Kris's Visited Castles
|Aizu Wakamatsu Castle||I agree completely. Beautiful place. Aizu in the evening, entrenched in snow. In the morning there is a million dollar view of the mountains. I walked to Tsuruga-jo and enroute discovered Noguchi Street - filled with caricatures of the scientist better known as the man on the 1000 yen note. There were reportedly some ishigaki of Aizu-han naka yashiki at Noguchi Hiroba but I couldn't tell because they were smothered with a drift of snow up to my thighs. Tsuruga-jo was superb. Only the bottom level had scaffolding and if you crouched down and positioned the snow and trees just right you could still get a spectacular photo. The collection inside was standard; my favourite was the sign of a person the average height in the Edo Era, sort of 'you must be this short to enter the yagura' but better, because I was exactly the same height. The place also had a Tenchijin exihibit (Tenchijin lives!) and life-sized models of a teppo ashigaru and an ishi-otoshi ashigaru. Some thoughtful sculptor had made a snow yumi ashigaru in the castle grounds, complete with eyes, bow, quiver of arrows and even stripes on his coat. The moat was frozen. This amazed me. It had never occurred to me that a moat could freeze. It was breathtaking to see those massive stone edifices glittering with white crystals and guarding a motionless moat. I also went to the nearby Bukeyashiki, which was great for photos and very informative. Nearby is one of Kondo Isami's graves, touchingly not far from the Matsudaira mausoleum. It was snowed under so I only made it as far as the main temple, (reason to come back!) Likewise with the Byakkotai graves.
The only thing I found annoying in Aizu was I wanted to get a post-card of Matsudaira Katamori for a friend of mine but couldn't find anything amidst the maze of White Tiger mementos; I secretly took a photo of the Matsudaira picture in the castle museum instead. (Criminal).
|Ashikagashi Yakata||Went here today; 33/100meijo down, 67 still to visit or visit properly. I wonder what they would have picked for Tochigi if this site was just a bit closer to Kanayama. Made plans to go here then by coincidence the town was featured on the `Best 30` TV show last night so it was quite lively and all the yakisoba was sold out. Ashikaga-Bannaji has spacious grounds, old trees, and the moat is picturesque. The lady at the omiyage counter was very nice and gave me a free postcard to stamp my stamp on. Also very interesting was the nearby school, Ashikaga Gakko, with a list of notable students dating back to the 1400s.|
|Futamata Castle||The best part about Futamata joshi is the area around it. The Tenryu-gawa is beautiful and the forested green hills are undeveloped; it really helped give me an idea of what the view from lots of castles would have been like back in the day. (Different from all those other views that encompass urban sprawl, at least). I accidentally got off at the wrong stop and decided to walk back - the one-man Tenryu train line doesn't come too often - the views from the bridge were nice too. The ruins of Toba castle on the adjacent hill are more extensive and have been turned into a park with a great view of the river; there is a super happy fun slide for children from the honmaru to the ni-no-maru. The river itself played an important part in the 1572 Siege of Futamata. The castle was located on a cliff and the defenders relied on an intricate series of buckets to supply the castle with water. The Takeda forces sent large rafts down the river to crash into the tower, which weakened and collapsed, depriving the Tokugawa forces of water and leading to a prompt Takeda victory.|
|Gifu Castle||Gifu castle has some amazing views. I really wanted to do the hike but didn't have the time. The mascot, Nobusama, is dignified and yet kawaii; he is also hekigan for some reason. You can also buy Gifu castle Nobunaga playing cards - Nobunaga is the King of Diamonds, I think. (Oichi should be the Queen of Hearts). The 100meijo stamp is on request in the castle museum.|
|Goryokaku Fort||My Shinsengumi-loving friend made me promise to go to Hakodate one day; it was awesome. We went to Goryokaku twice. It is very well sign-posted, well kept and had lot of good explanations in English. The new Bugyosho reconstruction is very well done but the explanations seemed a bit white-washed - they politely refrained from labeling uncomfortable things. Goryokaku Tower has good but not perfect views of the star-shaped outline; still it more than makes up for it in amusing miniature dioramas and being a Hijikata-themed omiyage samurai paradise to the North. Even if you aren`t interested, the impression of cannon tracks in a muddy slope is still a stirring sight. Also, this is the only castle I have seen so far that has a character goods line of itself as a flying squid-fighting space fortress.|
|Hachigata Castle||Today was a misty Autumn day in the mountains, which made the ruins appear rather sombre. The plants by the reconstructed gate were a vivid red and by the river there were beautiful splashes of gold. I didn't enjoy Hachigata as much as other ruins near Tokyo, for example Kanayama or Hachioji; there were lots of roads and even a train track crossing the site which made it less relaxing to walk around. The museum's video display where sections lit up on the mini map was great, (the male narrator could do Taiga drama, possibly does, I didn't see the credits) and the site was adequately signposted. The 100 meijo stamp is in the Hachigata Rekishikan; they also have a stamp of Hojo Ujikuni's official seal. There were no Hojo omiyage or mascot characters but the rest area outside the museum was suitably Hojo-themed. Yorii station is also on the Chichibu Line and the JR Hachiko Line.|
