Hankyu Kotsusha released the ranking of Japanese castles that are often searched on the Internet.
Thinking about the history of a castle by viewing the castle keep, stone walls, well and the background view of the castle is very fun. Japanese castles which can be enjoyed in every season are popular among many people. Presentations using latest technologies such as AR, VR and projection mapping and various events are held at many castles.
In this article, I will introduce to you the most popular castles of Japan.
1st place – Himeji Castle <Hyogo Prefecture>
Himeji Castle located in Himejishi, Hyogo Prefecture was designated as a national treasure and an important cultural property in addition to being designated as Japan’s first world heritage site in 1993. The castle is also known as “Shirasagi (white heron) Castle” because the exterior of the castle looks like a white heron spreading its wings.
The castle has many interesting spots in addition to the castle keep such as “Kesho Yagura” which Senhime (a princess) used as a resting place and “Okiku Ido (water well)” where a person named Okiku was thrown into the well.
Himeji Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
2nd place – Takeda Castle <Hyogo Prefecture>
This castle is located at the top Gojo Mountain (353.7m) in Asagoshi, Hyogo Prefecture. The castle was closed about 400 years ago and only the stone walls remained. The castle is also known as “the sky castle” since it looks like it is floating on the clouds when a thick mist moves in. The castle is designated as “the holy ground of couples” and therefore many couples visit this castle.
Takeda Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
3rd place: Matsumoto Castle <Nagano Prefecture>
Matsumoto Castle located in Matsumoto-shi, Nagano Prefecture is the oldest remaining five layered castle keep in Japan and is designated as a national treasure. Many people say that the charm of this castle is the beauty of the exterior coated with white and black plaster. The mountains surrounding this castle are very beautiful. Inside the castle, you can meet with the staff of the castle called “Omotenashitai” wearing armor and clothes of ninja and take photos with them.
Matsumoto Castle’s Sightseeing/touring information:
4th place: Edo Castle <Tokyo>
The area around this ruined castle is used by the imperial family. The castle used to be the residence of Ieyasu Tokugawa. You must make a reservation or apply for a ticket on the same day you visit the area (first-come-first-served basis) if you want to view the residence of the imperial family. Higashi Gyoen has a castle keep, Fuijimiyagura (observation deck) and Tokagakudo (music hall). The area has many other interesting points such as the main gate called Otemon, Futae Bridge which is popular as a photo-taking spot, Sakuradamon where “Sakurada Mongai no Hen” (historical incident) occurred and the statue of Masashige Kusunoki.
Edo Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
5th place: Hikone Castle <Shiga Prefecture)
The castle keep, Tsukeyagura and Tamonyagura (observation decks) of Hikone Castle which is located in Hikoneshi, Shiga Prefecture are designated as national treasures. The castle was built to prepare for war, so you can view hidden rooms and Hazama (holes to shoot arrows and fire guns from) in the castle keep. About 400 Japanese plum trees are planted inside the grounds of the castle. The trees bloom in mid to late March every year.
Hikone Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
6th place: Osaka Castle <Osaka>
Osaka Castle located in Osaka-shi, Osaka is a popular sightseeing spot which was designated as a cultural property in 1997 after it was rebuilt and renovated. The castle consists of 8 floors included a museum and observation deck. There are many interesting things to see in this castle such as exhibition rooms, a theatre and a museum. You can view the city of Osaka from the observation deck which is located on the top of the castle.
Osaka Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
7th place: Ueda Castle <Nagano Prefecture>
Ueda Castle was built by Masayuki Sanada in 1583. Seasonal events such as “Senbonzakura Matsuri” where you can view about 1000 cherry blossom trees and “Keyaki Namiki Koyo Matsuri” where you can view lit up zelkovas are held every year.
Ueda Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
8th place: Goryokaku <Hokkaido>
Goryokaku located in the center of Hakodate, Hokkaido is a western-style castle which was built during the Bakumatsu Era (late Edo Era) as an administrative institution of Edo Bakufu (government). There are 5 tipped areas called “Ryoho” and the castle is shaped like a star. The inside area of the fortress is 3 times bigger than Tokyo Dome (125,500 square meters). You can also see the interior of Hakodate Bugyosho located in the center of the castle grounds.
Goryokaku’s sightseeing/information tour
9th place: Kumamoto Castle <Kumamoto Prefecture>
This castle is located in the center of Kumamoto-shi. It has big/small castle keeps and the building consists of 6F and B1F. You can view the city of Kumamoto and Aso Mountain from the top of this castle. “Syoku no Ma” shining in gold which is located inside Hongan Goten was renovated, so this is a “must see.”
Kumamoto Castle’s sightseeing/touring information
10th place (tie): Nagoya Castle <Aichi Prefecture>
A castle which Ieyasu Tokugawa built to conquer Japan. The interior of the castle keep (B1F to 7F) can be viewed and you can observe many historical items such as important cultural assets, body armor, head armors, katanas and hagbuts. An event where you can experience the lifestyle of a domain lord can be experienced. The most recommended item is the life size golden dolphin which you can ride.
Nagoya Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
10th place (tie): Nijo Castle <Kyoto>
This castle which was designated as a world’s heritage site in 1994 was built as an accommodation for Ieyasu Tokugawa in 1603. It is also known as the place where Taiseihokan (historical event where the government of Japan was renewed) was held by the Tokugawa Family’s 15th general Yoshinobu Tokugawa. The national treasure, Ninomaru Goten using 800 tatami mats (3,300 square meter) has 33 rooms and the wall paintings are very beautiful.
Nijo Castle’s sightseeing/touring information
10th place (tie): Hirosaki Castle <Aomori Prefecture>
This castle is built inside Hirasaki Park located in Hirosakishi, Aomori Prefecture. A part of the castle was burnt down by a lightning strike in 1627 but was rebuilt in 1810. Observation decks called “Tatsumi Yagura,” “Hitsuji Saru Yagura” and “Ushitora Yagura” can be observed in addition to the castle keep. Each observation deck is located in a different direction (south east, south west and north east)
Hirosaki Castle’s sightseeing/touring information:
Let’s feel the history of Japan by visiting the castles noted above.
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