When you think of castles you may mostly be thinking of Europe, but the castles in Japan are some of the best you can see anywhere, with their historic samurai history and beautiful wooden architecture.
After spending many months travelling around Japan these are the Japanese castles that I highly recommend for you to visit. Choose at least one of these castles in Japan as they show an important part of Japanese history.
Himeji Castle in Japan is the most famous of the castles in Japan and most likely the most photographed.
It’s the best-preserved feudal castle in Japan having survived the ravages of time unscathed from human conflict or natural disaster. It’s one of the few original castles left in Japan. The final construction of the castle was completed in 1609.
I would say that if you only had one castle to visit in Japan and especially if you are in the Osaka/Kyoto area then go see Himeji.
I’ll be honest and say that during my several months travelling in Japan I didn’t get to see Himeji as it was undergoing renovations and was closed, but I can’t make this list and not include it as after seeing pictures, hearing from others who have visited, and reading the history of Himeji Castle, it is definitely the castle to see. It is now open to the public again.
More info on Himeji Castle from their official website here.
Matsuyama Castle is one of my favourite Japanese castles that I visited. It doesn’t get the attention that castles like Himeji get (see below) but it’s a beautifully preserved castle and being that Matsuyama sees fewer tourists than some of the other castles listed here you will most likely get a lot of space to yourself.
The castle dates back to 1603 when it was built on Mount Katsuyama which is a small hill 132 metres high in the centre of Matsuyama.
Kumamoto Castle stands in importance as one of the final stands of the samurai in 1877 against the imperial forces. If you have any interest in samurai history then a trip to Kumamoto Castle (if you are in the area) is a must.
Sadly, it was badly damaged in the 2016 earthquake in the region and is still undergoing renovation, with areas of the castle closed from entry. Still, there are parts to visit and it’s an impressive place.
Many of the wooden buildings are from the original castle built in 1607 although the keep area is a modern concrete reconstruction.
Matsumoto Castle (Crow Castle)
Matsumoto Castle ‘Crow Castle’ (called that due to its dark exterior) is located in Nagano prefecture and is one of Japan’s original castles still left (along with some others in this article) and is designated a ‘national treasure of Japan’.
The main castle keep area was finished in 1614 and the castle is not built on a hill but on flat land. It has the oldest five-tiered, six-story castle tower in Japan.
It’s a beautiful castle definitely worth visiting if you are in the Nagano area and the Japanese Alps, although it doesn’t compare in size and grandeur to Himeji.
Osaka Castle is easy to see as it’s right in the centre of Osaka city and you can reach there no problem whether you are staying in Osaka or day-tripping from Kyoto.
It is one of the most famous castles in Japan due to its history although what you see today is mostly a reconstruction, even to the point of an elevator built into the centre that takes you all the way to the top.
It’s more of a museum than a castle these days. Still, due to its location and history, it’s definitely worth seeing.
Matsue Castle (Black Castle)
Matsue Castle (known as ‘Black Castle’, again due to its dark exterior) is a small wooden castle in the city of Matsue and makes a good day trip from Hiroshima if you are around there as it’s not so far.
The construction of Matsue Castle was completed in 1611 and is also one of the original castles of Japan. It’s perched on top of a hill and by the shores of Lake Shinji.
Okayama Castle is located in the city of Okayama which is halfway between Osaka and Hiroshima. The original part of the castle dates back to the late 16th-century.
Much of the castle was destroyed in the subsequent centuries and most of what you see today is a reconstruction from the mid-20th-century. Still, it’s one of the best castles in Japan to visit.
Odawara Castle has passed between many different clans in Japan over the centuries and the original castle dates to the mid-15th-century, but, like many castles in Japan, has been rebuilt over the centuries since.
It’s almost like a mini-Himeji Castle in its beauty and is located in the Kanagawa Prefecture in Odawara. It’s one of the closer castles near Tokyo to visit, being around a 45-minute train journey away.
The Japan Castle Foundation listed the castle among the 100 finest castles in Japan list.
Nagoya Castle is located in the city of the same name which is roughly halfway between Tokyo and Osaka.
It was built in the early 17th-century and has been rebuilt since then due to fires and disasters.
Note: Although this is one of the most historic and beautiful castles in Japan the main keep is due to be reconstructed between 2023 and 2028 to make it more earthquake-proof.
Hiroshima Castle is obviously a complete modern reconstruction of the original Hiroshima Castle as the city of Hiroshima was wiped out by the first atomic bomb ever used in 1945.
The reconstructed Hiroshima Castle is a brilliant piece of architecture and stays true to the original castle, which dated to the late 16th-century.
Hiroshima is one of the most visited cities in Japan for tourists so be sure to take a look at the castle when there.
Castles in Japan
On any visit to the country, you should try and see at least one of these castles in Japan.
For more guides about Japan take a look at my Japan destinations page.
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