|Hachioji Castle||Hachioji castle was a defining moment for me in (getting lost) visiting castles. On Midori-no-Hi 2008 I went to Mt Takao. From the top of Takao I hiked down the Jitaki waterfall course. Then, following the outdated map a friend had lent me I went across the train tracks, up the next mountain and was lost for about four hours. At one stage I came across a crude map burnt into a picnic table. I finally found some ishigaki but the trail I had been following from the monument ended in tangled, impenetrable scrub. I scrambled back up to the monument - the sun was setting and I was starting to worry - when finally I burst out on to the strangest of things, a perfect green square of lawn surrounded by ruined, grey walls. It was at this point that I fell in love with ishigaki. There were giant stairs and a giant bridge and a giant stone moat?? - after wandering around in a forest then coming on this in the gathering twilight the effect was surreal. That is the way you should see Hachioji-joshi! I didn't get the 100meijo stamp but it looks like you can camp inside the castle grounds so I might go back if I find someone who will let me borrow their tent.|
|Hagi Castle||Hagi in the Summer was definitely a good choice; the castle site is surrounded by amazing beaches and the green leaves, blue ocean, and stone walls looked fantastic. Even though I have reputation for being slightly Choshu-girai, I'm not a Mouri fan, and the fact that a black spider bit me on the lip at the tenshukaku ruins, (possibly due to the first two facts), Hagi was completely worth seeing. A friend and I walked from the Hagi Bus centre, (taking a detour to see the statues and houses of hot dead men), through the castle town, to the North Gate. Then from there we walked through the castle town to the beach, and then to the site of the castle ruins. Although they promote bicycle rental, walking was a great idea because there was so much to see, so many old buildings you could enter, and it recreated the feel of a castle town better than many other places I have been to. The beach was what surprised me the most - I have island resort style photos that the Bakufu could use in a Choshu seibatsu summer campaign - well it's not often you get to see turquoise seas and ishigaki together. It was peaceful to wander around and beautiful to see.|
|Hamamatsu Castle||I visited Hamamatsu in January; the blue skies certainly helped make it more photogenic. There is a statue of Ieyasu out the front which can make for interesting photos. Speaking of interesting photos; the ground floor has two replica katana you're allowed to hold and pose with; you don't even have to request them. The well in the basement was interesting; the views from the top were average.|
|Hikone Castle||Why I give Hikone five stars: *1 Original castle, *2 Outstanding museum, *3 Beautiful grounds, scenic views *4, Very well maintained, good explanations, *5 Hikonyan. When my brother and his friend visited Japan and said they wanted to 'see a castle' I picked this one. I'll confess part of the motivation was the shopping, but I honestly agree with the comment that it demonstrates the concept of a Japanese castle very well. They were very impressed with the buildings and museum but not so impressed by my behavior regarding a certain famous feline. The mascot, Hikonyan, a cat in a helmet, appears three times daily in the castle ground, usually to be mobbed by crowds of over-excited women drawn to his red helmet, green scarf, yellow bell and cute white face. (He is the only mascot I have ever seen who needed body guards). I believe Hikonyan is responsible for a large part of Hikone city's economy; Hikone is a great place to buy Japanese history goods and the only place you can buy official Hikonyan products. It's also host to the national character mascot festival, held towards the end of October, (something you will either want to see or want to avoid depending on your tastes). The stamp is in an office in one of the yagura, I believe.|
|Himeji Castle||Himeji is beauty on a grand scale. It's a treasure among castles - unfortunately I just didn't have much fun there. When I saw Himeji it was raining buckets. I was stuck behind a family complaining loudly about how steep the stairs were and how 'someone should at least fix them a little bit.' I then got stuck behind another family telling their son that, 'the Japanese never used guns because they were samurai.' In one yagura I got splinters in my knees. Still, I'd like to go again, perhaps in 2015, at 8AM, when it is sunny. Or at night, when no one is there, to see if Okiku's ghost really does come out of the well and count to 9. I have to go back one day to get the stamp.|
|Hirosaki Castle||Hirosaki castle is one of those castles that will look great any time of year; even in the frozen depths of winter. Those cherry trees all throughout the park turn into cotton wool trees - it look absolutely otherworldly and nothing like the photos displayed here. There are icicles hanging off all the yagura, the moats are all frozen and the only relief from whiteness everywhere is bright red of the bridges. Full points for keeping the grounds fully accessible - even in deep snow they had a path up to every single signpost and every single sign-post was clear of snow. The museum in the keep is closed in winter so we couldn't see inside. Still, there was enough historical information in the city museum near the southern gate, I could still buy Takamaru-kun goods at the information centre opposite the east gate and I got the 100meijo stamp at the park office, so going in winter didn't hamper any secondary castle-viewing objectives either. We went right before the snow lantern festival so there were snowploughs and work crews on the grounds - I have an awesome shot of a snowplough driving through a gate like some kind of rival daimyo mounting a modern winter assault - and some of the gates and trees were a bit dangerous to be near when a breeze was blowing, but other than that. Hirosaki in winter - amazing! Fantastic castle.|
|Hiroshima Castle||Hiroshima castle is photogenic and the park grounds are interesting. At one point there is a stand of eucalypts that survived the A-Bomb blast overhanging the moat - my photos looked bizarrely like it was somewhere in Australia. I didn't get to go inside because it was closed. At night it is lit up and the views across the moat are beautiful.|
|Hizen Nagoya Castle|
