The curlicue rooves of Japan’s castles is just one of the architectural features that makes theses buildings so impressive and admired. And yet beneath their beguiling wedding cake exteriors lies a world of history, intrigue, war, death and life that would surprise, delight and horrify you.
On your visit to Japan, make sure you see at least one of its most revered castles:
Japan’s largest castle is in Himeji in the Hyogo Prefecture (west of Osaka) and is seen as the finest surviving example of Japanese castle architecture.
Dating back to 1333, this hilltop castle has a fascinating history and its sturdy design and exquisite façade have survived centuries of war and natural disasters. Its 83 buildings include advanced defensive systems from the feudal period.
Osaka-jō (1583) is arguably Japan’s most famous castle. While much smaller than Himeji-jō, the castle grounds extend nearly 60,000 square meters in Osaka city center. Its five-stories stand atop a tall stone foundation and upon entering the castle grounds you’re able to see for yourself just how well fortified it is.
Like Japan’s other important castles, Osaka-jō is popular during festivals, and especially during the cherry blossom season, when the castle grounds are covered with food vendors and taiko drummers.
On the island of Kyushu in Kumamoto is a castle that was once considered impregnable. Dating back to 1467, the Kumamoto castle has smooth, stone walls and wooden overhangs designed to prevent attackers from gaining access to the castle, along with 49 turrets, 18 turret gates and 29 smaller gates.
Nagoya Castle dates back to the Edo-period. Built in 1612 by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu it became the largest of the Tokugawa houses. While much of the castle was lost to fire in 1945 it has been rebuilt and now stands proudly in the center of Nagoya surrounded by Meijo-koen Park. Should you be lucky enough to visit Nagoya-jō, make sure you note the ‘shachihoko,’ (golden orcas) that adorn the castle roof– they were once symbols of the feudal lords supreme authority.