Azuchi Castle was a castle, like no other in Japanese history. It was built by one of Japan’s most powerful warlords, and first conqueror of Japan, Oda Nobunaga. This castle was the perfect representation of Nobunaga himself, grandiose, ambitious, larger-than-life, and sadly doomed.
Azuchi castle was built on the shores of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, just outside of Kyoto in 1579. Nobunaga chose to build it outside of Kyoto, the then capital so that he could keep an eye on the goings on of the royalty. Also, were Kyoto to be attacked the whole city might go up in flames, so he wanted to keep his own palace safe.
Azuchi was more than a regular castle. Most castles in Japan were purely military buildings, efficient and beautiful in their own right. But Nobunaga wanted something more. Most probably influenced by the retinue of European priests he kept with him, he chose to create a castle that would serve a military function, as well as being a palace worthy of the most powerful man in the country.
Three things set Azuchi Castle apart from other castles at the time. First was the sheer scale of the construction. The walls of the castle alone were anywhere from 18 feet (5.4 meters) to 21 feet (6.4 meters) thick! Secondly, the castle used a lot more stone than was normal for construction at the time. Huge blocks of granite were carefully arranged and built without using any mortar! And finally, while most castles were dark and gray, the main keep of Azuchi castle was brightly colored with gold and red, and pictures of tigers and dragons. Also the top floor was octagonal.
Like Nobunaga himself, Azuchi would fall before its time. After Nobunaga’s death in 1582, the castle was attacked by one of Nobunaga’s chief rivals. In the ensuing sacking, the castle burned to the ground. All that remains today are the original base stones.
While we can’t see the original palace in its splendor, there are a few places we can see reconstructions at. Ise Azuchi Momoyama Bunka Mura in Ise, Mie prefecture has a full reproduction of the castle, with different shows and fun tours.
Furthermore, you can find a to-scale reproduction of the top level of the keep in Omi, Shiga prefecture. Seeing this will give you an insight to the actual size of the castle.
You can also visit the foundations of the castle.