|Iga Ueno Castle||This was the second castle I picked to take my brother and friend to when they came to Japan. (By which I mean I said we were going to see a ninja village and it just turned out that it happened to be near a castle as well). The ninja yashiki next to the castle was first class - they had comprehensive English explanations and lots of hands-on displays. It was winter so there were no ninja demonstrations and many of the souvenir shops were closed. The giant walls and stonework around the moat are superb for taking photos, which is great because unfortunately we were there when it was under repair. My Iga Ueno shots show just the far left of the top photo, which was the only bit not under wraps, and various people posing in the Todo Takatora cutout out the front of the keep. We did a day trip from Nara - one point to make is that Iga Ueno station has almost no baggage storage facilities - Uenoshi is a little better but the connecting ninja trains don't come so often - however, the staff at the Ninja house will mind all your baggage for free for as long as you want to wander around the area, including the castle. (They're ninjas; you know they're going to do a better job of guarding your bags than some measly coin locker anyway).|
|Inuyama Castle||There are great views of Inuyama castle walking up the river and it seems to perch on the hill staring across the river into Mino, (part of modern day Gifu prefecture). Once you reach the top of the keep the view down to the river actually makes you quite dizzy. Inuyama was the first stop on my Natsu-no-Jin. I had a guide so I didn't get lost and discover anything cool or, conversely, do anything silly like pray backwards at the shrine and get a curse on my camera. I really enjoyed this castle. I third the opinion that this castle is a definite must see in the area. The mascot is Wanmaru-kun, (for once not just an arbitrary cute animal mascot - Inuyama does actually mean dog mountain). The 100meijo stamp is on request at the office.|
|Ishigakiyama Ichiya Castle||This castle has so many interesting stories associated with it; that alone makes it worth seeing. There are numerous stone walls and fantastic views out over the ocean and of course down to Odawara. The stonework around the well was particularly impressive, especially with a light dusting of snow. To add to the above stories, from what I was told, this was also the castle where Date Masamune, fashionably late to the battle of Odawara, dressed as a dead man to make his apologies to Hideyoshi, and saved his life by this show. Also, supposedly during a toilet break, this is the place where Hideyoshi suggested Ieyasu should consider a castle base in the east, the Eastern Capital that went on to become the great city of Tokyo.|
|Iwadono Castle||There is very little by the way of ruins even but if you are interested in hiking, or in the history of the Takeda clan, then this site is an easy day trip from Tokyo. There are lots of different hiking trails. The title picture is of the information centre at the base of the mountain - the staff were helpful and had good maps in Japanese and English. Their main theme when I went there was that both Iwadonoyama and Tokyo Sky Tree are the same height. I don`t know about Tokyo but the view from the Takeda Sky Tree is free and you have more chance of seeing Mt Fuji.|
|Iwakuni Castle||Do go to the Iwakuni Art Museum. Their collection is amazing. I didn't go to the Kikkawa museum, and I found the assortment in the castle keep rusty, poorly displayed and of limited relevancy, but Iwakuni Art Museum is a privately owned, very well-cared for and well-presented collection of arms, armour, helmets, maps, letters and similar artifacts. There was also an absolutely amazing original Sengoku Era screen depicting the Battle of Kawanakajima - (there is a long story of how it ended up at Iwakuni; the connection being the Kikkawa clan originally served the Aki-Takeda clan). (If you buy the bridge/ropeway/castle combi ticket there is a slight discount for the museum included). The bridge is amazing; the keep is no better or worse than any other Showa era reconstruction; it has been reconstructed away from its original location to provide magnificent views right down to the sea. The grounds themselves were quite disappointing in a way because it seemed like the city doesn't care about the original castle ruins very much; the area around the Kita-no-maru looks like it is in want of maintenance and sign-posting. At the top of the ropeway there is a sign with two arrows saying in misleading English, `take the left path. Take both paths - one up and one down - the right path has a lot more stone work on it and is far more atmospheric; the left path is paved and has the ruins of a well. At the bottom near the bridge there is a nice statue of Sasaki Kojiro; his tsubame-gaeshi move was invented after observing swallows flying at the bridge at Iwakuni.|
|Iwatsuki Castle||Iwatsuki is mildly famous as the site war-dogs, (gunken), were first used in a battle. It is also mildly famous as a good cherry-blossom viewing site in Saitama. The town is notable for its production of dolls. There is a service station on the site of the honmaru.|
|Kakegawa Castle||I went there on my way to Futamata and Hamamatsu; by chance it was also the day of a local Fire Service matsuri. There were about 30 fire engines parading past the castle and various brass bands, so as I toured the castle I had my own theme music. The staff at the gate offered to take my photo, mind my baggage for free and gave me some of the local produce. Kakegawa is a recent reconstruction and a lot of work has gone into it; it makes you realise how good reconstructions can be. The displays are in Japanese but they do have nice pictures and furigana for everything which helps. In the palace there was a computerised quiz to find out which famous Sengoku era man or woman you would be. Out of Oichi, Nene, Cha-Cha and Chiyo I found out I was most like Chiyo-hime. (Sadly a Chiyo-hime who is never going to be able to buy her boyfriend a horse. Oh well.) There were plenty of Chiyo and Kazutoyo souvenirs around, including some 'Komyo ga Tsuji' relics.|
