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The 5 Top Castles In Japan


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Dacia Minter



Japan is a country known for its rich history and cultural heritage, and one of the most iconic symbols of this heritage is its majestic castles. Built centuries ago, these castles not only served as defensive fortresses but also as centers of political power and cultural significance. Today, they stand as magnificent architectural marvels, attracting visitors from around the world.


Stepping into these castles is like stepping back in time, offering a glimpse into feudal Japan and its intricate feudal system. Each castle has its unique features, reflecting the aesthetics and architectural styles of the time they were built. From the rugged exterior walls to the intricate interior design, Japanese castles are a testament to the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the past.


This article will take you on a virtual tour of the top five castles in Japan, highlighting their historical significance and architectural splendor. Whether you are a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply curious about Japanese culture, these castles will leave you in awe.


Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle, also known as the “White Heron Castle,” is considered the finest example of Japanese castle architecture. Located in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a national treasure of Japan.


Constructed in the 17th century, Himeji Castle boasts an impressive and imposing exterior. Its white plaster walls and soaring roofs resemble the outstretched wings of a magnificent heron in flight, earning it its nickname. The strategic design of the castle, with multiple layers of defensive walls and winding paths, made it virtually impenetrable and served as a symbol of power during feudal times.


Inside the castle, visitors can explore the various levels, including the main keep, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding city and countryside. The interior is a marvel of intricate wooden craftsmanship, featuring sliding doors, painted screens, and decorated ceilings. Walking through the castle’s narrow hallways and steep staircases is like stepping back in time, immersing oneself in the feudal era of Japan.


Himeji Castle has undergone extensive restoration work over the years to preserve its original beauty. The latest restoration project, completed in 2015, involved repairing the roof and applying traditional techniques to retain the castle’s historical authenticity.


Visiting Himeji Castle is a truly captivating experience, allowing visitors to appreciate Japan’s architectural heritage and immerse themselves in its fascinating history. The castle is particularly enchanting during cherry blossom season in spring when the surrounding gardens burst into a riot of colors, creating a picturesque backdrop for the castle.


Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle, located in Nagano Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most stunning and unique castles. Known as the “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, it is one of the few original castles in Japan that has survived for over four centuries.


Constructed in the late 16th century, Matsumoto Castle is an architectural masterpiece. Its towering black walls, intricate wooden carvings, and elegant five-story donjon (main keep) make it a sight to behold. The castle is surrounded by a picturesque moat and beautiful cherry blossom trees, creating a breathtaking view, especially during springtime.


Inside the castle, visitors can explore the well-preserved rooms and walk through the steep, narrow staircases, which were designed to slow attackers in times of war. The top floor of the donjon offers panoramic views of the city and the stunning Japanese Alps in the distance.


Matsumoto Castle also houses a valuable collection of artifacts and historical items, including weapons, armor, and samurai-related artifacts. These exhibits provide insight into the castle’s history and the feudal era of Japan.


While Matsumoto Castle is an impressive example of Japanese castle architecture, it also serves as a cultural hub. The castle grounds host various events and festivals throughout the year, such as traditional music performances, tea ceremonies, and archery demonstrations. These events offer visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in Japanese culture and traditions.


Matsumoto Castle’s timeless allure and its integration with the surrounding natural beauty make it a must-visit destination. Whether you are fascinated by history, captivated by architectural marvels, or simply seeking a unique cultural experience, Matsumoto Castle will leave a lasting impression.


Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle, located in Osaka City, is one of the most historically significant castles in Japan. Originally built in the 16th century, the castle has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over the centuries, with its current reconstruction dating back to the 1930s.


What sets Osaka Castle apart is its imposing stature and grandeur. With its towering stone walls, wide moat, and majestic multi-tiered donjon, the castle exudes power and extravagance. The main keep offers a stunning view of the surrounding Osaka skyline, showcasing the city’s modernity alongside traditional beauty.


Inside the castle, visitors can explore the well-preserved exhibits and learn about the castle’s rich history. The castle museum showcases various artifacts, including armor, weapons, ceramics, and artworks, allowing visitors to delve into the lives of feudal lords and samurai.


Surrounding Osaka Castle is a vast park with sprawling green space, serene gardens, and plum and cherry blossom trees. Each spring, the castle park bursts into a riot of colors as thousands of cherry blossoms bloom, attracting locals and visitors who gather for hanami (flower viewing) parties.


Osaka Castle also hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, such as traditional music performances, tea ceremonies, and martial arts demonstrations. These events provide a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and traditions.


