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