perfection; great style and great atmosphere. It sits down at the fifth spot because the grounds are somewhat underwhelming. It is a favourite of many though.


Nijō castle

Little known fact; the squeaking Nightingale floors of the palace is simply poor workmanship. Nah, I just made that up. There is nothing poor about this palace’s workmanship. I guarantee it!


Ōsaka castle

Check out the green-roofed, white tower (pictured) if you have to, but I strongly recommend a stroll around the moat. And, keep your eyes peeled for Megaliths. Some are as big as the side of your house.


Kumamoto castle

This castle’s builder, Katō Kiyomasa, quite obviously had the intention of making it hard for attackers to get into. Indeed, impregnable would’ve been a suitable word to describe this castle in its heyday.


Himeji castle

Was there even any doubt? It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a national treasure. It’s Japan’s most complete & stunning castle. Currently, there’s a big box covering the main tower due to repairs, and it’s still the best!

Honourable mentions

  • Usuki castle. It finished up in 21st place.
  • Aizu Wakamatsu & Hirosaki castles. There’s a high chance they’d be on the list if I’d visited them.
  • Edo castle, visited but the gates had just closed when I arrived. If I’d gotten to walk around, I suspect it’d easily find itself in the top 10.

The End

What do you think people? Is it useful / useless? Perhaps your favourite castle didn’t make an appearance. Do you disagree? Do you think it’s the best list you have ever seen? Why not let me know by leaving a comment or a question. Also, you could show your love by sharing it via Twitter, Facebook or Google plus. Share buttons can be found at the top!