Japanese castles are ancient fortresses, usually built in wood and stone, designed to defend cities from possible enemy attacks. Often found atop hills close to rivers and completely incorporated into the surrounding landscape, these castles are beautiful remains of the feudal ages that once dominated Japan. Most of these buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt after years of war and adverse weather conditions, but they still provide a glimpse into the history of Japan, and a gorgeous view to admire. These are some of the prettiest in the country:
1. Himeji Castle [Hyogo Prefecture]
Credit: PixabayHimeji is often regarded as Japan’s most beautiful castle, largely due to its elegant, pristine white exterior. This is one of the few castles in Japan that have never been destroyed by war or fire, thus remaining intact since it was built four centuries ago. Himeji Castle, which is located on top of a hill on a bushy area, looks its best during the cherry blossom season, when the hundreds of flowering trees around it turn pink.
Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture 670-0012Access:By bus: take a local bus outside Himeji Station to the castle. Alternatively, you can walk all the way there from the train station (it takes around 20 minutes).Recommended period: Spring.Contact:Himeji CastleWithin Japan: 79-285-1146
2. Osaka Castle [Osaka Prefecture]
Credit: PixabayAt the time of its establishment, in the 16th Century, Osaka’s Castle was the biggest in Japan. Ever since its creation, it has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times; the castle that we see today is actually only 85 years old. The inside of the castle, which is open to the public, houses a museum about the history of the building and the period of time in which it was originally built. The castle and its tower are surrounded by a series of stone citadels, walls and gates, and a few beautiful gardens within the stunning Osaka Castle Park.
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002Access:By subway: a short walk from Tanimachi 4-chrome Station, on the Tanimachi and Chuo lines.Recommended period: Fall.Contact:Osaka CastleWithin Japan: 6-6941-3044
3. Hikone Castle [Shiga Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsHikone castle was built in the 17th century, after a couple of decades of laborious construction. The hilltop castle is a notorious architectural example of the Edo period, and it’s one of the four castles in Japan listed as national treasures. Hikone was never rebuilt nor renovated, making it a structure of high historical value. Most of the castle’s cultural importance resides in the variety of architectural styles found in its façade. Moreover, the Genkyuen Garden, located at the base of the feudal castle, is one of the most charming spots in central Japan.
Address: 1-1 Konkicho, Hikone, Shiga Prefecture 522-0061Access:By train: a 5-minute walk from Hikone Station.Recommended period: Spring.Contact:Hikone CastleWithin Japan: 749-22-2742
4. Inuyama Castle [Aichi Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsPerched atop a bushy hill, just 40 minutes from Nagoya City, Inuyama is one of Japan’s best-preserved castles and one of the most scenic ones. Even though it’s relatively small compared to other similar buildings, Inuyama stands out due to its beautiful, rocky appearance and its cultural significance. The top floor offers visitors the chance to observe and photograph the verdant valley and the Kiso River below.
Address: Kitakoken-65-2 Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture 484-0082Access:By train: a 15-minute walk from either Inuyama or Inuyama-Yuen stations.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Inuyama CastleWithin Japan: 568-61-1711
5. Hirosaki Castle [Aomori Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsBuilt in 1611, Hirosaki is a reconstructed three-story castle located within a spectacular park with almost 3,000 trees. The castle and park are popular sakura matsuri destinations in April and early May, attracting millions of tourists every year who come to witness the beautiful cherry blossom. Hirosaki comes to life in the winter months as well, during the Snow Lantern Festival, in which thousands of hand-crafted lanterns and snow sculptures are displayed at the park.
Address: 1 Shimo-shirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori 036-835Access:By bus: take a bus from JR Hirosaki Station and get off at Shiyakusho-mae.Recommended period: Spring and Winter.Contact:Hirosaki CastleWithin Japan: 172-33-8739by Virginia Gonzalez