Japanese Castles

Japanese Castles

By: Billy Hammond

There were about 3,000 castles built in Japan from the period of the Warring States (Sengoku Jidai) to the first half of the Edo period (1603 - 1867). However, after the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate following the Osaka Summer Battle ( Natsu no Jin ) in 1615 this number was reduced to 170. Castles built thereafter had to be approved by the Tokugawa Bakufu.

After the fall of the Bakufu and the collapse of the samurai class under the Meiji Government, an edict to reduce the number of castles, known as the "Haijorei", was given in 1873, and the majority of castles were destroyed within the following 2 years. The number of castles decreased even further during World War II when most were destroyed because they were being used for military purposes. After the war many of these castles were rebuilt and at present there are 47 major castles throughout Japan.

As can be expected from Japan's feudal history, the northern areas have fewer castles, with Hirosaki Castle being the castle furthest north since there are no castles on Hokkaido. The southernmost castle is Shuri Castle in Okinawa. The greatest concentration of castles is on Honshu in central Japan.

List of Japanese Castles and Castle Ruins
No.* Castle Name** Year Built Prefecture Comments
1 Hirosaki Castle (Takaoka Castle) 1611 Aomori Famous for the cherry blossoms in the area surrounding it.
2 Kaminoyama Castle (Tsukioka Castle) 1535 (Rebuilt in 1982) Yamagata --
3 Shiroishi Castle (Masuoka Castle) 1591 Miyagi --
4 Wakamatsu Castle (Tsuruga Castle) 1384 Fukushima Rebuilt in 1965
5 Odawara Castle 1495 Kanagawa Rebuilt in 1960
6 Matsumoto Castle (Fukashi Castle) c. 1594 Nagano Overlooks Matsumoto City - one of this author's favorites
7 Maruoka Castle (Kasumiga Castle) 1576 Fukui Rebuilt in 1951 reusing much of the original timber.
8 Echizen Oono Castle (Kameyama Castle) c. 1575 Fukui Rebuilt in 1968
9 Kakegawa Castle (Kumokiri Castle) -- Shizuoka Built with contributions from the people of Kakegawa City in 1993
10 Hamamatsu Castle (Hikuma Castle) 1570 Shizuoka Rebuilt in 1958
11 Okazaki Castle (Ryu Castle) 1455 Aichi Rebuilt in 1959
12 Nagoya Castle (Hachisa Castle, Yanagi Castle, and others) 1612 Aichi Castle of the famed Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun. Partially destroyed by fire in WWII with destroyed parts rebuilt in 1959.
13 Kiyosu Castle c. 1478 Aichi Rebuilt in 1989
14 Inuyama Castle (Hakutei Castle) 1537 Aichi The only privately owned castle in Japan. Repaired in 1895. Small, but famous and a favorite of this author.
15 Gifu Castle (Inabayama Castle) 1201 Gifu Rebuilt in 1956
16 Gujohachiman Castle (Sekisui Castle) 1559 Gifu Rebuilt in 1933
17 Oogaki Castle (Kyoroku Castle, Bi Castle) c. 1535 Gifu Rebuilt in 1959
18 Nagahama Castle 1575-76 Shiga Rebuilt in 1983
19 Hikone Castle 1603 Shiga Castle of Ii Naotsugu and Ii Naotaka. Another favorite castle of this author.
20 Iga-Ueno Castle (Hakuho Castle) 1585 Mie Parts of the castle were built in stages. Located in the area of the famous Iga school of ninjas.
21 Tsu Castle (Anotsu Castle) 1580 Mie --
22 Nijo Castle 1603 Kyoto A splendid example of late Momoyama Period architecture.
23 Fukuchiyama Castle 1580-82 Kyoto Rebuilt in 1986
24 Osaka Castle (Kin Castle, Gin Castle) 1583 Osaka Headquarters of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the feudal warlord. Rebuilt in 1931. Elevator to make the trip up easier.
25 Kishiwada Castle (Ibuseyama-chikiri Castle, Chikiri Castle) 1585 Osaka Rebuilt in 1954.
26 Wakayama Castle (Takegaki Castle, Torafusu Castle) 1585 Wakayama Rebuilt in 1958.
27 Sasayama Castle 1609 Hyogo Reconstruction in progress (major part finished in March, 2000)
28 Takeda Castle (Torafuse) c. 1431 Hyogo Remains of castle foundations.
29 Himeji Castle (Hakuro Castle) 1601 Hyogo A very impressive castle that probably fits the image most people have of Japanese castles.
30 Okayama Castle (U Castle, Kinu Castle) 1597 Okayama Rebuilt in 1966
31 Bicchu Matsuyama Castle (Takahashi Castle) 1683 Okayama --
32 Matsue Castle (Chidori Castle) 1611 Shimane --
33 Fukuyama Castle (Hisamatsu Castle, Iyo Castle) 1622 Hiroshima Rebuilt in 1966
34 Hiroshima Castle (Ri Castle, Saima Castle) 1591 Hiroshima Rebuilt in 1958
35 Iwakuni Castle (Yokoyama Castle) 1608 Yamaguchi Rebuilt in 1962
36 Marugame Castle (Kameyama Castle, Horai Castle) 1597 Kagawa --
37 Imabari Castle (Fukiage Castle) 1604 Ehime Rebuilt in 1980
38 Matsuyama Castle (Katsuyama Castle, Kinki Castle) 1602 Ehime Very scenic, overlooks Matsuyama City.
39 Uwajima Castle (Tsurushima Castle) 1596-1601 Ehime --
40 Kochi Castle (Taka Castle) 1603 Kochi Largely intact.
41 Kokura Castle (Katsuyama Castle, Yuukin Castle) 1602 Fukuoka Rebuilt in 1959
42 Nakatsu Castle (Oogi Castle) 1598 Oita Rebuilt in 1964
43 Karatsu Castle (Maizuru Castle) 1608 Saga Rebuilt in 1966
44 Hirado Castle (Kameoka Castle) c. 1599 Nagasaki Rebuilt in 1962
45 Kumamoto Castle (Ginnan Castle) 1607 Kumamoto Rebuilt in 1960
46 Shimabara Castle (Moritake Castle) 1625 Nagasaki Rebuilt in 1964
47 Shuri Castle c. 1200 - 1300 Okinawa --

* The numbers listed are merely for the sake of order. They do not represent size, rank or any other characteristic of the castles. Geographically, the list proceeds from the northern part of the Japanese archipelago and continues down to Okinawa.

** Japanese castles are called jou (pronounced as in the male name "Joe" or female name "Jo" in English), when read with the castle name. Thus, Wakayama Castle would be called Wakayama jo by Japanese people.

Other names that the castles have been known by are given in parentheses

Comments include the subjective opinions of the author and are not meant as endorsements.

The information contained herein has been drawn from various sources, including Shiro no Shiori produced by the Zenkoku Jokaku Kanrisha Kyogikai; 1999. Nagoya, Japan, as well as from pamphlets received when visiting some of the sites themselves.

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Copyright 2000, 2001 A.E.L.S., Inc. (TanuTech) Billy Hammond. Reproduction without express written permission is prohibited. Revised February 2012.