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5 Famous Castles in Japan for Castle Lovers

5 Famous Castles in Japan for Castle Lovers

Hyogo 2015.12.23

There are over 25,000 castles all over Japan. We introduce you some that stand out from the rest!

Translated by Shannon McNaught

Written by Hiromasa Uematsu

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There are over 25,000 castles both large and small in Japan's history. Castles and ruins still stand in each of Japan's regions. There are even castles that have been rebuilt and castles that have withstood time.

We've carefully selected Japanese castles that are perfect for sightseers. They were selected based on their history, status, and beauty. You can't go wrong with these castles!

1. Himeji Castle ~Japan's 1st World Heritage Site~

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From Japan's 400-year-old World Cultural Heritage Site, Himeji Castle (Japanese)

In 1993, Himeji Castle was selected as Japan's 1st World Cultural Heritage Site. Since it has remained almost completely intact in its original form, it's considered very valuable.

It has earned the nickname "Shirasagi Castle," or "White Egret Castle," due to its enormous white exterior. Restoration was just finished in 2015, so now it's beauty is even more radiant than ever.

Japan's castles have survived many wars. Himeji Castle was completed just after that war-torn period. You can see architectural techniques from that period in its construction. It's not only beautiful, but also serves as a state-of-the-art stronghold.

2. Kumamoto Castle ~A Castle Master's Creation That No Weapon Could Touch~

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Image courtesy of gtknj

Unlike Himeji Castle, Kumamoto Castle's exterior is dyed in black.

Kumamoto Castle was built by Kiyomasa Katou (加藤清正), a courageous military general whose name remains well-known in Japan even today. He was best known for his castle construction techniques, and some of his castles still stand around the nation. Kumamoto Castle is considered his masterpiece.

One of its key features is its stone wall made of stones stacked upon each other. This helped defend the castle from attacks. Kiyomasa's stone walls were said to be so strong that hardly any attack could penetrate them.

If you have the chance, you should see this masterpiece for yourself.

3. Nijo Castle ~The Beloved Residence of Shogun~

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Image courtesy of Benjamin Claverie

Nijo Castle is located in the heart of Kyoto. It's easy to stop at on your sightseeing around Kyoto, which makes it one of the most conveniently located on our list. It doesn't have towers, so it looks more like a large mansion than a castle.

It's no wonder that Edo period Shoguns usually stayed here when visiting Kyoto.

Its interior contains murals and Japanese gardens, which makes it the perfect place to enjoy traditional Japanese culture.

4. Takeda Castle ~The Magical Castle in the Sky~

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Image courtesy of bullets95

Unlike the other castles we've introduced so far, Hyogo prefecture's Takeda Castle isn't made up of magnificent buildings or towers.

What remains is stone walls and the grass that has grown over them. Perhaps it's more apt to call it "ruins" than a castle. However, that's part of what makes it so magical and mysterious.

Takeda Castle fans call it "The Castle in the Sky." Look at the photo included above. With clouds floating under it, doesn't it look like it's really floating? You can enjoy this kind of scenery because it's located at the top of a mountain.

5. Shuri Castle ~A Unique, Red Southern Castle~

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Image courtesy of Takeshi KOUNO

Shuri Castle stands in southern Okinawa. Okinawa is also known as "Ryukyu" (琉球); here, you can enjoy a unique culture that is a bit different from Japanese culture.

Ryukyu culture is reflected in Shuri Castle. It was built to look more like a Chinese castle than a Japanese one. You can't see castles with this kind of vibrant red exterior anywhere else in Japan.

Visit Shuri Castle for yourself to experience this one-of-a-kind Southern relic.

So, are there any castles here that you want to go to? There are castles and ruins in just about every region of Japan. After you visit these major castles and learn how to observe castles, you should check out some of the minor ones as well.

Information

1. Himeji Castle

Address: Himeji-shi, Honcho 68-banchi
Business hours: 9:00am-4:00pm (gates close at 5:00pm)
※Summer hours (April 27-August 31): 9:00am-5:00pm (gates close at 6:00pm)
Closed: December 29 and 30
Wi-Fi: HIMEJI Wi-Fi
Credit cards accepted: N/A
Languages offered: official website in English, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, Portugese, German, Vietnamese
Other languages offered: Yes
Nearest station: 20 minutes from JR Himeji Station, Sanyo Himeji Station
Price range: 300 yen-1,000 yen
Phone: +81(0)79-285-1146
Official website: Himeji Castle

2. Kumamoto Castle

Address: Kumamoto-ken, Kumamoto-shi, Chuo-ku, Honmaru 1-1
Business hours:
[March-November] 8:30am-6:00pm (last entrance at 5:30pm)
[December-February] 8:30am-6:00pm (last entrance at 4:30pm)
Closed: December 29-31
Wi-Fi: 5 spots on castle grounds
Credit cards accepted: N/A
Main language: Japanese
Other languages offered: English, Chinese, Korean
Nearest station: Tram stop "Kumamoto Castle, Shiyakusho-mae"
Access: Right next to tram stop "Kumamoto Castle, Shiyakusho-mae"
Price range: 500 yen for adults, 200 yen for children (elementary and junior high school students)
Phone: +81(0)96-352-5900
Official website: Kumamoto Castle (Kumamoto City Official Website)

3. Nijo Castle

Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Chukyo-ku, Nijo-jo-cho
Business hours: 8:00am-4:00pm (gates close at 5:00pm)
※Ninomaru Palace Viewing Hours: 9:00am-4:00pm
Closed: New Year's (December 26 to January 4), every Tuesday in December, January, July, and August
Wi-Fi: N/A
Credit cards accepted: N/A
Main language: Japanese
Other languages offered: paid voice guide (500 yen) in English, Chinese, Korean, French, and Spanish
Nearest station: Underground Tozai Line "Nijojo-mae Station"
Access: right outside of Nijojo-mae Station
Price range: 600 yen for adults, 350 yen for junior high and high school students, 200円 for elementary school students
Phone: +81(0)75-841-0096
Official website: Nijo Castle

4. Takeda Castle

Address: Hyogo-ken, Asago-shi, Wadayama-cho, Takeda Jiko-jo san 169
Business hours: (for 2015)
[March 20 to September 18] 8:00am-6:00pm
[September 19 to December 10] 4:00am-5:00pm
Closed: January 4 to February 29 (2015)
Wi-Fi: N/A
Credit cards accepted: N/A
Main language: Japanese
Other languages offered: English, Chinese, Korean
Nearest station: JR Takeda Station
Access: 40 minutes on Takeda Station hiking trail
Price range: 500 yen for adults, no charge for junior high school age and under
Phone: +81(0)79-674-2120
Official website: Takeda Castle (Asago City)

5. Shuri Castle

Address: Okinawa-ken, Naha-shi, Shuri Kinjo-cho 1-2
Business hours: no admission areas
[April-June] 8:00am-7:30pm
[July-September] 8:00am-8:30pm
[October-November] 8:00am-7:30pm
[December-March] 8:00am-6:30pm
Closed: 1st Wednesday and Thursday in July
Wi-Fi: Yes
Credit cards accepted: VISA, JCB, MasterCard, AMEX
Languages offered: Chinese-speaking guide (not permanent)
Other languages offered: English, Chinese, Korean
Nearest station: Yui Rail "Shuri Station"
Access: 15 minutes from Rui Rail "Shuri Station"
Price range: 330 yen for adults, 170 yen for children
Phone: +81(0)98-886-2020
Official website: Shuri Castle Park

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