• Life in Japan

Top 8 Castles to visit in Japan

Japan’s historical temples and shrines are at the top for visitor to Japan. The
foundations of many Japanese customs come from tranquil and old religious sites.
Yet, although less in number, an important part of Japan’s history is in castles across
the country.


Join LJC today as we go through our top 8 castles of Japan. Some of these castles
you may know, while others may even be minor in comparison. Yet all are important
and worth seeing next time you find yourself moving through Japan.


However, although less in number an equally important part of Japan’s history can be found at the castles that are scattered across the country.


Join LJC today as we go through our top 8 castles of Japan.

Some of these castles you may know, while others may even be minor in comparison, however, all are historically important and worth seeing next time you find yourself moving through Japan.

8) Kagoshima Castle

8) Kagoshima Castle – 7-7-2 Shiroyamacho, Kagoshima, 892-0853

Not much remains of Kagoshima castle now, but it was a castle with an interesting history.


Yoshihiro Shimazu of the Satsuma Han built the castle in 1601, after Satsuma lost the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. History says the castle was quite small and poor in design as not to occur the wrath of the shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa.


Although, the castle would escape the wrath of Ieyasu, it did not escape conflict altogether. Large earthquakes, fires and even termites destroyed it several times. Now it is the ruins of a very interesting time.

7) Matsue Castle "The Black castle"


7) Matsue Castle – 1-5 Tonomachi, Matsue, Shimane 690-0887

Matsue Castle also known as the ‘Black castle’ is in Shimane prefecture.


Built in 1611, and built to withstand many battles, has never seen a war.


Lucky for us as it is also one of the 12 castles in Japan to still be standing on its original foundation.


The castle itself is a 30 minute walk from Matsue station.


Admission is 670 yen (castle only) or 1090 yen (also including the Hearn museum and either the Hearn residence or Samurai residence).


Still want another reason to check out the Black castle? You can also take a boat cruise around the moat with a tour guide. 

6) Hikone Castle


6) Hikone Castle – 1-1 Konkicho, Hikone, Shiga 522-0061

Hikone castle in Shiga prefecture is one of the 12 Japanese castles on its original structure.


Many of these castles were demolished during the Meiji period. But, the emperor himself asked to spare Hikone.


It is also one of only five castles that is a national treasure in Japan.


The other castles include Matsue, Himeji, Matsumoto, and Inuyama.


To get to the castle, you have to pass through a spiral zig-zag path. While you are walking to the castle this way, you can see the military design of this castle.


The castle is also quite close to Kyoto, and in Spring a very popular spot to see the cherry blossoms.


To get to Hikone castle is simple. From Hikone station head straight towards the castle for about 10-15minutes.


Admission is 800 yen for the castle and garden or 1200 for the castle garden, and museum.

5) Okayama Castle


5)Okayama Castle  2 Chome-3-1 Marunouchi, Kita Ward, Okayama, 700-0823

Located in Okayama Prefecture, Okayama Castle is not an original but a replica (the original building with the exception of one turret was destroyed in WW2).


Nevertheless, the building is beautiful and sports a brilliant view of the Okayama prefecture.


For all you history buffs, this castle was first built in 1597 in the Azuchi-momoyama style.


The castle’s original owner was Hidei Ukita (a Hideyoshi loyalist) but the rights were lost after the battle of Sekigahara.


The castle was then inherited by the Ikdea clan who later added the Korakuen gardens.

Reaching Okayama castle by leg is somewhat of a trip, about 30-35minutes walk west of Okayama station.


Admission is 580 to access the castle and garden.

4) Odawara Castle


4)Odawara Castle – Jonai, Odawara, Kanagawa 250-0014

Odawara Castle is a symbol of Odwara City. The Hojo Clan built the castle in the mid-15th century. They used it as a fortress to control the surrounding region. 


Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his forces attacked and took control of the castle. The castle is not original and is actually in its’ 3rd (4th) iteration.


An earthquake destroyed the first in 1703 and in 1890 the castle was dismantled and sold.


In 1964 the Japanese government rebuilt the castle, using drawings of the castle from Edo period.


In 2016 the castle opened to the public. Many visitors come and enjoy this castle for its wonderful history, and amazing cherry blossoms. A trip to Odawara castle is a simple 10 minute walk from Odawara station, with admission at a low 510 yen.


3) Goryoukaku Castle


3) Goryokaku Castle – 44 Goryokakucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0001

The Goryokaku castle is in Hakodate, Hokkaido. It was the first castle built with western fortifications in mind.


As a result, the shape of the castle is an incredible star, or pentagon-like shape.

The masterminds behind this development were Ayasaburo Takeda and the French military engineer Vauban.


The castle would see battle when the remnants of the Tokugawa shogunate and Shinsengumi would challenge the imperial armies at the end of the Boshin war. 


Goryokaku castle is a 10 minutes’ walk from “Goryokaku Koen Mae” station, with admission at 900 yen.

2) Osaka Castle


2) Osaka Castle – 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002


Toyotomi Hideyoshi begin constructing the castle in 1583. The castle would serve as the main stronghold for his new unified Japan.

At the time, it was the largest castle Japan had seen.


In 1615 Ieyasu Tokugawa’s forces destroyed the castle. 


The castle was rebuilt, but in 1665 it was destroyed again by a lightning strike.


Finally it was rebuilt again in 1931 and survive the air raids of WW2.


Osaka Castle is yet another popular spot for viewing cherry blossoms in Kansai


It also hosts many events, such as the annual Osaka Castle Festival in the summer.


To access the Osaka castle, go to the Osakajokoen station on the JR line. It will cost you 600 yen in admission to enter.

1) Himeji Castle


1) Himeji Castle – 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012


Built in 1601 on the site of a former castle, this hill castle consists of 83 buildings.


The buildings are in a complex and connected by a series of stairs, staircases, halls, corridors and other structures.


The fortress is also called “White Heron Castle” because its white-plastered towers resemble snow-capped little egrets

The main tower is a six-storey structure visible from almost every place in Himeji City.

This castle is one of 12 built on its original foundations, and it’s considered the best preserved castle in Japan.


You can access Himeji castle from Himeji station and a 10 minute walk. The admission to enter the castle is 100 yen.

Want to check out these castles as a local?  


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