11 Most Beautiful Castles in Japan You Have To Visit!

Planning to visit the beautiful castles in Japan? But not sure which ones to start with? Here’s a list of the most beautiful castles in Japan. Check it out!  

Having grown up among castles, I can easily evoke memories of the royal family, a majestic ambiance, and a large number of armed guards. Castles were historically constructed on prominent hilltops and high terrains, such as islands or peninsulas. 

Every time I read or hear about castles, I am enthralled, and to actually visit a real castle always excites me! 

Japan is home to several castles, the majority of which have a rich history that draws tourists from around the globe.

But did you know that Japan formerly had nearly 5,000 castles? 

History’s daimyo (feudal rulers) constructed castles as fortifications and a way to flaunt their wealth. They created the traditional architectural designs in the 16th century that are familiar to us today.

Since the majority of Japanese castles were built from wood, many of them have burned down over time. There are currently only 100 buildings standing, and even fewer of those are the original ones.

Here is a list of stunning Japanese castles I visited, just as stunning as it appears in fairy tales.

Most Beautiful Castles in Japan

History of Japanese Castles 

For centuries, Japanese castles have been captivating visitors, standing as a testament to Japan’s long and fascinating history. These ancient fortresses evoke a sense of mystery and intrigue—a sense of breathtaking grandeur and beauty, of enchantment and allure.

Throughout much of Japanese history, castles served as strategic strongholds offering protection to their inhabitants, as well as providing a symbol of the ruling powers that held sway over the local area. 

In addition, many castles were integral strongholds in times of war, with their thick walls and strategic location providing an invaluable defensive advantage.

The oldest surviving castle in Japan is Himeji Castle, constructed in 1333. 

This classic castle is considered the most complete and best preserved Japanese castle, and it features a number of impressive features such as the imposing keep (inner tower), the traditional Sengan style walls and the intricate lattice windows which were designed to provide a clear view of the surrounding area.

Hikone Castle is another important fortress in Japan, located in Shiga Prefecture. It was constructed in 1622 and has been hailed for its unique and intricate architecture, which displays a perfect blend of traditional and modern designs. It is also the only castle in Japan that still has its original moat and gates.

Kumamoto Castle is another great castle in Japan, located in Kumamoto Prefecture. 

It was constructed in 1607, and like its counterparts, it has an impressive keep, wide walls and large gates. The castle was destroyed in a small earthquake in 2016, but it has recently been restored to its former glory.

Matsumoto Castle, known as the “Crow Castle”, is a particularly impressive fortress, featuring a dramatic black facade. 

It was built around the 1590s and is the oldest surviving castle in Japan with a keep. It is also the only castle in Japan to have five levels of fortification walls.

A visit to any of these amazing Japanese castles is sure to be a memorable experience. 

From Himeji and Kumamoto to Hikone and Matsumoto, Japan is home to a number of beautiful and unique fortresses, each with its own unique story, architecture, and history. 

Stepping into these ancient structures, one can only imagine the battles and dramas that would have played out within these majestic walls. 

From the great siege engines and striking samurai armor to the grand keep and elaborate towers, each castle provides a unique glimpse into the interesting and complex history of Japan.

Okayama Castle

Okayama Castle stands proud as one of the most famous castles in Japan. First constructed in 1573 and owned by the Governor of the province, it is steeped in history and intrigue. 

This castle is imposing and formidable, marked by a five-story watchtower, which once stood thirty meters high.

 The main tower, known as U-jo, is surrounded by a spectacular park, on land where historically many samurai battles have been fought. 

The traditional facade of Okayama Castle is still present today; the outside walls are made of solid stone, while the inner walls are decorated with white plaster and five layers of vermillion coloured lacquer.

In addition to the main tower, two smaller stone turrets – Tamon Tower and Inuiyoke Tower – flank either side. 

It is said that grayish-yellow peony flowers bloom around the walls of the castle and in the early summer months are celebrated in the area as a symbol of good luck. 

One of the biggest attractions at Okayama Castle is the Okanjo Pojo, a gallery of preserved castle artifacts. In addition to ancient ammunition, there are artifacts from the feudal period and a collection of samurai swords. 

