When you think of castles, which countries spring to mind? England? Ireland? France? Germany? Of course, these countries do all have plenty of picturesque, historic, and culturally significant castles, but Europe isn’t the only continent with fantastic castles.
Asia, for example, has ancient castles that stand tall to this day, many of which can still be visited. And, if you’re in Asia and fancy exploring some of the best-preserved and most stunning castles on the continent, you simply must head to Japan.
The vast majority of Japanese castles were built from the core materials of stone and wood. The stereotypical European castle, with its sheer rock walls and severe-looking crenelations, is a far cry from what a traditional Japanese castle looks like.
While designed with defense very much in mind, they were also created to be works of art. The majority of them had – and those that survive still have – sloped wooden roofs, ornate paintings and mosaics on their facades, and tended to be surrounded by trees, gardens and numerous other types of artistic sculptures. They were not only there to do a job, but they were also there to promote Japanese culture and showcase the very best of art and design that the country had to offer.
Though built to last in terms of robustness, they were also created to stand the test of time in regard to aesthetics.
Top Castles to Visit in Japan
So, you know that Japan’s castles are a must-see, but which locations should you visit? Japan is a huge country and with so many stunning buildings to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. Osaka Castle is probably the most famous castle in Japan, and it’s well worth a visit, of course, but here we decided to focus on some less well-known examples that are just as spectacular:
Himeji really does epitomise the traditional Japanese castle design. It simultaneously dominates the landscape while also being incredibly alluring. Attackers would fear it, but any tourist will undoubtedly be drawn in by its majesty.
The complex itself has 83 different buildings and somehow managed to survive without a scratch despite the area being bombed heavily during WW2. You will not regret a trip to Himeji, but prepare to be surrounded by plenty of other visitors while you’re there!
Matsumoto has many of the traditional elements you’d expect from a castle – a drawbridge, a moat, walls of vertical stone – but it simply looks far more elegant than anything you would find anywhere else in the world.
Considered by many to be a national treasure, Matsumoto is not too far from Tokyo – about two and a half hours by train – and it makes for a wonderful day trip if you want to step away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.
This castle, which was finished in 1611, is one of just a handful of Japanese castles that is still in its original wooden state. It has been able to retain its structure over such an extended period of time because, quite simply, it has never actually seen battle.
However, despite having very little in the way of military history, it is still most certainly worth visiting, largely because it could be argued that it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire country.
It probably isn’t as pretty as the other castles we’ve listed here, but that doesn’t make it any less valid! It is bright crimson, which makes it unique in itself, and is also very old, dating back to the early 1400s.
Located on the island of Okinawa, and surrounded by incredible beaches and seas that almost beg to be swum in, Shuri castle is definitely worth including in your itinerary, even if your holiday is mostly dedicated to sunbathing and drinking cocktails.
How about you? What are your top castles to visit in Japan?
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Viewing Japan through your eyes and words, seems to be an incredible country, thank you for taking us there.
We were supposedly going to Japan last year kaya lang andyan parin si COVID. One thing that I am facinated with Japan is their culture and history. Kaya I wanted to see those palaces and castles talaga.
definitely places i must visit! one japanese castle i wanna visit is the one with the okiko story. i forgot the name but that’s my keyword for it — okiko. such a beautifully tragic story that ends just the way i like it — a ghost story lol
So much beauty and culture. I can’t wait to one day visit these castles and temples!
I would definitely want to see Matsumoto – drawbridge, moat and all! Shuri may not be the prettiest, but it looks the most common among castle designs, so it gives a taste of familiar.
The early Japanese engineers and architects are genius! They have this unique technique of building their castles, all made of wood and sways when there is an earthquake. Amazing, and that technique still being used today.
Japan has been always part of my travel bucket list for so many reasons. Now, I am more motivated to go there after reading your post. i would love to take photos with those castles on my background:) #travegoals!
Japan is one of our bucket list. Japan’s castle are stunning. From the design, architecture, strategic locations and elegant interiors they are all amazing. Hope we can visit this World Heritage Site Hemiji in the future. 🙂
I also want to be able to visit these castles one day!! Clicked on this post cause of your beautiful featured photo. Love it, Ms. Karla! I always follow your word on travel suggestions hehe
This is fantastic! I did not know that there are castles in Japan. This is not only informative but also shows reasons why one must visit the said castles.
One of my bucket lists! Thank you po. I love your blogs so much.
Magnificent castles! I will definitely include this to my itinerary when I go back to Japan. Did you do this in one day lang? Parang ang saya mag photoshoot!
The castles are so gorgeous. But i love best is the himeji and matsumoto. Are they open to public?like makakapasok ka ba or hanggang tingin ka lang from afar?
Japan Castle our incredibly beautiful ..parang napunta ka sa ibang timeline just seeing this ?One day if makapunta sa Japan i i wont miss one of these
Awww I miss Japan! Would love to visit these castles when I go back! You know what may funny story ako sa mga castles – we went to Osaka Castle last year and then may time cut-off pala doon ~ we arrived 5 mins late. Sayang! Hahaha ohwell, next time. 😀
– Hazel | https://hazywanders.com/
I would never think that Japan had it’s own castles. These are truly unique though and definitely worth a visit!! Hopeful soon
Japan is such a beautiful and inspirational place to visit. Love your photos and this is a fab list for sure xx
looks so incredibly beautiful! I would so travel there as well!
All the castles look so majestic and seem to share a specific story. I would love to travel to Japan and see them.
I can’t pick my favorite they are all so beautiful. It makes me want to visit Japan right now
We can may be target to see some of them on our next trip. Thanks for the tips. Very helpful.
This area looks lovely I would love to travel here. Will put on my bucket list.
Having never visited Japan, I don’t think of it as a country with castles. The castles you have featured are gorgeous and I would love to visit them!
Of all these castles you mentioned in this post, the Matsumoto castle was the one that appealed to me the most. It is beautiful! If plans push through, we will be visiting Japan by late October. I will include these castles in our itinerary.
The last one kinda looks like castles in Korea, am I right? I love the harmony of the architecture talaga of Japan! I’d love to see those in person aside from cherry blossoms! 🙂
I love checking out different castles & temples when I’m in Japan! This is a great list.
Imperial Palace lang ang napuntahan ko among palaces/castles sa Japan. This is a good list to refer kung sakaling makabalik.