Japan has a huge number of beautiful castles and palaces to explore – from 15thcentury castles built when Japan was made up of a collection of independent, warring realms, to more recent constructions built or refurbished with modern materials. Due to a series of wars and natural disasters only 12 original castles remain, but the good news is you will never be far from at least one beautiful palace in Japan. Whether you want an ancient wooden structure or a fabulous reconstruction, Japan has it all for the castle lover. Check out our list of Top Palaces and Castles to Visit in Japan below if you are planning a trip to this enchanting country.
A real fortress castle in Okayama, Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle really makes you work to get to it. This castle structure is Japans oldest existing mountain castle, and those wishing to soak up the history amongst its ancient walls have to make a twenty minute journey on foot to reach it. The castle has a small museum inside the keep, and for an additional fee you can take in the wider complex which includes also samuri mansions, a temple and an additional museum.
Perhaps one of the most attractive castles in Japan, Matsumoto is a delight to visit. Built in the 16th century the building is an interesting black colour, and its interior made of wood makes for an interesting place to visit. The castle has had its fair share of knocks over the years, but has been lovingly restored and preserved. If you can choose your time to visit Matsumoto, pick the month of April and be rewarded with stunning views of cherry blossoms in the beautiful gardens around the castle.
A Disney-like castle, Himeji enchants and amazes those who are lucky enough to visit. Completely intact from its original structure, this stunning building is a designated world heritage site, and it is no surprise why. Built in the 17th century the white structure of the original keep makes for an awe-inspiring view, but the complex also includes over 80 structures and buildings to explore. Like Matsumoto Castle, Himeji is also a popular sakura blossom spot in the springtime, so try to visit then if you can. Locals know the castle as the White Heron due to its likeness to a bird flying!
Osaka Castle Park
No trip to Osaka would be complete without a stop off at its popular Castle Park. Whilst there has been a castle on site since the 1500’s, a series of destructions including a lightning strike and an attack mean that the actual building currently standing is a much more recent 20th century construction. Majorly overhauled in the 1990s, the modernised version of the castle still makes for an interesting visit, especially when coupled with a tour of its beautiful gardens and moat.
An enthralling UNESCO world heritage site, Shuri Palace is a combination of Japanese and Chinese style, which make for an interesting structure. Whilst the original buildings no longer stand, the reconstructions are well maintained and beautiful in their own right. Here, learn about the Ryukyu Kingdom and its history in the various exhibitions around the complex, but the most thrilling sight is the main Seiden building which is decked out as it was in the time of the Ryukyu Kings.
This castle tower still stands in its original wood form and never suffered under a war, however the buildings in the complex were dismantled after an edict ordered many castles to be destroyed in the 1800s. Despite this fact, there is still plenty to see if you visit Matsue Castle, including the wonderful view out over the land from the tower, and the interesting artefacts on display. A stroll around the castle grounds is also in order, especially if you are visiting in spring and hope to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms.
This castle should be seen in April as 2500 cherry trees put on a stunning display of colour and shed their blossoms into the castle moat, turning the water into a pink carpet on which you can rent a boat. The castle itself needed to be reconstructed in the 1800s after it was destroyed by a lightning strike, and today you can visit the three story building which is being lovingly restored and take some beautiful photos of the castle grounds.
One of the 12 original castles still standing in Japan, Uwajima Castle has a splendid original interior and a three storey keep that offers beautiful views over the surrounding area. Uwajimia is a small and compact castle and can be viewed in about an hour, but the history and architecture of the beautiful building definitely make up for anything it lacks in size. Inside the keep there is also a small display of interesting artefacts, and the interior has not been redeveloped into a museum so you can get a real feel for what castle life was like back in the 16th century.
There you have it – our list of the best castles to visit in Japan. If you are a history buff and interested in seeing the original castles then head to Uwajima, Matsue or Matsuyama Castle. Osaka Castle Park is a convenient and pleasant day trip for those in Osaka wanting to visit a castle as part of sightseeing in the area, and many of these castles are worth a view in April as the stunning Sakura displays from the cherry trees makes for an enchanting visit. Whatever castle you choose to visit in Japan you will surely be enthralled by its beauty. Our personal favourite? Himeji Castle wins hands down for its dream-like splendour of its keep, beautiful views.