|Kaminoyama Castle||Kaminoyama is a pleasant place to stay in Yamagata - it has a triple heritage as a castle town, an onsen town and an inn town and the three kind of blend into each other, so one moment the road is where the old moat was, the next it follows the old highway and then leads up to the onsen areas. We stayed the night at an onsen hotel that had a view of the castle from the open air bath on the roof. The castle is lit up at night so even at night there is still a good view. There is a hot spring foot bath right next to the keep if you don't have time for the onsen. I went during Summer holidays so the castle was the focal point of summer activities for kids - they had tents with activities for children like making a magatama or whittling pieces of wood. My favourite was the archery range they had set up on the hillside right next to the castle main entrance where aspiring young yumi ashigaru could take shots at cut-out rabbits, pheasants, deer and wild boar. I really heart the people of Kaminoyama who organised this. The castle reconstruction does oddly resemble a chibi-robot ashigaru of sorts?? - (see the top two windows as eyes and the gable underneath as a moustache) - but it is more remarkable inside as it only has two floors and a lot, yes, a lot of stairs in between them. Also, the explanations are largely in Japanese and German, the lord of the castle is referred to as Herr von Kaminoyama throughout. From here we went to nearby Hasedo-jo, and then to Yamagata.|
|Kanayama Castle||I went in early Summer and really enjoyed Kanayama. I walked straight from the station towards the castle ruins, got suitably lost on the walking trails in the forest, and eventually found the museum. The museum was quite good for its size, they had mini dioramas of the castle and certain important scenes from its history. The walk from the museum up the Otemichi to the castle had been washed out in places by the rain and was a bit hazardous although most parts had been fixed with sandbags. I was a bit too late to see it in bloom but it looks like there is a beautiful wisteria arbor with panoramic views at the top. The ruins were atmospheric to walk around and the two pools, the pool of the sun and the pool of the moon, definitely deserve viewing. Most of the point explanation signs have quite detailed explanations in English as well. There is a reconstruction of a wooden building where an oven was discovered, believed to be a weapons storehouse and office for soldiers on duty. The ni-no-maru was fenced off when I was there to stop people from picking bamboo shoots, (really, they even had a 'don't pick the bamboo shoots sign). There is a shrine to Nitta on the site, plus as you are walking back to the station take the time to stop at nearby Kinryuji - dedicated to Yoshisada Nitta with a memorial dating from 1637 and also part of the Ota Shichifukunin meguri. Nearby Daikoin was founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu to honour the spirits of the Nitta. The 100Meijo stamp is not in the museum; it is at the top of the mountain in the rest area.|
|Kannonji Castle||I got really very lost cycling to Kannonji from Azuchi - the man at the bicycle rental had given me about 7 different maps but they were all quite small for the area covered and the sign-posting wasn't so great. In any case, I walked my bike up a long, tortuous road and when I got to a toll gate the two women inside told me it would take probably another hour if I went this way. (At least the way back down was easy). If you are going by bicycle probably the easiest way is to go via Ishi-dera Raku-ichi, a site commemorating the free market system started there in the 15th century, (where the 100Meijo stamp is; they also sell local produce and food souvenirs). Quite near here there is a giant sign on the hillside with an arrow pointing to the ruins.|
|Kasama Castle||The tenshu-kaku area is still off limits as of August and I don`t recommend this castle in summer due to the mosquitoes. On the other hand it was cool in the shade and an easy walk; the forest was wonderfully green and overgrown which made the stone walls and stairs look ancient and mysterious. There is an abandonned(?) bitumen road through the site with a strange tunnel through the mountain reminiscent of `Spirited Away,` and a dilapidated picnic area. It is a shame that they built these here, if not for that and the fact that nothing or no one of major importance is really associated with the site then it could have got 100Meijo status with stonework like that. Besides the pottery another thing to see in the area is Kasama Shrine, which is quite old and high-ranking for the area. Also, on the way halfway down the mountain there is a giant stone with a niche in it. I don`t know if it was part of the castle but the legend says that if you throw three stones and can land one or more in the hole then you get a wish.|
|Kasugayama Castle||I was impressed by this site - it was far larger than I expected and excellently and informatively sign-posted in Japanese and English. The explanations cater to every possible reason you could have for visiting Kasugayama; history fan, castle fan, TV drama fan, manga fan, general Uesugi fan or Uesugi detractor, or perhaps you are just looking for an informative hike. For that reason, even though there wasn't so much remaining structure-wise, the place really came alive.
Summer was a good time to visit with the pine trees poking up out of the verdant greenery on the one hand and the blue skies and sweeping view down to the plains on the other - although rain in the morning had turned the gravel paths into mini rivers and waterfalls. I wouldn't recommend this site on a rainy day. The staff were friendly and helpful; one guide pointed out aoso, a kind of local hemp, still growing wild on the mountain. The fibers from this plant were used to make cloth much prized in Kyoto, the sale of which provided a large part of the Uesugi income. Also, I'm not sure if it was just for public holidays or a regular occurrence, but there were people dressed up in period costumes too. My boyfriend teased me for being so eager to see the castle by saying Kenshin wouldn't be waiting at the top; when we finally got up the stairs I just pointed out the ashigaru and men in eboshi and smiled.
