Best Castles in Japan

Japan is home to an abundance of historical fortresses, many of which were established way back in the 15th century, after a sudden need arose, after the central government’s authority depleted, and the country fell into the era of warring states, or Sengoku Jidai.

Some of the most architecturally spectacular castles on the planet, Japanese castles have very distinctive features and style and attract so many tourists each and every year. Here is the ultimate guide to the best castles to visit in Japan:

Best Japanese Castles to Visit

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1. Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle famous Japanese Castles

One of the most iconic landmarks in the whole of Japan, Osaka Castle was constructed in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and it is particularly renowned for its role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century, in the midst of the Azuch-Momoyama period.

What is so special about Osaka Castle, is its towering position above the modern city of Osaka; it is truly a gem amongst the modern skyscrapers of the city, and it is one of the most iconic and frequently visited tourist attractions and cultural landmarks in the country.

Where: Osaka

When: 1583

Style: Samurai era

Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

2. Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto-Castle best castles in Japan

Matsumoto is one of Japan’s premier historic castles and is occasionally known as the ‘Crow Castle’, due to its gorgeous black exterior. Completed in the late sixteenth century, Matsumoto Castle is a listed National Treasure of Japan, and amazingly still maintains much of its original wooden interiors and external stonework. This castle makes for a perfect day trip from Tokyo, as it is easy to reach by rail or road.

Where: Matsumoto

When: 1594

Style: Hirashiro

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:30pm

3. Takeda Castle

Takeda Castle - Castle in Ruins Japan

Locally referred to as the ‘Machu Picchu of Japan’, Takeda Castle is a historic ruined castle situated in the Japanese city of Asago in the Hyogo Prefecture. It was originally constructed by Otagaki Mitsukage, who later became the lord of the castle; it was then conquered in 1577. Since 1600, after the final lord of Takeda Castle, Akamatsu Hirohide committed seppuku, the castle has been left abandoned.

Where: Asago

When: 15th century

Style: Ruined

Open for visit: Always accessible.

4. Odawara Castle

best castles in Japan - Odawara Castle

Starting out as a stronghold of the Doi clan during the Kamakura period, the original Odawara Castle was constructed in 1447. It was then rebuilt again on several different occasions, including in 1633, and later in 1706. Odawara Castle has been heavily reconstructed over the centuries, and the castle, as it stands today, has been listed as one of the 100 Fine Castle of Japan, by the Japan Castle Foundation.

Where: Odawara

When: 1447

Style: Hirayama Style 

Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

5. Gifu Castle

Gifu Castle Japan

Originally built by the Nikaido clan in the Kamakura Period, between the years 1201 and 1204, Gifu Castle has changed shape on countless occasions across the centuries.

It has a rich and varied castle that spans centuries; it has been at the heart of numerous battles and conflicts, has been resided in by royals and nobles, and is today, open to the general public, with the aim of educating visitors about the heritage of Gifu Castle.

Where: Gifu

When: 1201

Style: Constructed by Nikaido clan

Open for visit: 9:00am – 19:00pm

6. Sunomata Castle

Sunomata Castle Japan's best castle

One of the most notable and fascinating things about Sunomata Castle in Ogaki is that legend has it, is that is was built in just one night. Whether this is true or not, the castle is nonetheless incredibly interesting.

It was constructed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the mid-16th century and has so many incredible architectural features. In 1991, a faux castle tower was reconstructed as a local history museum; many tourists travel to Sunomata Castle during the cherry blossom season.

Where: Ogaki

When: 1567

Style: Japanese Castle

Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:30pm

7. Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle

Originally constructed in the 1590s, Hiroshima Castle was the historic home of the ‘daimyo’, or the feudal lord, of the Hiroshima han. Tragically, the original Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bombing on 6th August 1945.

However, the castle was rebuilt in the year 1958, and is constructed as an exact replica of the original castle; today, there is also a museum on-site that exhibits Hiroshima’s history prior to the Second World War. This is one of the most popular spots for visitors in the whole of Japan.

