There has been constructed many castles in the whole of Japan’s history, therefore their number isn’t known exactly but it seems that today are about 50 left and only 12 original castles are still standing. Built to guard important or strategic sites, such as ports, river crossings or crossroads, and almost always incorporated the landscape into their defense, their architectural style are quite similar with a castle tower built on 3, 4 or 5 storeys, most of them being painted in white, and some in black or black and white. Hikone, Himeji, Inuyama, and Matsumoto Castles are the only four Japanese castles which are National Treasures. Having an important historic value, these 4 amazing Japanese castles has a rich and interesting history and displays impressive architectural designs and if you visit Japan, take your time to explore and enjoy them. They are absolutely some of the “must visit” attractions. Just have a look at the photos below.
1. Hikone Castle
Classified as an important National Cultural Asset and part of the top 100 castles, the Hikone Castle is one of the oldest intact Japanese Castles and it’s one of the four historic castles in Japan considered National Treasures. Located in Shiga Prefecture near the largest lake in Japana, Lake Biwa, the three-story castle stand out through its beautiful Tenshu, ivory white walls surrounded by a double moat which together with the beautiful grounds and scenic views, makes it gorgeous from the outside. The castle has kept its original design at the time of construction, its structure alone being breathtaking, with various yagura and gates. Built by the order of Shogun Ii Naokatsu in 1603, the Hikone Castle was completed after a more than a twenty-year period, in 1622 and served for 14 generations for nearly 260 years without any attacks. It is one of 12 existing castles which were built about 400 years ago. The Hikone Castle is admired year-round for its landscape and seasonal beauty.
2. Himeji Castle
Originally built in the 14th century, and then rebuilt in 1580, the Himeji Castle is the most visited castle in Japan and it’s praised as Japan’s most beautiful feudal castle. Often compared to a white egret – “White Heron Castle”- due to the elegant appearance totally covered with white plaster, it captures perfectly the spirit of the samurai-age architecture. Its massive stones, white plastered walls and wooden interior make it the highest achievement in Japanese castle architecture. The Himeji Castle was designated as a national treasure in 1931 and was added the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1992 as the first cultural site in Japan. For more information, read also Himeji Castle Famous by it’s Unique Architecture.
3. Inuyama Castle
Inuyama Castle is a beautiful and pitoresque castle in Central Japan’s Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture. The castle as it stands today was established in 1537 by Nobunaga’s grandfather Oda Nobuyasu. Because it retains its original castle tower, the Inuyama Castle remains a rare and invaluable example of a defensive architecture not found in the 12 castle towers that are still in existence today. The castle doesn’t impress with large proportions, but with its architecture. It has three levels on the outside, four stories inside and two stories below ground. An observation platform is located on the top level from where you can see magnificent views of the surrounding mountains. Like any other Japanese palaces, this one is also surrounded by popular lovely cherry garden with over 500 trees of the most popular Japanese cherry blossom Somei Yoshino. Inuyama Castle is a fine example of 16th Century castle architecture, it’s a treasure and the residents of Inuyama City are rightfully proud of. The concrete replica castles are all well and fine, but nothing beats the real thing.
4. Matsumoto Castle
The Matsumoto Castle was built in the 16th century and is famed above all for its splendid medieval castle, being sometimes called “Crow’s Castle” because of the black of the woodwork. Matsumoto castle’s singularity resides in its black and white colour, a unique contrast with other Japanese castles, which are all white. It lies at the heart of the Japanese Alps and geographic center of Nagano prefecture, roughly halfway between Nagoya and Niigata on the JR Chuo Line. Built by Ishikawa Kazumas and his son Yasunaga in 1590, the castle with 5 levels and 6 stories is a fabulous looking one with an great architecture that does not exist elsewhere in Japan. The original construction makes the castle even more beautiful and interesting; the insides of the castle is equally as glorious as the outside taking into consideration it is one of Japan’s few remaining original castles. Built with many unique architectural elements, Matsumoto Castle also features a moon viewing pavilion, indicative of the lifestyle of the feudal lords. The grounds of the castle come alive in color in the spring with cherry blossoms.