|Kawagoe Castle||I went here a long time ago on a bus tour with the local friendship centre in my area. I'd like to go back again now that I would have a better understanding of it all - still, it was interesting to walk around the different rooms.|
|Kofu Castle||It was a bit early for the Autumn leaves but the grounds were still nice. There was some construction work going on around the honmaru and the Inari yagura. The 100meijo stamp is located in the Onshirin Memorail Hall, and supposedly Inari yagura but the office was closed when I was there. Full marks for comprehensive, bilingual signposts; other than that not as exciting as the other side of the station.|
|Komoro Castle||Komoro is Stamp Heaven. In addition to the 100Meijo stamp, (in the office to the side of the museum), I got thirteen other stamps, (I didn't even go to the art gallery or the zoo), and the custodian at the museum, when he saw I collected stamps, brought out a 'rare' one that they don't use anymore. The museum had a good assortment of different things to look at. The grounds are kind of busy, home to lots of different buildings, but still very pleasant to walk around. Also, the souvenir shops had a good range of Takeda goods; I bought discounted 'Furinkazan' mechanical pencils from 2007, Kansuke, Lord Takeda and Uesugi, (the shop owner had probably given up all hope of ever getting rid of them). I don't know that I would give it 4 stars, even if I give extra stars because of the Takeda factor, but it is a convenient stop on the way to Ueda and Nagano and thoroughly worth seeing.|
|Kururi Castle||We went here on New Year`s Day, and one of the great things about it was that it was open on New Year`s Day. Well, the museum wasn`t open, but the reconstructed keep was, mostly because all they have inside is a rack of slippers for the guests. I think that was actually a smart move - that way it serves more as a vantage point to provide a sense of the location of the castle and also offers great views. This part of Chiba evidently takes a lot of pride in their history and the Satomi clan and it shows, which is great. Definitely take the road less travelled on the way up, not the road for cars.|
|Matsumoto Castle||I promised my brother I'd wait until he came to Japan for a holiday then go to Matsumoto. I finally got to see it 4 weeks ago. It was beautiful.|
|Matsushiro Castle||A friend (Uesugi fan) and myself (Takeda fan) went to Nagano and did Zenkouji, Mastsushiro and Kawanakajima Kosenjo. We caught the bus from Nagano station - perhaps easier than the trains - though it says the last stop is Matsushiro you should get off a few stops earlier at Matsushiro Ekimae. This is the same bus you can use to get to the Kawanakajima battlefield. (Actually, I got very excited in a nerdy way because the number on the bus ticket if you get on at the Kosenjo stop is '8' and it is at Hachimanbara.... ) The castle grounds were very nice to walk around, there were hardly any people, and the view of the blue mountains in the distance was refreshing. The 100Meijo stamp was in a building to the side of the moat. I had a fantastic time; if you go here definitely go to the nearby battlefield too. I would have liked to have done the old houses as well but ran out of time.|
|Morioka Castle||Morioka Castle is not very accessible in winter but everything being under 10 - 20cms of snow makes the stone walls aesthetically pleasing. (To be fair that amount of snow is unseasonable, although it did make my brother happy). We had a lot of fun walking around the honmaru and taking photos with what looked like a giant stone wardrobe and a lone inexplicable lamppost. The Morioka History Museum we wandered into to escape the heavy snow was certainly interesting with plenty of interactive displays, a good scale model of the castle, helpful staff (but random souvenirs), so I'd suggest seeing the displays in there first to get a sense of history and then seeing the park. Also, they had this fascinating moving picture animation of a daimyo-gyoritsu, among other things; it was a bit too wide to focus on everything going on at once so watching it became a game. I really want to support Iwate prefecture and talk this castle up but it does come across as a park first and a castle second. That said, I'd like to go again in spring to compare and see the famous rock-splitting cherry tree; also there is a relocated gate, I think, that I missed.|
|Nihonmatsu Castle||I walked to the castle from the station - the rekishikan, site of the Otemon, and an old-fashioned sweet store are on the way. The stone steps were a brilliant white and the water near the wisteria arbor was frozen except where the 7 step waterfall splashed into the frozen lake. Along with the white-topped umbrella pine there were many different types of pine trees at Nihonmatsu, making for a nice contrast of green and white. Also, there was something hauntingly magnificent in the sun sinking down over the western mountains and filling the snow-covered keep with light and shadows.
They had several bilingual signs explaining the historical significance of the stone walls. (Thumbs up). In the grand Japanese tradition of uta-makura and top 100 lists, Nihonmatsu is one of the top 100 castles, the top 100 scenic places for cherry blossom viewing, but it also has one of the Nihon San-I, the 3 wells of Japan. That was a first for me; Hikage-no-Ido (the well of sunbeams) forms a trio with Tsukikage-no-Ido (the well of moonbeams) and Hoshikage-no-Ido (the well of starlight). The well sits, singularly unimpressive, beside a small shrine to Tengu, but the names really stirred my imagination.
Next to the carpark is the 'Stone of Exhortation' - another great name! In 1749, Takahiro Niwa engraved his exhortation to retainers on a block of granite to remind them to be humble. The idea was copied from China but I think it is a good idea - we should have more exhortation stones around.
|Odawara Castle||Went to Odawara for that all important second date - for that reason Odawara stands as the most romantic castle I have been to. The museum was filled with explanations of the genealogy of the Latter Hojos, as well as a general collection of weaponry, armour and the like. The view from the top of the keep out across the ocean, especially towards the end of the afternoon, had a certain sort of charm. We were leaning on the railing gazing out at the waves and I said, 'So I guess that would be where Chosokabe was,' and he replied, 'Actually, that's Kuki; Chosokabe would be more over there.' I recommend that line to anyone. I also recommend the Rekishikan.|
|Okayama Castle||Okayama is Momotarou town. There are bronze statues of Momotarou and friends lining the street up to the keep and the castle mascot, not surprisingly, also involves Momotarou. This was the first time I had seen an elevator inside a keep. On one of the floors of the museum you can dress up as a princess, complete with wig; it's free but limited to about 4 people per hour, (that might have changed since 2008). The view from the top is excellent because it overlooks Korakuen - one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. The architecture of this castle is fascinating and the contrasting black and gold makes for interesting photos. U-jo means Crow Castle and Kin'U-jo means Gold Crow Castle - it used to have a gold roof - so if you go to Okayama then nearby Himeji you can see Crow Castle then Egret Castle. The names really suit them, I think.|
|Omi Hachiman Castle||I went to Omi-Hachiman in summer, after Odani but before Azuchi. Shiga-ken is haunted with castles and castle ruins. The old houses and streets were fascinating, completely worth stopping for, and wandering along the side of the moat and enjoying the sunshine was great. I spent a lot of time, more than I should have, trying to find that statue of Hidetsugu, but I wanted to email a photo of it to a friend. I also spent too much time trying to find Metholatum lip balm in the conbini - just so I could say I bought it from Omi. Very nice area for a walk.|