With its rich history, stunning architecture, and picturesque surroundings, Osaka Castle is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the grandeur of a Japanese castle. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply seeking a peaceful oasis in the bustling city, Osaka Castle offers a truly immersive experience.


Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle, located in Nagoya City, is a magnificent symbol of samurai power and elegance. Constructed in the early 17th century, the castle showcases the unique architectural style of the Edo period and stands as a testament to the glory of the Owari Tokugawa clan.


One of the striking features of Nagoya Castle is its distinctive golden shachi (mythical dolphin-like creature) ornaments adorning the rooftops. These ornate sculptures, along with the castle’s bold black and white façade, create a visually captivating sight.


The interior of Nagoya Castle is equally impressive. Visitors can explore the spacious halls, intricately decorated rooms, and meticulously crafted wooden floors. The castle museum houses a vast collection of historical artifacts, including samurai armor, weapons, and artworks, providing insight into the castle’s storied past.


The castle’s surrounding grounds are just as spectacular. Meandering paths, serene gardens, and a picturesque moat give visitors a sense of tranquility amid the urban landscape. The Hommaru Palace, once the residence of the ruling lords, has been restored to its original grandeur and offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of the feudal elite.


Throughout the year, Nagoya Castle hosts special events and festivals, such as traditional tea ceremonies and cultural performances, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in Japanese traditions and customs.


Nagoya Castle is also conveniently located near other tourist attractions in Nagoya, making it an ideal destination for history enthusiasts and those looking to explore the vibrant city.


Whether you’re fascinated by history, captivated by architectural marvels, or simply seeking a serene escape within the city, Nagoya Castle is a must-visit destination that promises to leave a lasting impression.


Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle, located in Kumamoto City, is one of the most iconic and historically significant castles in Japan. Built in the early 17th century, it served as the stronghold of the powerful feudal lord, Kato Kiyomasa.


Kumamoto Castle is renowned for its strategic fortress-like design, combining both aesthetic beauty and defensive capability. The castle’s distinctive feature is its massive stone walls, which stand as a testament to ancient engineering prowess. The intricate details of the stonework showcase the mastery of craftsmen from centuries past.


While the castle suffered substantial damage during the earthquake in 2016, ongoing restoration efforts are underway to preserve its historical significance. Despite the challenges, a visit to Kumamoto Castle is still awe-inspiring, as visitors can witness the resilience and spirit of the people of Kumamoto.


The castle grounds also feature beautiful gardens, lush greenery, and cherry blossom trees, making it a popular spot for hanami (flower viewing) during the spring season. Visitors can stroll through the expansive park, enjoying the serene atmosphere and taking in the stunning views of the castle and its surroundings.


Inside the castle, visitors can explore the reconstructed Honmaru Goten Palace, which showcases the opulent lifestyle of the feudal lords. The palace’s intricate architecture, including sliding doors adorned with elaborate paintings and ornate ceilings, offers a glimpse into the grandeur of the past.


Kumamoto Castle is not just a historical monument but also a symbol of resilience and unity. It serves as a reminder of the enduring spirit of the people of Kumamoto and their determination to restore and preserve their cultural heritage.


Visiting Kumamoto Castle is a truly immersive experience, allowing visitors to appreciate the architectural splendor and rich history of feudal Japan. It is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, architecture lovers, and anyone seeking to be inspired by the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.



Japanese castles are not only architectural marvels but also cultural treasures that provide a glimpse into Japan’s rich history and feudal past. From the majestic white walls of Himeji Castle to the imposing black facade of Matsumoto Castle, each castle has its own unique charm and story to tell.


Visiting these castles offers a fascinating journey back in time, where visitors can immerse themselves in the grandeur and sophistication of feudal Japan. The intricate craftsmanship, beautiful gardens, and panoramic views from the castle keeps are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Furthermore, these castles serve as cultural hubs, hosting various events and festivals throughout the year. From tea ceremonies to traditional performances, visitors can engage in Japanese traditions and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s rich cultural heritage.


Despite the challenges of time and natural disasters, restoration efforts have preserved the essence and historical significance of these castles. From Himeji Castle’s recent roof repairs to Kumamoto Castle’s ongoing rejuvenation after the devastating earthquake, these castles remain symbols of resilience and determination.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply curious about Japanese culture, a visit to these top castles in Japan will leave you in awe. The combination of architectural beauty, historical significance, and cultural experiences make them must-see destinations for travelers from around the world.


So, plan your trip, explore the towering walls, wander through the beautiful gardens, and step into the noble past of Japan’s magnificent castles. Let these structures transport you to a time when honor and bravery were revered, and the grandeur of the samurai era still echoes through the centuries.