Build as a stronghold by Japanese lords, these castles are unique in style and design. Most of them started as medieval castles with pure military purpose. During the Sengoku period in the 16th century, a new construction phase brought castles into the shape preserved until today.

姫路城 Himeji Castle, Hyōgo

mountain castle, 5-story donjon - height: 31.5 m

Himeji is most famous for its Castle, also called Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle) due to its white outer walls. Himeji Castle was originally built in 1346 by Akamatsu Sadanori as a fortification against local shoguns. When emperor Nobunaga Oda took control of the Harima district in 1577, he placed Hideyoshi in control of the castle and Lord Ikeda Terumasa fortified Himeji for eight years, starting 1601.

大阪城 Osaka Castle

flatland castle, 8-story donjon

Construction begun in 1583 at the former site of Honganji Temple under Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Fascinated with gold, he had it applied to furniture, weapons, armor, and the exterior of the Main Tower. After his former chief retainer Ieyasu Tokugawa became shogun, he ruined the Toyotomi family and destroyed Osaka Castle in the Summer War of 1615 before rebuilding it under shogun control.

岡山城 Okayama Castle

hilltop castle, 6-story donjon

Okayama castle construction started in 1573 with Ukita Naoie and completed in 1597 under his son Hideie. After the Battle of Sekigahara, Kobayakawa Hideaki received the castle. When he died two years later, another grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Ikeda Tadatsugu became the new lord of the castle.

広島城 Hiroshima Castle

flatland castle, 5-story donjon

Hiroshima Castle was build by Terumoto Mori near the Ota River delta and completed in 1589 as the largest castle in western Japan. After defeat in the battle at Sekigahara (1600), the Mori family lost it and it went through various owners thereafter. Destroyed in 1945, it has been rebuild in 1958

松江城 Matsue Castle, Shimane

hilltop castle, 6-story donjon height: 30 m

Built in Momoyama style over 5 years by Yoshiharu Horio, daimyo of the Izumo region, Matsue castle was completed in 1622. When the grandson of Ieyasu Tokugawa, Naomasa Matsudaira became Lord of the castle, the Matsudeira clan owned it for 10 generations over a period of 234 years.

松本城 Matsumoto Castle

flatland castle, 6-story donjon

Initially named Fukashi castle, it was renamed Matsumoto castle after Sadayoshi Ogasawara recaptured it in 1582. When Lord Ogasawara followed Ieyasu Togugawa moving to Shimoosa in Kanto, Matsumoto castle was assigned to Kazumasa Ishikawa, who continued to fortify the castle and town with his son.

名古屋城 Nagoya Castle

flatland castle, 8-story donjon

With its two eye-catching 44KG golden dolphins, Nagoya castle is visible from far. Although a flatland castle, its is build on heavy foundations with strong ramparts protecting nearby Hommaru palace. Construction completed in 1612 and the castle has been held by the Owari clan ever since.

犬山城 Inuyama Castle, Aichi

hilltop castle, 4-story donjon, height: 19m

One of the rare pre-Edo period castles, this is one of the oldest in its originally preserved state. It is overlooking the scenic landscape of the Kiso river, the natural border to Gifu prefecture. It is one of the most beautiful castles, designated as a national treasure.

館山城 Tateyama Castle, Chiba

hilltop castle, 4-story donjon

Like many others, this castle was built in the late 16th century by the local daimyo Satomi Yoshiyasu. Located on Shiroyama hill overlooking Tateyama bay, it's museum contains a rare Edo-period collection devoted to the Nanso Satomi Hakkenden (Legend of the Eight Dog Warriors) novel by Kyokutei Bakin.

松山城 Matsuyama Castle, Ehime

hilltop castle, 3-story donjon

Built on Katsuyama hill, it was constructed for 24 years starting in 1602. In 1635 it passed to the Matsudeira clan and stayed with them until the Meiji restauration. One of the biggest, multiple-wing castles, it is impressive in its scale. Accessible by ropeway and a chair lift, it is a easy destination on Shikoku island.

二条城 Nijo Castle, Kyoto

flatland castle, Honmaru and Ninomaru Palace

Built by the first Togugawa Shogun Ieyasu, construction begun in 1603. As one of the official residencies for a Shogun, security measures included the Nightingale floors, which have been designed to make alarming creaking noise when walked upon. The original Donjon was destroyed by fire in 1750, however Nijo castle, built from Japanese Cypress, became world heritage site in 1994.

川之江城 Kawanoe Castle, Mishima, Shikoku

hilltop castle, 3-story donjon

The original built date of Kawanoe Castle is unknown, said to be somewhere around 1337. The founder was Yoshimasa Dohi, a Samurai belonging to the Kohno Clan. In the 16th century it fell to ruins, only the foundations and castle walls remained. Todays castle is a replica, constructed 1986.

小田原城 Odawara Castle, Kanagawa

hilltop castle, 3-story donjon

During the Sengoku period, Odawara became the power centre for the Hojo clan. Originating from Izu, the family successively conquered its northen neighbors. Reaching its largest extent after five generations, their power became a threat to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, strongest warlord in Japan at the time. The conflict resulted in the famous Odawara siege of 1590. Todays castle is a replica, constructed 1960.