20 Castle Visits
- Ako Castle
Went here for the 47 Ronin Festival on Dec. 14th every year. Definitely the best time to go! Castle has been filmed numerous times for movies about the 47 Ronin.
- Azuchi Castle
Read "Taiko" by Eiji Yoshikawa which is about castle warfare and Hideyoshi Toyotomi and saw a lot of references to Azuchi. Great ruins and museums. The book is great as well although not as good as Yoshikawa's "Musashi".
- Fushimi Castle
Nice mock up in the middle of a park. Good for photographs in the evening and relaxing walks in the amazingly well kept park.
- Hikone Castle
Went during Golden Week and waited about an hour to get into the donjon. Interior is sparse but the grounds are gorgeous.
- Himeji Castle
Definitely the best in Japan. Unfortunately, it's presently under construction so the exterior is covered up. Heard from a friend that the scaffolding actually offers a great view of the roof. A plus side to the construction process.
- Hiroshima Castle
Primarily a museum about the city.
- Iga Ueno Castle
I like the story behind this one. A local businessman built it to promote tourism in his hometown. Obviously visited the town for the ninja museum, like 99.9% of the town's visitors, and was surprised to see a castle there. I also believe this is the castle Ian Fleming described in "You Only Live Twice" during 007's ninja training scene. The film used Himeji.
- Kannonji Castle
Went to Kannonji on June 7th with the intention of visiting Omi Hachiman later in the day. Big mistake. Kannonji definitley deserves a full day. You could sneak in some of the museums in town or Azuchi castle the same day if you have a bike, but I was walking and checking out parts of the town I haven't been to. The route I took was from Kuwanomi-Ji which is built on the stone walls and staircases of the old castle. At the top of the stairs is the temple (300 yen admission) and the path to the immediate right leads to the old main gate and location where the tower used to be. The complete path from the bottom to the top down the other side is much longer than I expected, about three hours or more ( I wasn't keeping a watch on time). Just outside the main gate is a staircase with the well located nearby, per Raymond W.'s description which is what I was using for a guide. Continuing south is Kannosho-Ji which has the 100 best castles of Japan stamp inside the main hall. Also nearby are restrooms and vending machines. This temple is also built on the old walls and stairs. There is also a great view of the plains and mountains from here. I would definitely recommend a full day.
Very interesting site. The town has recreated a stone or iron age fort on a hill. Worth spending a day walking around the top and seeing the view. Towards the center is where the "town" was. Nice daytrip from Okayama city.
- Matsue Castle
One of the few original castles. Boat tours go around the moat offering great views of the castle. Inside the castle itself is a small museum about the area. The city often advertises itself as the Kyoto of the west. That's a bit of a stretch but the castle is great.
- Minakuchi Castle
Went here after visiting another castle in the morning. It's reconstructed but the one staff member who was there when I went was incredibly friendly, she gave me tea while I was watching the video presentation.
- Nagahama Castle
Went here after Hikone. The town was founded by Hideyoshi and they remind you of it everywhere. Haven't been inside it yet, I got there after closing time, but making plans to spend a weekend there.
- Nijo Castle
Original castle in all of it's drafty splendor. The intentionally squeaky floor competes with the rattle of the wooden doors for noise awards. The details are subtle but great. Best suggestion is to look all around as you walk down the corridors.
- Okayama Castle
Nice if you're in town. Small museum about the area.
- Omi Hachiman Castle
Went here in the late morning to finish off my goal of visiting every castle around Lake Biwa. Great site! The castle itself is now a shrine at the peak of Ohmi Hachiman Yama and is accessible by ropeway (Coupon available in the tourist info. center/former school house nearby) At the base is a shrine to Hachiman, the Shinto god of war, while at the top another shrine has been built on the walls of the former castle. The shrine was very lax about photos and I kind of went nuts snapping pictures of the altars and rooms. There are a few signs in Japanese telling visitors where the baileys and main tower used to be. Towards the west side of the peak there are clearings with great views of Lake Biwa as well as Azuchi towards the north. Definitely worth the 40 minute train ride from Kyoto city.
- Osaka Castle
Detailed museum about the original castle and the sieges. The original stone walls are great. Better from the outside while the interior is modern, including elevators and a small theater.
- Shoryuji Castle
Stopped by on the way back from another trip. Didn't get to enter the visitor's center but enjoyed walking around and taking pictures of the exterior.
- Takeda Castle
Amazing! A lady at the nearby tourist information center described it as "Japan's Machu Pichu" and she was right. Standing on the top and seeing the layered walls leading to the steep drops and the views beyond is definitely worth the long trip from Himeji. Takes about 90 minutes by train. Bring a snack because I had a hard time finding a restaurant in town.
- Wakayama Castle
Nice, Like Osaka Jo, looks great from the outside. Grounds are a nice park.
- Yonago Castle
Some stone walls. Best memory of this site is climbing to the top after a snow storm and getting a picture of the sunset.