Each artifact is accompanied by its own unique story, making it the perfect place for visitors to get an understanding of the history of the castle. 

For the more athletically minded, Okayama Castle offers a few options. The park is home to many sports facilities and soccer fields, while a moat-style walking path lines the inner walls of the castle. 

It is amazing to think that while strolling along the path, one may be in the very same place as the samurai who once defended the castle centuries ago. 

Asides from its history and beauty, one of the best things about Okayama Castle is the atmosphere it provides during its most popular event – the New Year’s Festival. 

Shin-Okazaki drummers perform against the backdrop of the castle walls, while stalls selling the traditional Japanese festival foods, such as Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki, line the park. 

With its breathtaking views, inviting atmosphere and well preserved artifacts, it is no wonder that Okayama Castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan.

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Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Marunouchi, Kita Ward, Okayama, 700-0823, Japan

 Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle, located in Kumamoto, Kyushu, is one of the most iconic castles in Japan. 

This impressive fortress is considered to be one of Japan’s three premier castles, along with Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle, and is an integral part of Japan’s history and culture.

 Kumamoto Castle

The citadel stands on a perimeter of 66,000 square meters and has 48 turrets, 18 gateways and 29 towers, making it one of the largest fortresses in the country. 

The main keep was built in 1607 by Kato Kiyomasa, a feudal lord who made great contributions to Japan’s unification efforts during the 16th century. 

Unfortunately, a great fire destroyed much of the castle during the battles between the Meiji and Satsuma forces which took place in 1877. 

The restored Kumamoto Castle is a modern marvel, with skillful reconstructions that carefully blend the past and present.

Kumamoto Castle is best known for its unique three-storied keep which stands at an impressive 5 stories tall. 

Today, the keep, known as Tenshu, is the symbol of Kumamoto and many modern adaptations of its design can be found around the town. 

The most interesting feature of the castle is the stone walls which surround the premises. 

These walls measure at around 25 meters high, making them some of the tallest in Japan, and are held up by a complex network of interlocking stones.

The keep is also noteworthy for a unique Japanese architectural design called the Tsuzuki yagura. This structure has five sides, known as yakata, and was used as a watchtower in the past. 

Other popular features of Kumamoto Castle are the impressive main gate which stands 16 meters high, as well as the two large gates which had to be crossed before one could enter the inner baileys.

Kumamoto Castle is a source of daily entertainment and historical education, with an ongoing event monthly for visitors to enjoy. 

There are kimono photo sessions, discovery courses, fireworks displays and more. The castle is also home to a museum and several special exhibitions throughout the year, making it a great place to spend the day. 

Kumamoto Castle is truly a sight to behold, a must-see for anyone visiting Japan. Its grandeur and historical significance gives this noble stronghold a place of great reverence in the hearts of many.

Address: 1-1 Honmaru, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, 860-0002, Japan

Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle is one of Japan’s most iconic castles, famous for its extraordinary beauty and elaborate garden architecture. 

best japanese castles

Located in Ishikawa Prefecture, the castle has a long and illustrious history as a symbol of power, wealth and prestige. 

Kanazawa Castle is known for its vibrant blue and white walls, which are encircled by a moat filled with beautiful golden carp fish. These majestic features fill the castle grounds with a majestic atmosphere that few other castles in Japan can match. 

The interior of Kanazawa Castle is equally impressive. Here, visitors can find structures like the five-story tower, with its intricate lattices and columns, representing the height of traditional Japanese architecture from the Edo period. 

castles in japan

Visitors can also admire the Chokushi-mon Gate and Shiomi-niwa Garden, which are renowned for their well-maintained pathways and stunning landscapes. 

The castle itself was built in 1580 by the Japanese daimyo Maeda Toshiie. From that time, the castle was part of the powerful Maeda family’s domain and used as a residence and stronghold. 

Unfortunately, in a devastating fire in 1602, much of the castle was destroyed, and it wasn’t until the start of the Edo period in the 17th century that it was rebuilt and restored to its original grandeur. 

