Japan is a country that is filled to the brim with impressive things left, right and centre. Its array of castles dotted throughout are integral to the Japan we know today. With a storied history beginning in the Yayoi period (circa 10th century BC), castles have been protectors from the elements, animals and enemies for centuries now. Here are five impressive castles in Japan you need to visit.
1. Matsumoto Castle, Matsumoto
Known as a ‘hirajiro’, Matsumoto Castle is built on flat ground (instead of a hill or mountain) and – in an extraordinary feat – still retains most of its six-storied original structure. A neat feature includes a turret built specially for moon viewing! Inside you will find a selection of historic armour and weapons for a fascinating insight into Matsumoto’s history. Its surrounds are also extremely popular come springtime, with locals and travellers flocking here for sakura (cherry blossom) season.
2. Osaka Castle, Osaka
Osaka Castle seems to be on its own island with its fortified walls, gates, and an inner and outer moat. Having played an important role in the unification of Japan in the sixteenth century, it is certainly one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. In an incredible feat of manpower, Osaka Castle only took three years to build. Nowadays you can explore its massive grounds whilst admiring the pristine white exterior.
3. Nijo Castle, Kyoto
With its grand entrance gate, Nijo Castle was built as a home for a shogun (a military leader appointed by the emperor) in 1603. It was purposely built to overlook the nearby Imperial Palace in a formidable display of power over the emperor at the time. Nijo Castle is famous for its traditional Japanese garden and plum orchard that produces gorgeous blooms in spring.
4. Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kanazawa Castle has a longstanding history and association with the wealthy Maeda clan who used the castle as their home base for over fourteen generations. Unfortunately, due to natural disasters, the castle has been destroyed by fire several times however a major restoration has taken place over the years. Kanazawa is also well-known as a castle town from the Edo Period. Samurai lived in nearby neighbourhoods, at the ready to be summoned if there was ever an attack, and these neighbourhoods can still be explored today.
5. Hiroshima Castle, Hiroshima
Hiroshima’s Castle was previously the centre of the city before being destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. The main keep was rebuilt thirteen years later, with ongoing reconstruction still being done today. Today, the castle is a fascinating museum that showcases Hiroshima before the devastating atomic bomb. In an amazing feat of Mother Nature, three trees on the castle grounds survived the bombing. This holly, eucalyptus and willow tree now stand proudly as a reminder of how Hiroshima has risen from the ashes to rebuild.