|Osaka Castle||Osaka castle is one of the top three things to do in Osaka, the others are visiting the aquarium and eating. Unfortunately, my old camera's batteries died right before I got to the castle so the only photo I have is of the beautiful blue water of the moat. (By a strange coincidence the camera itself finally passed on directly after visiting the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu). The park was very nice to walk around. I would like to go back to Osaka by myself one day - I went with a friend who wasn't really interested so I didn't get to see as much as I liked.|
|Oshi Castle||Went here in the afternoon at the end of a long Obon holiday road trip. Good time for photos of the moat. This castle is supposed to be featured in a movie coming out soon about the Ishida Mitsunari dorui story. The museum was closed and I didn`t like the look of the long white tunnel connecting it to the yagura but other than that the grounds were very well kept and pleasant to walk around. The dorui wasn`t very well sign-posted; the whole ground lacked sign-posting in general, but there was a nice overlay map of the orignal castle and the current township, which showed the swampy nature of the terrain nicely. The walk from the museum down to Shinobu-Ike is pleasant and goes past a few marked sites of where structures were and also the head shop of ju-man-koku manju.|
|Otaki Castle||Otaki Castle is a nice reconstruction and museum in a nice location. It looked really nice on a clear winter day in the afternoon sunlight and with the setting sun. The museum has a cute miniature reconstruction of the layout and a great map at the entrance showing all the castle sites in Chiba, which is a lot - honestly, a lot - the one built by a Takeda Nobunaga caught my eye - the combination of name and location is just intriguing. They also have replica Tadakatsu helmets and jinbaori for people to try on. This is the first castle we went to after getting married - nothing says, `I married an Ieyasu fan` like photos wearing a Tadakatsu helmet. The surrounding area has lots of interesting sites to see as well.|
|Sakasai Castle||I really liked this site. The grounds are nicely sign-posted and interesting to wander around and explore. The fact that you could climb a sengoku style watchtower was purely awesome. The curving moat was very Hojo-style; coming after heavy rains it was easy to see the defense value of the surrounding marshes. The pool where the princess drowned herself actually looked quite deep, dark and scary. Though there do seem to be some signs that they had planned to do more and ran out of money halfway it really shows that the town has pride in this site that they spent money reconstructing an out-of-the-way castle well rather than on, say, more of those expensive incomprehensible bronze artworks that litter Japan. For a castle that only existed for about 10 years and wasn`t such a major site this is truly worth seeing. I went by car and in the afternoon; the soba shop was closed which was a shame - it sounds good|
|Sakura Castle||I always wondered why Sakura got the 100 Meijo rating - all the pictures I had seen made it look small, flat and kind of dull. (I kind of suspected that the museum had slipped in a bribe...) Still, I`m not alone, Sakura is probably a lot larger, higher and more interesting than most people expect. The deep earthen moats are impressive - there are reasonable explanations, even a statue of Sakura Lord, Hotta Masayoshi. (In that way I guess this castle could be the start of studying English in Japan....) Ran short of time far too quickly.|
|Sarushima Battery Island|
|Sekiyado Castle||I went here the day after heavy rains; it made Sekiyado's fantastic museum about flooding and river transport even more apt. The view from the top out across the swollen rivers and glittering fields was lovely and you can take some very nice photos of this castle across the rice fields or from across the river (Ibaraki side) to include shots of Mt Fuji. Their museum is interactive and designed to appeal to all ages - they really make the most of explaining the history of this particular castle and its relation to the environment, rather than just filling it up with vaguely related artifacts, pictures of dead men and tables of genealogies. I wish all castle museums could be this good. The only thing I could add would be more English; I wrote that on the survey form - if you do the survey form you get a free Sekiyado castle bookmark. After this we went to Sakasai castle which has ended up with one of Sekiyado`s original gates.|
|Sendai Castle||A person I knew from Sendai told me I wouldn't see any snow in March; my train pulled into the station as snowflakes started falling and although it was only a small snowfall I had the joy of being able to show photos of the stone walls of Aoba-jo harboring patches of snow in their shadows. The statue of Date Masamune was quite hard to photograph in the afternoon sun but there were great views and I was happy to finally see it with my own eyes. (I used to sing 'Aoba-jo koiuta' at karaoke just to see that statue). If you are in the area you should also see brightly-painted Zuihoden, Date's Mausoleum, on the adjacent hillside. I also went to Matsushima and Zuiganji, the museum has many items belong to the Date clan. I didn't have so much time because I was using 18-kippu; I'm planning on going there again with my brother. I went a while ago so it should be interesting to see how it has changed seeing as Masamune is more popular and marketable than ever.|
|Shibata Castle||Hooray! +1 Castle Visit. Happy to see this profile. I agree totally. Shibata city is a little out of the way but it is a peaceful town in a beautiful location. If you can get a sunny, still day the views of the yagura and gate reflected in the moat are gorgeous. The view down into the SDF base seems kind of like it should be a security risk somehow and the three shachi-hoko roof is a bit hard to get photos of - Sir, I applaud your title pic. More than just the castle, this is one of those places where the whole town is interesting to walk around. There are lots of signs, in Japanese, detailing where parts of the castle complex were. Definitely definitely see the garden, the samurai houses and the ashigaru housing. The souvenir shop sells tatsumi-yagura shape asparagus-flavoured cakes that don't actually taste like asparagus, but castle fans who complain about over- commercialisation and merchandising should be really happy this site has none of that. A note on the history section, the way I had it explained to me, the Echigo Shibata were vassals of the Nagao clan and served under Uesugi Kenshin. Later Shibata Shigeie supported Uesugi Kagekatsu but felt undervalued and dissatisfied with Kagekatsu generally showering love and obis on Naoe Kanetsugu and that is when he decided to ally with the Oda. There was a nondescript statue of Shigeie a few blocks back from the castle on a street lined with old shrines and temples.|
|Shinagawa Battery Islands|
|Shirakawa Castle||I went north on holiday and decided along the way I could see Shirakawa, Nihonmatsu - even though they were closed for the year. At Shirakawa, site of the famous barrier, it started to snow as I walked up to the castle. I took photos of the ishigaki, the yagura, the snow falling through the giant gate and of the autumn grasses dying besides the moat. I was mildly impressed people were still fishing in the moat despite the snow fall.