To this day, Kanazawa Castle stands as a symbol of Japan’s elegant yet powerful past. Its grounds are a beautiful tribute to the resiliency of the Japanese people, and its gardens are a perfect reminder of the importance of maintaining harmony. 

Every year, countless visitors come to marvel at the impressive structure and its wide-open spaces. Even if you can’t make it to the castle itself, you can still appreciate Kanazawa’s stunning beauty from afar.

Address: 1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0937, Japan

 Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle stands proud in the bustling city of Nagoya, located in Aichi Prefecture. This striking castle was completed in 1612, representing some of the most intricate and picturesque architecture in Japan during the Edo period. 

The castle is a beautiful symbol of Japan’s feudal past and a popular tourist destination for sightseers. 

Nagoya Castle is best known for its stunning two-tiered castle keep, a large tower with a steep, curved roof at its center. This impressive structure stands 17 stories tall, providing a spectacular view of the surrounding cityscape. 

The main keep is surrounded by three other smaller keeps, which have been recently renovated, as well as high stone walls, a deep moat, and a dramatic drawbridge. 

The interior of the castle is filled with artifacts and documents that provide deep insights into its history.  

The gardens that adorn the castle grounds provide a natural setting for visitors to relax and take in the beauty of the castle. 

The symmetrical ponds, stone lanterns, and cherry blossom trees scattered amongst these gardens make for a wonderfully tranquil atmosphere. 

The Takasago Garden, in particular, contains several suspended bridges that add a unique touch to the gardens. 

The main keep of Nagoya Castle is home to the Gallery of Hommaru Palace and the Tokugawa Art Museum. The gallery provides a glimpse into the lives of the former Lords of Nagoya, while the museum showcases paintings, kimonos, and other artifacts from the Edo period. 

The galleries here are quite impressive, which is why Nagoya Castle is a popular destination for history lovers. 

Lastly, Nagoya Castle has its very own festival in mid-April each year known as Divine Robot Festival, or Koodari-Matsuri. 

The event features parades of people dressed up as Japanese robots, as well as samurai. This incredible festival is a great chance to experience a slice of local culture during your visit to Nagoya Castle. 

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Nagoya Castle is an incredible sight to behold and provides a fascinating window into Japanese history and culture. 

With dozens of sights to explore and plenty of events to participate in, it’s no wonder why Nagoya Castle is one of the most favored stops for tourists in Japan.

Address: 1-1 Honmaru, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0031, Japan

 Edo Castle 

Edo Castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan with a long and fascinating history. 

edo castle

Located in what is now Tokyo, the formidable stronghold once served as the home and political center of the Tokugawa Shogunate. 

For more than 260 years, the powerful leaders of the Shogunate effectively held dominion over the Japanese nation from within Edo Castle’s massive stone walls nested in the city’s downtown district. 

Before the transformation of Tokyo into the modern and developed metropolis, Edo Castle played a prestigious role as the crown jewel of Japan.

The walls of Edo Castle were first constructed in the late 1500s by top engineers of the day, encompassing a spacious area of sixty-six hectares and a moat that was thirty-one meters wide. 

Surrounding the outside, the castle was fortified further with four wall gates. Each of the four gates designated a separate entrance reserved for different types of visitors and different types of travel. 

As a main point of entry and exit, the main gate of the Edo Castle was overwhelmed with people who hustled and bustled to gather information from the courtiers inside.

Edo Castle earns its iconic place in Japanese history for its strategic military prowess, its sprawling grounds, and imposing features. 

The castle was prominently built with five large towers that each had three parts, and the total of seventeen towers could be seen from anywhere in Tokyo. 

Shinei-mon was the castle’s main entrance and the sword-bearers of the Shogun’s family could be seen parading through here with lances in hand. 

Inside the castle, there was a great inner garden, banquet spaces for imperative events, the majestic San-no-maru Palace, and an audience chamber inside the Hon-maru or Main mound.

As evidence of the power of Edo Castle, today the complex survives in part, with two stone walls and twenty-five towers. 

Not only remains of this fortress remind of the grandeur and splendor it once boasted in the past, but they also serve as an inspiring reminder of the importance of justice, power, and law. 

