The Castles of Japan

The great variety of the classic Japanese castle

By Elena Lisina    - 2 min read

Although I had only a few opportunities to visit castles, the five that I did explore gave me quite a clear impression of what a Japanese castle is.

In spite of being built on a similar plan, each fortress is as unique as the terrain on which it stands, and the ambitions of the clan that built it. These fortresses were located on hills and raised on stone bases above the surrounding area for good observation and defense. All castles had vast walled territory with gates and moats on their perimeters. A castle’s site was often connected to the outer territory by a bridge. Bigger castles such as Osaka and Hiroshima have corner watchtowers.

Each castle has a unique history tightly connected with the history of Japan. Although castles may seem similar, each has its own proportions, colors and decorations. Many original castles were lost in wars and fires, and later in government campaigns to modernize the country, so now most of the castles are reconstructions and contain interesting historical museums that are worth visiting. Castles’ territories of today are occupied by beautiful Japanese gardens, but in the past these spaces were part of the defended fortresses.

However, among the surviving castles there are five originals with structures listed as national treasures and one of them – Karasu-jo of Matsumoto I was fortunate to visit. A trip to Himeji-jo, one of these fine castles, is still my dream.

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: Matane!