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RaymondW's Visited Castles


Castle Date Comment
Oko Castle
Omi Hachiman Castle Two stars for the castle ruins, and three stars for the castle town below.
Oohara Castle
Oomizo Castle
Ori Castle I went to this castle ruin with my wife today. It is certainly a very worthwhile mountaintop castle ruin to visit with plenty of stone walls to be seen. Around the Main Bailey and Second Bailey, some of the stones have already rolled down the hill, and just as you are about to reach the Second Bailey, the stone walls there look like they are about to collapse and land on top of you. Scattered around the baileys at the top of the mountain are plenty of semi-quarried stones, and many more than I had expected. Not shown here on JCastle is the Higashi Toride Ruin, an outlying fortification that protected the eastern flank of the baileys at the bottom of the mountain. Ori Castle Ruin is an easy five minutes walk from the Yamanoda Bus Stop, which is just 20 minutes from Mizunami Station. There aren't many buses running, just one every hour. As mentioned on the Ori Castle webpage here, there are plenty of signs warning of Mamushi, a poisonous snake. We counted at least five signs, and that is more than I have seen at any other castle ruins that I have been to. Lucky for us, we did not come across any snakes.
Osaka Castle
Oyama Castle This is a pretty decent castle to visit for a side trip from Shizuoka City. Catch the bus from No.14 bus stop in front of Shizuoka Station and get off at the Yoshida High School Stop. You can see the castle from the bus stop, and it's around 400 metres away. This is a nice little castle to visit mainly for its typical Takeda-style layout with its crescent shaped moats, a curved umadashi, and the triple moat. The "fake" castle keep is on par with the ones at Gifu and Hamamatsu in terms of what a concrete reconstructed one looks like (both inside and outside). However, as mentioned by Eric on his website already, this castle has a pretty decent museum for its size with around 7 to 8 suits of armour, weapons, paintings, and a model of the earthworks of the original Oyama Castle. You can take photos inside the museum. Including taking the bus to and from the castle, allow yourself around 3 hours if you want to visit this castle from Shizuoka Station.
Ozu Castle I went to this castle on the same day that I visited Uwajima Castle in mid-August. Ozu Castle is sited on a small hill overlooking the Hiji River. As other JCastle users have mentioned below, it is an easy 2km walk from the JR station and a very good one to visit. Ozu Castle keep is reconstructed from wood, but unlike other reconstructions, it sourced most of its wood from the local region. When I asked the castle staff about the materials used in the reconstruction, he mentioned that they wanted to rebuild the keep using Hinoki (Japanese Cyprus), but because that was too expensive the builders decided to go with mostly Matsu (Pine) and Tsuga (Japanese Hemlock). The latter was used for the columns. Apart from the reconstructed keep, Ozu Castle has four original yaguras (turrets). Two of them, the Daidokoro Yagura and the Kouran Yagura are connected to the castle keep located in the Honmaru (Main Bailey). At one stage, the whole of the Honmaru was ringed by a tamon yagura called the Honmaru Mawari Yagura. The other two original yaguras are the Owata Yagura located down the hill and on the bank of the Hiji River (about 200 metres from the road bridge), and the Sannomaru Minami Sumi Yagura (Third Bailey South Sumi Yagura), located near Ozu High School, around a 5 minute walk from the castle keep. Below the Sannomaru Minami Sumi Yagura are some tennis courts, which used to be part of a water moat protecting the eastern side of the Third Bailey during the Edo Period. This is a well signposted castle with many baileys, structures, and sites of structures that existed in the Edo Period clearly explained. Some of the signs are also bilingual in Japanese (more detailed) and English (basic details). This castle is definitely worthy of a four star rating.