Visiting castles when they are closed for winter is a wonderful idea - terribly misanthropic, no access to the museums or buildings, but I save thousands I'd otherwise spend on omiyage and yuru-chara goods and I have the entire place to myself except for one other person who also apparently enjoys visiting closed castles in a snowstorm.
The station building is one of the top 100 Stations of Japan - making this a rekijo and tetsujo adventure. I will definitely come back, next time I am on the Tohoku line, to see the Komine-jo museum (get the stamp), see the seki-sho (quite a hike), and go to the Adachigahara oni-baba theme park (Bappy-chan goods).
|Taga Castle||Went here 4 weeks ago.|
|Takada Castle (Niigata)||I do agree that it's hard to take a good photo of the keep in Summer, which is a shame because it is a really nice reconstruction inside and out. I went here in late September; perhaps cherry blossoms, autumn leaves or winter snow might help make the trees seem less of a problem. I can't say about the afternoon either; I went in the morning when it was raining. Still, this is one of those buildings that seems to shine in the rain; that and the greenery made it very pretty. The view from the top floor out onto the causeway reminded me of Okayama`s Korakuen view a little and the scenic walk over the bright red bridge and along the side of a moat brimming full of lotus leaves was lovely. The museum inside was much like any other but they did have a Meiji Era print ranking castles of Japan like in a sumo tournament that was fascinating to compare to how most people rank Japanese castles now. Preparations seem to be under way for a 400th year celebration; in any case I supported them by buying a 400 years of Takada Castle hand towel. It is easy to get to this site, there are minimal English explanations, and if you are in the area it is worth seeing. You can get the bus from Takada to the base of Kasugayama, the information office at the station was very helpful in how and where; they also sold Uesugi `salt to give to your enemy` salt, which I think was my favourite souvenir of the trip|
|Takashima Castle||I heard that this castle was one of the three most beautiful water castles; it must have been amazing for travelers to see when it was right at the lakeshore. The outside, the moat and the bridge made for some great photos. The garden was okay - lots of green - I would love to see the frozen moat in winter; photos of fuji and sakura season looked good too. For a building reconstructed in the 70's the inside had a very 1920's art-deco feel to it - a first for me. There was a small collection of clocks, glasses, (Suwa industries) and a selection of weapons, (there are better collections at the Suwa Taisha treasure houses and the City Museum), but the highlight was the so-old-it's-nostlagic CGI animation video of the Suwa vs the Takeda. The castle sells mainly books and doesn't have a mascot but other places sell Yuu-hime kitty-chan or Takashima-jo Doraemon if one of your goals in life is to collect historical figures in cat version.|
|Takiyama Castle||Takiyama castle has possibly the best maps ever for remnant earthwork. There is the usual topographical map overlaid with the locations of castle structures, but next to that they have sketched a close up of the current location, and then a corner box of little ashigaru fighting, showing how the structures would have been used in defensive operation. My favourite was the ni-no-maru, which had the Takeda troops in red battling it out against the blue-clad Hojo poking spears through the fence and firing down a rain of arrows. The fact that the Takeda forces made it as far as the ni-no-maru in what was considered to be one of the famously difficult to attack mountaintop castles of the time was the spur that lead to the construction of Hachioji castle. I agree completely, this is a beautiful site to visit and a lot of fun to wander around.|
|Tatebayashi Castle||I really didn`t expect much from this site, just a gate, but Tatebayashi was interesting in a quirky way. The gate is nice for what it is. Whilst most of the site is given over to public buildings and recreation facilities, the park is broad enough and the area between the gate and the `castle marsh` has enough open green spaces to convey a sense of space. There was some ruined ishigaki near the science museum, is that original? There was also a cut out and information on one of the more interesting Tokugawas: Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the Inu Shogun, who held the title `Lord of Tatebayashi.` The yakata of the last Lord of Tatebayashi is nearby, along with an old muslin factory and old house belonging to a man called the `Onsen Sommelier.` Not at all related to castles but if you are in the area, Morinji Temple is the site of the Bunbuku Chagama legend. The temple has the said tea kettle as one of its treasures and also the most bizarre grove of tanuki statues dressed up according to the season. So yes, my memory of Tatebayashi is of a row of tanuki statues dressed in hula outfits with their distinctive `assets` poking out through grass skirts.|
|Tateyama Castle||Went here in the midst of a miserable downpour when everything was closed. Even in the rain the autumn leaves in the small garden and the gingko trees lining the road were still pretty. My camera got water in it and fogged up so by chance I ended up with some neat photos that made it look like the castle was shrouded in a thick fog. The field at the base of the castle turned into a pond in the rain, but the restaurant/souvenir shop was still open; they seemed to be experiencing a bit of a Hakkenden boom if their souvenirs were anything to go by.|
|Toba Castle||The interesting fact I remember about this castle was that the Otemon opened onto the sea, such was the might of the Kuki navy! The grounds are nice enough for a walk but the site of the hon-maru was quite depressing. It is a dusty children's playground with a rusting basketball hoop and faded happy murals of everyone holding hands painted onto corrugate iron sheeting. It was one of those castles where I wished they had reconstructed it, even if only in concrete. Boat rides to the Pearl Island or the Aquarium could have left through the Otemon - anything but a basketball hoop. To make up for it though, there is quite a detailed history written in Japanese near the San-no-Maru entrance. Also, the Mikomoto Pearl Museum has a (quite small) scale replica of a Sengoku Era warship. Nearby Joanji is the Kuki family temple and has the dagger he used to commit seppuku after defeat at Sekigahara; as a result he has both a kubizuka and dozuka to do ohakamairi at. The cedars used in the construction of the Nippon-maru reputedly came from nearby Kata Jinja.|