Today, you can still access the grounds and marvel at the rustic walls and ancient guard towers, or visit the Ni-no-maru Palace and the Ninomaru Garden to witness its iconic architecture. 

Visit Edo Castle and experience the mystique and grandeur of its remarkable past.

Address: 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-8111, Japan

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is one of the most popular and recognizable landmarks in Japan. 

Nijo Castle

Located in Kyoto, it is an example of traditional Japanese architecture, featuring a network of complex and winding corridors, tall battlement walls, and intricate gardens with beautiful rolling hills. 

The castle was also the former residence of the Tokugawa shoguns, who were the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1603 until 1867.

Built in 1603, during the Edo period, this castle was the official residence of the shogun in Kyoto. 

Nijo Castle boasts elaborate fortified walls boasting intricate carvings and ten turreted gateways. Inside, visitors will find two circles of walls and various parlors, guard stations, and corridors. 

Perhaps the most impressive feature is the majestic Ninomaru Palace, a brilliant example of traditional Japanese architecture that includes gorgeous latticework, and delicate sliding doors.

The castle is also renowned for its “nightingale floors,” which have specifically designed boards that squeak when stepped upon, with the intention of preventing possible intruders. 

It is also home to nearly 4,000 different cherry trees, which are located on the grounds and in the castle itself. 

Every spring, the blossoming trees bring a mesmerizingly peaceful atmosphere to the grounds, ever more illustrating the sheer beauty of the scenery.

The grounds also include gardens designed by tea masters, making it the perfect place to take in the calm and serenity of nature. 

Nijo Castle also houses some of the country’s most precious pieces of art, ranging from the richly decorated walls, ceiling paintings, and the striking “mon” crest of the Tokugawa family, which can be seen throughout the castle.

Nijo Castle is a beautiful and historical monument that captures the minds of many and transports them back to the extravagant days of the ruling shoguns. 

Even today, it stands as a reminder of the country’s tumultuous past and a symbol of a new era of peace. 

Visitors will be filled with awe as they walk through the bold battlement walls and gaze upon the Ninomaru Palace, experience the security of the “nightingale floors” and admire the beauty of the cherry trees in bloom.  

Nijo Castle is a must-see for anyone traveling to Japan and is a perfect reminder of the country’s past and the beauty of traditional Japanese architecture.

Address:

Hikone Castle

Hikone Castle is one of the 12 original castles of Japan. It is located in Shiga Prefecture. It is considered to be the most important historical building in the entire region and was constructed at the orders of the son of the reigning regional lord.

Many features of the castle are considered Japanese cultural assets. In addition, the Hikone Castle is another on the list that still has its original structure.

The lovely castle is located near Lake Biwa, a symbolic lake known as Japan’s largest lake. It’s fun to roam around the castle and surrounding neighborhood.

The experience I’ve had here makes it worthwhile to spend money to travel as this amazing place is like heaven. A national treasure, Hikone Castle undoubtedly deserves a visit.

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I was blown away by the exquisite maintenance of the castle’s original landscape which draws increasing numbers of visitors. It served as the focal point of this location’s attractions.

Address: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan

Himeji Castle

Himeji, a city in Japan, is a collection of castles built on a hill. It is also the first site in Japan to be named a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1993

It is the best surviving instance of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture and consists of 83 buildings.

Despite natural disasters and the World War II bombardment, this castle has survived unharmed since it was built 400 years ago.

 It’s difficult to believe, but this is the case.

I was truly amazed by the wood construction masterpiece with its exquisite appearance, white-plastered earthen walls, and multiple roof layers, which are the things that everyone cherishes. 

It is much more pleasant to enjoy a delicious bowl of Udon (a local cuisine) at a local restaurant following the tour.

Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan

Hirosaki Castle

Hirosaki Castle, a hilltop fortress in northern Japan, is renowned for its five original turreted gates, fortified moats, and vast grounds. 

The Tsugaru clan built the castle in the early 1600s after acquiring enough money and resources through several deft connections.

 The grounds, which are home to more than 2,500 cherry trees, host one of Japan’s biggest cherry blossom festivals every spring.

