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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 Kanazawa122.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 Odawara24.jpg Kanazawa218.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 Hikone98.jpg Ozu53.jpg

Castles with Walls
  1. Aizu Wakamatsu Castle
  2. Akashi Castle
  3. Akechi Osayama Castle
  4. Akita Castle
  5. Akizuki Castle
  6. Ako Castle
  7. Amagajo
  8. Amagasaki Castle
  9. Aoyagi Castle
  10. Ashinoya Jin'ya
  11. Asuke Castle
  12. Baba Yashiki
  13. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
  14. Echizen Katsuyama Castle
  15. Edo Castle
  16. Ema Yakata
  17. Fukuchiyama Castle
  18. Fukui Castle
  19. Fukuyama Castle
  20. Funai Castle
  21. Fushimi Castle
  22. Ganjaku Castle
  23. Gujo Hachiman Castle
  24. Ha Castle
  25. Hachigata Castle
  26. Hagi Castle
  27. Hamamatsu Castle
  28. Hanamaki Castle
  29. Hikone Castle
  30. Himeji Castle
  31. Hiraizumi Date
  32. Hirosaki Castle
  33. Hiroshima Castle
  34. Honshouji Castle
  35. Hotta no Saku
  36. Ichijodani Castle
  37. Ide Yakata
  38. Iga Ueno Castle
  39. Iida Castle
  40. Iijima Jin'ya
  41. Iji Castle
  42. Ikeda Castle
  43. Imabari Castle
  44. Ishikawa Jouzan Yashiki
  45. Iwamura Castle
  46. Iyo Matsuyama Castle
  47. Izushi Castle
  48. Kakegawa Castle
  49. Kameyama Castle
  50. Kaminoyama Castle
  51. Kamioka Castle
  52. Kanazawa Castle
  53. Kashima Castle (Hizen)
  54. Katsumoto Castle
  55. Kawahara Castle
  56. Kawasaki no Saku
  57. Kinowa Castle
  58. Kishiwada Castle
  59. Kiyosu Castle
  60. Kofu Castle
  61. Koiwatake Castle
  62. Kokura Castle
  63. Kumamoto Castle
  64. Kuriyagawa no Saku
  65. Kyara Palace
  66. Marugame Castle
  67. Maruoka Castle
  68. Matsue Castle
  69. Matsumae Castle
  70. Matsumoto Castle
  71. Matsushiro Castle
  72. Miki Castle
  73. Minakuchi Castle
  74. Mito Castle
  75. Nabari Jinya
  76. Nabebuta Castle
  77. Nagata Jin'ya
  78. Nagisa Castle
  79. Nagoya Castle
  80. Nakatsu Castle
  81. Nanokaichi Jin'ya
  82. Ne Castle
  83. Nihonmatsu Castle
  84. Nijo Castle
  85. Nishio Castle
  86. Nishiohhira Jin'ya
  87. Noda Castle (Shitara)
  88. Obata Jin'ya
  89. Obi Castle
  90. Odawara Castle
  91. Ogaki Castle
  92. Oguchi Castle
  93. Ogurayama Castle
  94. Ohmine Castle
  95. Ohmori Daikansho
  96. Ohtsuka Moated Settlement
  97. Okayama Castle
  98. Okutono Jin'ya
  99. Osaka Castle
  100. Oshi Castle
  101. Otaki Castle
  102. Saga Castle
  103. Sakasai Castle
  104. Sannohe Castle
  105. Sasayama Castle
  106. Sekiyado Castle
  107. Sendai Castle
  108. Shibata Castle
  109. Shimabara Castle
  110. Shirakawa Castle
  111. Shiroishi Castle
  112. Shiwa Castle
  113. Sonobe Castle
  114. Suibara Daikansho
  115. Sunpu Castle
  116. Takada Castle (Niigata)
  117. Takamatsu Castle
  118. Takane Castle
  119. Takasaki Castle
  120. Takashima Castle
  121. Takayama Jin'ya
  122. Takeda Yakata (Ibaraki)
  123. Tanabe Castle
  124. Tanabe Castle (Wakayama)
  125. Tanaka Castle
  126. Tatebayashi Castle
  127. Tatsuno Castle
  128. Tatsuoka Castle
  129. Tomioka Castle
  130. Torigoe Castle
  131. Toyama Castle
  132. Toyoda Tachi
  133. Tsu Castle
  134. Tsuchiura Castle
  135. Tsukikuma Castle
  136. Tsurugaoka Castle
  137. Tsutsujigasaki Palace
  138. Tsuyama Castle
  139. Ueda Castle
  140. Ueno Yashiki
  141. Usuki Castle
  142. Utsunomiya Castle
  143. Wakayama Castle
  144. Yamagata Castle
  145. Yamaguchi Yashiki
  146. Yamato Koriyama Castle
  147. Yuzuki Castle
  148. Zeze Castle
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