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Walls / 塀

This is a subtype of Features

Dobei are the white walls you commonly see at castles. They are the simplest and most inexpensive defenses available. Dobei originally lined the top of most moats, stone walls and encircled most of the baileys linking together gates and yagura. Many castles had at least one kilometer of walls and Edo Castle had more than 10km. Despite the fact that there were so many such walls during the Edo Period, if you added up all the extant walls today you would only find a little over a kilometer. The majority of extant walls are at Himeji Castle and the longest single extant section is the Nagabei at Kumamoto Castle. These walls evolved from simple structures of wooden planks nailed to a fence. The walls were strengthened and thickened to prevent arrows from piercing them, to prevent fire and later to prevent bullets from easily passing through.

Matsuyama22.jpg Marugame2.jpg Kanazawa29.jpg Sakasai15.jpg


Dobei walls are built by erecting pillars approximately 1.5 meters apart. In between the pillars is a lattice of bamboo or wood strips. Mud and clay were then layered over this lattice up to about 20cm thick. The clay was often mixed with some strong Japanese grass (wara) for added strength and to prevent cracks. Earlier forms of these walls were not covered in plaster which gave them a sandy yellow color. In the picture above from Sakasai Castle you can see a wall with no plaster that shows this yellow color and you can also make out some grasses embedded in the clay. Edo Period dobei were usually covered in hard white plaster which increased their strength and helped prevent weathering. Atop the wall they had tile roofs and often had loopholes for firing arrows or guns. Walls also frequently had support posts behind them to increase their strength especially for walls along the top of stone walls or other places where the foundation was not as solid. Some walls also contained strategically placed rock chutes to drop rocks on attackers. Click the pictures below to enlarge these displays of wall construction.

Utsunomiya8.jpg Utsunomiya9.jpg Odawara17.jpg Kanazawa56.jpg Kanazawa57.jpg


There are some extant variations of these walls that can be divided into neribei and tuijibei. Neither of these have the kind of wooden pillars or interior framework of the usual walls. Neribei are constructed from dried clay bricks or old tiles that are mortared together with clay and covered with a layer of hard plaster. Neribei were employed at Himeji and Bitchu Matsuyama castles to quickly build some walls.

Tuijibei are made from pounding a mixture sand and clay in 3-5 cm layers. They are about 1 meter thick and up to 3 meters tall. They have a distinctive wooden framework on the outside and are topped with a tile roof. These are very strong walls, but their thickness makes it impossible to build in loopholes and they are very time and labor intensive to build. For these reasons they were not commonly used at castles. There is a small section by the Mizu no Ichi gate at Himeji Castle and the Ninomaru of Nijo Castle is surrounded by impressive Tsuijibei.

Himeji34.jpg Himeji7.jpg Nijo17.jpg Shiwa15.jpg

Loopholes / Sama (狭間)

Loopholes were holes built into the walls for firing arrows or guns. Loopholes designed for arrows were generally tall rectangles and those for firearms were circles, triangles, or squares. Some loopholes were hidden by a door or plug that matched the surface on the outside to prevent detection by attackers. These are called kakushizama as you see in the last two photos below.

Himeji33.jpg Himeji35.jpg Hikone19.jpg Ozu53.jpg

Castles with Walls

  1. Aizu Wakamatsu Castle
  2. Akashi Castle
  3. Akita Castle
  4. Akizuki Castle
  5. Ako Castle
  6. Amagajo
  7. Amagasaki Castle
  8. Aoyagi Castle
  9. Asuke Castle
  10. Baba Yashiki
  11. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
  12. Echizen Katsuyama Castle
  13. Edo Castle
  14. Ema Yakata
  15. Fukuchiyama Castle
  16. Fukui Castle
  17. Fukuyama Castle
  18. Funai Castle
  19. Fushimi Castle
  20. Ganjaku Castle
  21. Gujo Hachiman Castle
  22. Hachigata Castle
  23. Hagi Castle
  24. Hanamaki Castle
  25. Hikone Castle
  26. Himeji Castle
  27. Hirosaki Castle
  28. Hiroshima Castle
  29. Hizen Kashima Castle
  30. Hotta no Saku
  31. Ichijodani Castle
  32. Iga Ueno Castle
  33. Iida Castle
  34. Ikeda Castle
  35. Imabari Castle
  36. Iwamura Castle
  37. Iyo Matsuyama Castle
  38. Izushi Castle
  39. Kakegawa Castle
  40. Kaminoyama Castle
  41. Kamioka Castle
  42. Kanazawa Castle
  43. Kawahara Castle
  44. Kishiwada Castle
  45. Kiyosu Castle
  46. Kofu Castle
  47. Kokura Castle
  48. Kumamoto Castle
  49. Marugame Castle
  50. Maruoka Castle
  51. Matsue Castle
  52. Matsumae Castle
  53. Matsumoto Castle
  54. Matsushiro Castle
  55. Minakuchi Castle
  56. Nagisa Castle
  57. Nagoya Castle
  58. Nakatsu Castle
  59. Ne Castle
  60. Nihonmatsu Castle
  61. Nijo Castle
  62. Nishio Castle
  63. Obata Jin'ya
  64. Obi Castle
  65. Odawara Castle
  66. Ogaki Castle
  67. Oguchi Castle
  68. Okayama Castle
  69. Osaka Castle
  70. Oshi Castle
  71. Otaki Castle
  72. Saga Castle
  73. Sakasai Castle
  74. Sannohe Castle
  75. Sasayama Castle
  76. Sekiyado Castle
  77. Sendai Castle
  78. Shibata Castle
  79. Shimabara Castle
  80. Shirakawa Castle
  81. Shiroishi Castle
  82. Shiwa Castle
  83. Sonobe Castle
  84. Sunpu Castle
  85. Takada Castle (Niigata)
  86. Takamatsu Castle
  87. Takane Castle
  88. Takasaki Castle
  89. Takashima Castle
  90. Takayama Jin'ya
  91. Tanabe Castle
  92. Tanaka Castle
  93. Tatebayashi Castle
  94. Tatsuno Castle
  95. Tatsuoka Castle
  96. Tomioka Castle
  97. Torigoe Castle
  98. Toyama Castle
  99. Tsu Castle
  100. Tsuchiura Castle
  101. Tsukikuma Castle
  102. Tsutsujigasaki Palace
  103. Tsuyama Castle
  104. Ueda Castle
  105. Usuki Castle
  106. Utsunomiya Castle
  107. Wakayama Castle
  108. Yamagata Castle
  109. Yamato Koriyama Castle
  110. Yuzuki Castle
  111. Zeze Castle
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