Where: Hiroshima

When: 1590s

Style: Azuchi-Momoyama Castle 

Open for visit: 9:00am – 19:00pm

8. Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle Japanese Castle

Himeji Castle, one of the most gorgeous hilltop castles in Japan, has a rich and varied history. Standing as one of the finest surviving examples of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, Himeji Castle is absolutely enormous; it has a total of 83 rooms and also has an intricate defence system that dates back to the feudal period.

One of the most striking features of Himeji Castle is its fantastic white exterior, which is built to resemble a bird taking flight.

Where: Himeji

When: 1333

Style: Azuchi-Momoyama Castle 

Open for visit: 10:00am – 18:00pm

9. Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle Japan

Constructed at the turn of the 17th century, during the Edo period, Nagoya Castle was situated in the centre of one of the most important castle towns in Japan, called Nagoya-juku.

Nagoya Castle is one of the most famous and historically rich castles in the whole of Japan; home to an abundance of different artworks, original painted features and architectural elements, this fortress is truly one of the most fascinating in the country.

There is truly so much to explore and discover, which explains why this is one of the most visited castles in Japan.

Where: Nagoya

When: 1610 – 1619

Style: Flatland

Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

10. Shuri Castle

Shuri Castle  Japan

Listed as a World Heritage Site, Shuri Castle is a spectacular Gusuku style castle in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. Between the years 1429 and 1879, Shuri Castle functioned as the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom, before it eventually fell into abandonment.

In the year 1945, the castle was almost entirely destroyed in the midst of the Battle of Okinawa, though it luckily survived. It is recommended to spend an entire day exploring the wonders of Shuri Castle, as there are truly so many hidden features and architectural gems to discover.

Where: Shuri

When: 14th century

Style: Gusuku

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:30pm

11. Shimabara Castle

Shimabara Castle Japan

Located in the Japanese city of Shimabara in the Nagasaki prefecture lies the magnificent Shimabara Castle, which is a gorgeous and enormous Hira-Style Japanese castle.

Spread across give-stories, this dazzling bright white building exists in stark contrast to the dark, black Kumamoto Castle in the neighbouring Kumamoto Prefecture.

Over the centuries, the castle was sieged on multiple occasions and has been at the centre of many rebellions and battles. It underwent an enormous restoration in 1964 which sought to return to its former glory.

Where: Shimabara

When: 1624

Style: Hira-style

Open for visit: 9:00am – 19:00pm

12. Okayama Castle

Okayama Castle - castle in Japan

The origins of the majestic Okayama Castle date back to the year 1573, where construction began under the watch of Ukita Naoie, however, it was actually completed by his son, Hideie, in 1597. Tragically, the original castle was burned to the ground in 1945 by allied bombers.

However, reconstruction work on the castle began in 1964, and was not completed until 1966; this work sought to bring the castle back to its former glory, and ever since, it has been open to the general public as a tourist attraction.

Where: Okayama

When: 1597

Style: Azuchi-Momoyama Castle 

Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:30pm

13. Hikone Castle

Hikone Castle  - Japanese castles

Hikone Castle is one of the most fantastic castles in Japan that date back to the Edo Period. It is situated in the city of Hikone in the Shiga Prefecture, and it is regarded as one of the most significant historical structures in the region.

One of just 12 castles in the whole of Japan that has its original keep still in-tact, as well as being one of only five castles that are listed as a national treasure, Hikone Castle is truly exceptional. It has a fascinating history that dates back to 1603, and it is largely still in its original condition, aside from the Lord’s Inner Palace, that was rebuilt in 1987.

Where: Hikone

When: 1603-1622

Style: Azuchi-Momoyama Castle 

Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm

14. Hirosaki Castle

Hirosaki Castle

With its origins dating way back to the year 1611, Hirosaki Castle in Aomori was the historic seat of the Tsugaru clan, who were an enormous 47,000 koku tozama daimyo clan, who has ruled over Hirosaki Domain.

The castle that stands today was completed in the year 1811, and it consists of three stories, three roofs, and towers above the ground level at 14.4 meters. This is a fantastic place to explore if you are in Hirosaki, and there are so many historic features and landmarks to discover.