It is listed as a National Important Cultural Property, together with turrets and other ancient features. Spring is the greatest time to visit to enjoy the lovely cherry blossoms that embrace the old architecture.

 It was also destroyed by a lightning strike that struck the gunpowder magazine just about 15 years after it was built. In addition, Hirosaki Castle hosts the annual Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival, which draws sizable groups of tourists.

I visited this beautiful Japanese castle with my family when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, and the sight is so breathtaking that you can’t resist but want to stay and gaze at it forever.

Despite several visits, I still crave more and I have never tasted apples or apple juice as good as here and it is the best place to enjoy the pink cherry blossoms during the Sakura season. And the snow also makes it look magical.

Address: 1 Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8356, Japan

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle is located in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Matsumoto Castle is a National Treasure of Japan and one of Japan’s most significant heritage castles.

 It was built in the late 16th century, the castle comprised many moats, a complex system of walls, and gatehouses, it is one of the country’s oldest surviving castle towers.

It is also known as the Crow Castle because of its black façade and is one of Japan’s National Treasures. The main keep, or donjon, of the castle, is the oldest in Japan and offers panoramic views of the Hijiri Kgen mountains.

I was mesmerized by the sights from the castle’s viewpoint. Its interior is like a museum, featuring facts about the castle’s history, historical objects, and numerous steep steps.

It’s worth checking out both inside and out. The views from the vantage point of the castle are stunning.

The visit to this place is a real eye-opener and one of Japan’s jewels. You don’t want to miss this!

Address: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0873, Japan

Osaka Castle

In Japan, Osaka Castle is a well-known monument. There are eight floors in the Osaka Castle, built on a stonewall and surrounded by a moat, like many traditional Japanese castles.

During the late 1600s, an explosion set off a large fire in the castle when lightning struck the gunpowder keep. The castle underwent much-needed renovations in the late nineteenth century after years of disrepair.

The castle appeared in Tomoyuki Tanaka‘s 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again.

If you visit Osaka, don’t miss Osaka Castle, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It was initially designed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

They offer a large collection of antiques and exhibitions that allow visitors to learn about the history of the castle while dressed in traditional Japanese attire.

The castle is surrounded by a magnificent lake or mountain, which has a long history of use by the old empire.

I loved my visit to Osaka Castle since it is so beautiful. We went up and were able to observe many eras of Japan. It’s a great spot to visit if you enjoy history, ancient Japanese culture, and walking.

Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan

Conclusion

If you want to visit the best castles in the world, Japan is the place to go. It has everything you haven’t even imagined.

Getting to know more about new castles is usually a plus. These are the places I’ve always wanted to see but haven’t been able to due to a variety of factors.

But I must admit that these castles are the nicest I’ve ever seen. They not only provide gorgeous views but also have an educational component.

These castles tell us the entire story of their history and heritage, and over the top, these old castles are still standing.

Many visitors visit to admire the castles. As I already stated, this was one of my most fascinating and informative trips, and it went beyond my expectations.

I’ve learned a lot about these gorgeous castles.I highly suggest that you go to these castles. I am convinced you will thank me later.

So. Pack your bags, book your trip, and go exploring. Castles of Japan are waiting for you.

Most Beautiful Castles in Japan: FAQs

What is the most visited castle in Japan?

One of Japan’s most well-known sites is Osaka Castle. The Osaka Castle is eight floors tall, 55 meters in length, and is encircled by a moat. It is constructed on a man-made stonewall.

Which castle in Japan is the largest?

The largest castle in Japan is Himeji Castle. The central castle is a six-story building that can be seen from almost anywhere in Himeji City. The castle has appeared in several movies.

In Japan, what is the oldest castle?

The Inuyama Castle dates back to 1440 and is the oldest castle in Japan. It is an outstanding example of the defensive architecture of the Momoyama Period, constructed in 1537.

What makes Japanese castles different?

The difference was in the design of the roof. Japanese castles had very elaborate and intricately designed roofs, whereas European castle roofs were very simple. European castles averaged 4 storeys in height, compared to the 3 to 5 storeys of Japanese castles. This makes the Japanese castle unique and different.

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