Do you know that castles in Japan were primarily built to protect important or strategic sites? These sites included river crossings, ports and crossroads. They were usually made of stones or woods. Over the years, many of these castles have just been destroyed. In the modern period, you’ll be able to see hundreds of castles in Japan, though some may be partially extant. Here are some of the historic castles which are commonly explored by both, foreign and local people.
The finest surviving example castle of typical Japanese architecture is known as “Himeji Castle” which is located in Hyogo Prefecture. There are other names associated with the castle’s color such as White Egret Castle (Hakuro-jo) or White Heron Castle (Shirasagi-jo). It has a spectacular beauty and is well-preserved. It is even considered as part of the “Twelve Original Castles in Japan”. However, it has undergone some renovations before it was fully opened again this March 2015.
Himeji Castle is often used as a film location as well as a substitute location for other palaces such as Edo castle. Apart from this, it is also well-known to observe sakura flowers during the spring season. This is the time of the year when visitors usually flock into the place, that is, from January 1 to April 6. Admission fee is free which makes the place even more crowded.
Another historic castle is Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture, which is considered as the most important castle in the area. This was built by Ii Naokatsu in 1603. He was a Japanese daimyo (powerful feudal lords) who served the Tokugawa clan during the Edo Period. There came a time in the Meiji era when castles were supposed to be dismantled, but Hikone castle was kept intact as a request from the emperor himself. Thus, it was preserved for a long time and was also considered as one of the original castles.
One important feature of the castle is its “castle keep” which is quite small but has a unique design compared with other castles, such as Himejijo, Matsumotojo, Inuyamajo, and Matuejo. This is why it has been designated as a National Treasure.
The castle which is often claimed as the oldest in Japan is Inuyama Castle. It is located in the city of Inuyama in Aichi Prefecture. It was built before the Edo Period and served as the center of power for the Naruse clan. What makes it unique is, it is privately owned but later on was turned over to a foundation set up by the Aichi Prefecture’s Board of Education.