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