|Tsutsujigasaki Palace||Sacred ground, especially for Takeda fans. ^_^ The 100meijo stamp is on request from the same counter you buy omomori at. They also have a good selection of books and post-cards. The museum/treasure house is excellent. They have swords, weapons, yoroi, metal fans, some beautiful hanging scrolls and one of the Takeda's famous Furinkazan flags. There was some excavation going on in the moat. Also nearby is Sanjo-hime's grave; Yuu-hime's is at Eirinji, in Enzan, along with many of the 24 generals, (and another good omiyage shop). ^_^ Enzan and Nirasaki stations are quite close to Kofu if you are planning on paying your respects to the Takeda.|
|Ueda Castle||The iconic gates were awesome. The well was interesting. The park grounds inside were nice and there were people having a picnic on the green clover in the honmaru area. I went here after Komoro on my way to Nagano. I wasn't really a Sanada Yukimura fan at all until I came to Ueda. Then the town worked its magic on me and I ended up buying a heap of gotochi goods. Ueda's Yukimura is more like the man of legend and less like the lad of pop culture. The Sanada family crest is everywhere over the town, from lamp-posts to man-hole covers, the city hall is covered in banners showing the 10 Yukimura Braves, and the words 'hi-no-moto-ichi-no-tsuwamono' are written everywhere. I also went to a museum with a small collection of armour and caltraps and a large collection of books.|
|Utsunomiya Castle||I have to agree; full marks for their barrier-free access but it does make it look a bit like a futuristic weapons factory that is going to start rolling out the tanks. Quite small and not so good for photos. I think they sold themselves short - they could have done so much more - I hope they do. The volunteer guide inside the tunnel (not the Jomon pottery house) was very knowledgeable though, which made it more interesting. Supposedly the Otemon faced North, not East as would be expected, reflecting the fact that this castle was originally established for the purpose of conquering the North of Japan. From the castle the first stop would be Futara Shrine, to pray for victory. Another interesting point represented by the reconstruction is that the inward facing walls of the yagura do not have windows so that the people on guard would not be able to look down on the Shogun during his stay. Still, the main reason I went to see Utsunomiya is because of its role in the Boshin War. The castle has a detailed `Hijikata Toshizo was here` themed walking map which includes a good map of the castle and surrounding points of interest. Most of the sites require a lot of imagination - the site of Matsu-ga-mine Mon, where he suffered a bullet wound to the foot, is now a sea of carparks. Nearby that there is some remnant earthen wall (very minor but it exists); also the giant Gingko tree where the san-no-maru used to be is worth seeing for its size and the fact it was there back when there used to be a castle. My final favourite was the kimono shop I happened to see by chance that had a sign saying `since 1868.`|
|Yamagata Castle||I was really impressed by the reconstructions at Yamagata and all the work that seems to be going into new ones. They are really enthusiastic about this site - at the moment work is underway to reconstruct the floor plans of the honmaru - the reconstruction work in picture six has largely been completed and there is now a bridge there, and a viewing platform to let you take really good pictures of the bridge. Even though the site incorporates sports facilities and a museum it is still very accessible and enjoyable and easy to walk the entire circumference of the moat and see all the gates. You can even go down and walk alongside the moat on some sides or along the top. The stone walls made from the river stones are really pretty and they have a good open air display on the creation of ishigaki as well. We ran out of time for the museums but did get to see inside the East gate. The statue of Mogami is quite rare in Japan because it realistically shows a horse rearing up two legs - it also makes it kind of tricky to get a decent snap of the statue and castle. Also, not a castle at all, but the Bunshokan museum in the old Prefectural Diet is a gorgeous old building that looks like a slice of Europe.|
|Yamanaka Castle||I went to Yamanaka yesterday coming back from Shizuoka. There was snow in the moats - it was amazing. Previous visitors had left snowmen in the various areas - they were like poor, out-numbered Hojo soldiers struggling to guard the fort; there were also toboggan tracks in the De-no-maru. In terms of view it is great location for a castle - it's a shame view counts for so little when you're outnumbered 17 to 1. Currently there is some repair work going on until March. The area near the Nishi-no-maru unebori is closed off on one side but you can still take decent photos of the moats. I learnt a lot about moats at this castle - it's an excellent example of Hojo-style castle building - especially the shoji-bori and une-bori moats. The sunset was breath-taking; if it is clear you should definitely head down to the lower parking lot and watch the sun set.|
|Yonezawa Castle||Yonezawa castle doesn`t have so much castle but it has more than enough history to satisfy anyone. The museums and the Treasure Hall of the shrine are definitely worth seeing for what they have. Uesugi-Jinja isn`t quite as big or as good as Takeda-Jinja, their Uesugi Kenshin statue is a lot smaller than the Takeda at Kofu. They do however have a large new statue of Uesugi Kagekatsu and Naoe Kanetsugu. I don`t know about before Taiga Drama 2009 but post TenChiJin the town has turned into a samurai paradise. They were celebrating 400 years of Maeda Keiji when I was there and images of Keiji and Kanetsugu were everywhere. The mascot of Yonezawa is the dog with the distinguished eyebrows, Kanetan, who is a rival of sorts of Hikone`s Hikonyan. Yonezawa has a long history of transferring things from other places so you can also see Kasuga-yama Risen-ji and a reenactment of the Battle of Kawanakajima there. I loved Yonezawa.|