The Japanese built thousands of castles back in the earlier centuries that housed feudal lords and served as strongholds and strategic points. Events came and these old castles saw massive changes to their infrastructure, some being taken down and moved or others destroyed by calamities that reverberated in Japan.

5 Classic Castles in Japan mountain

There are so-called old castles in Japan that retain the most of the original wood or stonework and the history of the times when it was constructed. The five old Japanese castles below passed on throughout the centuries, retaining their character and significance:

1. Himeji Castle

5 Classic Castles in Japan

Called the finest example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, Himeji Castle is also called “White Egret Castle” or “White Heron Castle” due to its white exterior and resemblance to a bird taking flight. Throughout the years since it was originally constructed in 1333, several buildings or stories were added to the massive complex which is the largest and most visited in Japan. Himeji Castle is one of Japan’s three premier castles, along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle.

2. Matsuyama Castle

5 Classic Castles in Japan Matsuyama Castle

Matsuyama Castle was built on flatland in 1603 on Mount Katsuyama by Kato Yoshiaki. The castle’s successive lords Tadachika Gamoh and Matsudaira Sadayuki built ninomaru and a new castle keep respectively, then Matsuyama Castle was ruled by Sadayuki’s heirs. External forces intervened and parts of the castle were then destroyed by lightning or American forces during World War II though now you can view great exhibits therein of warrior’s wears and weapons.

3. Inuyama Castle

5 Classic Castles in Japan Inuyama Castle

Overlooking the border of Aichi and Gifu prefectures, Kiso River, where it perches atop a cliff, Inuyama Castle is one of the twelve original castles of Japan, where others claim it’s the oldest castle in the country, having been completed in 1440. Construction on Inuyama’s main tenshu commenced and continued back in 1601 throughout 1620.

Unique in Japan by its private ownership by the Naruse family, ownership of the castle was returned to the clan in 1895 after having been seized during the Meiji Restoration and having been damaged by an earthquake in 1891.

4. Uwajima Castle

5 Classic Castles in Japan Uwajima Castle

Uwajima Castle on the other hand is distinguished as one of the twelve castles that still has an original donjon built during the Edo Period. The Castle was constructed by Daimyō Tōdō Takatora in 1596 after being given a small fiefdom by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Its Tenshukaku (Donjon Tower) is selected as an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government.

Constructed on a hilltop, Uwajima Castle stands three stories high and its tenshu and other ruins remain. Though small in size, Uwajima Castle and its informative indoor museum should not be missed when in the area.

5. Matsumoto Castle

5 Classic Castles in Japan Matsumoto Castle

The stunning black facade of premier Japanese castle Matsumoto Castle gave it its nickname “Crow Castle.” The tenshukaku or castle keep was completed in the late sixteenth century; the Castle is listed as a National Treasure of Japan, and had been restored in the early 1950s.

It was ruled by the Matsumoto lords during which time it became known as the Crow Castle because of its black roofs and walls and is truly one of the nation’s must-visit castle attractions.

The next time you visit Japan, your breath will be taken away by the richness and the unifying elegance of their many historic castles. Some of these old ones now being used as museums, the five ones in our list will represent the times of Japan when castles reigned and where people nowadays can get a glimpse into Japan’s past.

5 Classic Castles in Japan overview

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