Where: Hirosaki

When: 1611

Style: Hirayama style

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

15. Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle  - best Japanese castles

With construction beginning in the year 1607 and not being completed until 1611 under the local lord Horio Yoshiharu, Matsue Castle is one of the few remaining original medieval castles in Japan. It maintains its original wooden form and stands upon the shores of Shinji Lake.

Built in a watchtower-style with six levels in total, a large portion of the castle walls are painted black; its architectural style is reminiscent of the Momoyama style and it is both a stronghold fortress, but is also incredibly tranquil and delicate. This is a must-visit castle in Japan.

Where: Matsue

When: 1607

Style: Feudal

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

16. Matsuyama Castle

Matsuyama Castle - best castles in Japan

Situated in the Japanese city of Matsuyama in the Ehime Prefecture, Matsuyama Castle is an enormous 132 metres tall, and towers above the ground. Kato Yoshiaki, a Japanese daimyo constructed the castle in 1602, and it has remained largely intact since.

Many Japanese castles did not survive the Meiji Restoration, but incredibly, Matsuyama Castle did, though large portions of it have naturally deteriorated over time. Today, Matsuyama Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region, and there is even a ropeway and chairlift that transports visitors to the top.

Where: Matsuyama

When: 1603

Style: Flatland mountain castle

Open for visit: 10:00am – 16:00pm

17. Inuyama Castle

Inuyama Castle - japanese castles

Overlooking the scenic Kiso River and with views spanning across the city of Inuyama, Inuyama Castle is one of the most architecturally spectacular castles in the Aichi Prefecture.

With its origins dating way back to the year 1440, this castle was originally constructed by Oda Hirochika, though it is known to have been rebuilt several times throughout the Muromachi period.

Today, Inuyama Castle is protected by the central government, and is listed as a National Historic Site; it is open to curious tourists and visitors and provides a fascinating insight into Japan’s heritage.

Where: Inuyama

When: 1440

Style: Yamajiro style

Open for visit: 9:00am – 16:30pm

18. Kochi Castle

Kochi Castle -best japanese castles

The magnificent Kochi Castle was constructed in the aftermath of the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and was originally built by Yamanouchi Kazutoyo, who was a leading clan member.

A large portion of the original fortress was destroyed by fire in the year 1727, and it underwent an enormous reconstruction between 1729 and 1753 and attempted to bring the castle back to its former style and glory.

In more recent times, the castle has been listed as a National Treasure under the National Treasure Protection Law and has also been featured in a number of different movies, including Ocean Waves.

Where: Kochi

When: 1601 – 1611

Style: Hirayamashiro

Open for visit: 9:00am – 16:00pm

19. Toyama Castle

Toyama Castle  - best castles in Japan

Toyama Castle is a wonderful and traditional flatland-style castle in the heart of Toyama, in Japan’s Toyama Prefecture. Originally constructed in the year 1543 on the banks of the Jinzu River, the castle that stands today was actually constructed in the year 1954, as on the 2nd August 1945, the castle was heavily damaged during the Toyama Air Raid.

Today, the Toyama Local History Museum and the Sato Memorial Art Museum are housed at the site, and it is listed as one of the Top 100 Japanese Castles.

Where: Toyama

When: 1543

Style: Flatland style

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

20. Fukuyama Castle

Fukuyama Castle  - Japan Castles

Occasionally referred to as either Hisamatsu Castle or Iyo Castle, Fukuyama Castle is known for being the castle of the Bingo-Fukuyama Han during the Edo Period. Construction of the original castle began in the year 1619 and was not completed until 1622.

Whilst Fukuyama survived the Meiji Restoration, it did, unfortunately, suffer immense damage during the Allied attacks in World War II, where most castles in Japan were heavily damaged or destroyed. The main tower of Fukuyama Castle was rebuilt with concrete in the year 1966.

Where: Fukuyama

When: 1619 – 1622

Style: Azuchi-Momoyama Castle 

Open for visit: 10:00am – 18:00pm

21. Kokura Castle

Kokura Castle  - Japanese Castles

Built in the year 1602 by Hosokawa Tadaoki, who was a prominent samurai warrior of the late Sengoku period, Kokura Castle has historically been the property of the Ogasawara clan.

Tragically, the original castle burnt down from a fire in the year 1837, though parts of it were rebuilt in 1839. However, even after its rebuild, the castle burned down again in 1866, which ignited a bitter war between the Kokura and the Choshu clans.

The keep of the castle was reconstructed in 1959 before undergoing a full restoration in 1990. Today, it is open to the general public.

Where: Kitakyushu

When: 1602

Style: Fortress

Open for visit: 9:00am – 18:00pm

22. Hachiman Castle

Hachiman Castle  - castles in Japan

Also known as Guji Hachiman Castle, Hachiman Castle is otherwise known as ‘mountain castle’, as it sits upon Hachiman Mountain in the Gifu Prefecture of Japan.

It was originally built by Endo Morikazu, though the castle was barely finished by the time that he died; he left it to his son, who later passed it on to Inaba Sadamichi, who undertook enormous renovations on the castle.

In 1933, Hachiman Castle was reconstructed entirely out of wood, and it is today listed as one of the Continued Top 100 Japanese Castles.

Where: Gujo

When: 1559

Style: Mountaintop Castle

Open for visit: 9:00am – 16:00pm

23. Iwakuni Castle

Iwakuni Castle  - best castles in Japan

Situated in Iwakuni in the Yamaguchi Prefecture of Japan, Iwakuni Castle was first constructed at the turn of the 17th century, between the years 1601 and 1608. It was constructed by Kikkawa Hiroie, who was a renowned retainer of a vassal of the Shogun in the Mori clan.

However, the original castle was actually destroyed, and the one that stands today is a replica; it towers above the Nishiki River and the Kintai Bridge and offers gorgeous views of the city below.

Where: Iwakuni

When: 1601 – 1608

Style: Hilltop Castle

Open for visit: 9:30am – 16:30pm

24. Hirado Castle

Hirado Castle - best castles to visit in Japan

Renowned for being the seat of the Matsura clan, Hirado Castle is situated in the city of Hirado in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture. Built upon a small, rounded mountaintop that offers views of the Hirado Bay, Hirado Castle is one of the most gorgeous of Japan’s Castles.

The castle that stands today was constructed in the year 1718 by Matsura Takashi and was predominately used during the Edo Period of Japanese history. In the year 2006, Hirado Castle was listed by the Japan Castle Foundation as one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan, and it a highly popular tourist attraction.

Where: Hirado

When: 1718

Style: Hirayama Style

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

25. Ozu Castle

Ozu Castle - best Japanese Castles

Also sometimes known as Jizogatake Castle, Ozu Castle is an enormous historic defensive structure that is situated in Ozu in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture. It was originally constructed in the 14th century by Utsunomiya Toyofusa, and the earliest records date back to 1331, were a small fortress was noted.

In the year 1888, however, the castle’s keep deteriorated drastically, and it was eventually demolished; yet, in 2004, Ozu Castle underwent a full reconstruction that aimed to return the castle to its former state and glory.

Where: Ozu

When: 14th century

Style: Hilltop castle

Open for visit: 10:00am – 17:00pm

26. Ueno Castle

Ueno Castle - best castles in Japan

Formally known as Iga Ueno Castle, Ueno Castle is situated in the city of Iga in the Mie Prefecture of Japan. Its origins date back to the year 1585 where it was built upon the command of Takigawa Katsutoshi.

However, over the years, the original castle fell into disrepair, and it was not until 1935 that the ‘tenshu’ of Iga Ueno Castle was re-constructed entirely out of wood. Today, the castle is open as a tourist attraction to the general public.

Where: Iga

When: 1585

Style: Japanese Castle

Open for visit: 9:00am – 17:00pm

Japan has a treasure trove of castles just waiting to be discovered, as well as an array of other different landmarks and monuments to explore; it truly is a curious traveller’s dream destination.

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