Saga Castle As Kyushu Dan has mentioned below, there aren't as many stone walls to see here as at other castle sites, but it has enough including the tenshudai (stone foundation of the castle keep). However, the real attraction at this site is the carefully reconstructed palace using four different kinds of wood. The columns are Japanese Cyprus (Hinoki) and the horizontal roof beams are pine (Matsu). Cedar and zelkova were used, too. The museum located in the reconstructed palace is very well organized with free audio-guides in English and many major signs included an English section. Actually, the whole place is free, but they do have a donation box out. I put in 1,000yen as most castle sites would charge at least 300 to 400 yen plus maybe another 500 yen for the audio guide. They have done a wonderful job of rebuilding a significant portion of the palace from the Edo Period. No worries about supporting castle sites that actually preserve and rebuild structures using traditional materials. There is one section of the palace that is original. The Gozanoma was built in 1838. It was moved somewhere else and then moved back to be part of the restored palace, so the wood there is obviously darker and older-looking. The palace is not as flashy as Kumamoto Castle's Honmaru Palace, but it is much bigger than the reconstructed one at Sasayama Castle and the original one at Kakegawa Castle. This is a great site to visit, and the staff is very helpful and friendly. A couple of them can speak English as well. A huge thumbs up for this site, and I reckon most castle fans would enjoy Saga Castle. Three stars for the site and a very good experience with the museum, the organization with plenty of English support, and the helpful and friendly staff.
Sakamoto Castle
Sakura Castle This castle has lots of massive and deep moats with earthen walls. The deep moats remind me of the ones at Suwahara Castle. There is nothing left at Sakura Castle now except for the moats, earthen walls, and some stone stairs in the honmaru. The site is quite well signposted. The 100 Meijo Stamp can be found in a tiny little shed near one of the carparks.
Sasayama Castle
Sendai Castle
Shimabara Castle
Shimotsui Castle
Shoryuji Castle
Sugaya Yakata
Sugiyama Castle
Sumoto Castle
Sunomata Castle
Sunpu Castle Parts of two of the original three sets of concentric water moats remain, with the middle water moat surrounding the Ninonmaru (Second Bailey) being completely intact. The city has reconstructed the Higashi Gomon (East Gate) and the Tatsumi Yagura (Tatsumi Turret) from Japanese Cyprus. Inside the Higashi Gomon is a museum which includes some nice models of the castle keep, and a big diorama of how the castle and its town looked like during the Edo Period as well as information about the merchant town that grew up around the castle. There are also three nice drawings of and explanations about Azuchi Castle Keep, Osaka (Toyotomi's Black) Castle Keep, and Sunpu's Castle Keep side-by-side, so you can really compare the differences in style and design. Sunpu Castle had a keep, which burnt down in 1635 and was not rebuilt. The keep looked like it had five storeys on the outside with five sets of gable roofs, but internally it actually had seven floors. It was a mainly white castle keep with a green roof on the top storey and a section on one of the lower floors that looks in the drawing similar in design to the Tsukimi (Moon-Viewing) Tower part of Matsumoto Castle. The Tatsumi Yagura contains information about the reconstruction of the East Gate and the Tatsumi Turret. The ruins of the gates into the Ninomaru have survived minus the wooden gates. However, most of the Honmaru (Main Bailey) is now just a park with remnants of the innermost water moat left. Sunpu Castle is certainly a good place to visit to find out some information about the Tokugawa Clan as this was the castle where Ieyasu retired to and ranks second in importance after Edo Castle during the early part of the Edo Period. For this castle fan, it rates no higher than 2 stars because there just aren't enough ruins left, and the fact that the entire Honmaru is now a park with no remains of the former palace or castle keep.
Suwahara Castle For fans of earlier and more primitive yamashiros (mountaintop castles) which predates the larger Fushimi-Momoyama and Edo Period castles with tons of stone walls and massive castle keeps, this castle ruin is a very good one to visit. The castle designer made excellent use of the natural terrain. It has some of the deepest dry moats that I have seen at a yamashiro. The deepest ones, No.15 and No.16 on the eastern side are 60 metres from the bottom of the moat to the rim of the Honmaru (Main Bailey), and the ones on the western and southern sides are between 13 and 15 metres deep. These dry moats, in total 17, ring the whole castle with around two-thirds of them on the western and southern sides of the castle ruin. For fans of the Takeda Clan, and people who like to do a little bushwalking, this is a fine ruin to visit and easily be reached from JR Kanaya Station (2 to 3 trains an hour on weekends) in around 20 minutes walking uphill. I went with my girlfriend, and we were both impressed with its design. We also got lucky with the fine weather and could clearly see Mt. Fuji in the distance from one corner of the Honmaru overlooking the No.15 and No.16 moats. The current archaeological digging has moved on from the Ninomaru (Second Bailey), as shown in one of the photos on this website, to an area on the opposite side of the No.4 moat between the massive Northern Umadashi and the No.11 moat and area of the former stables. For me, I give this castle ruin two stars mainly for its impressive dry moats, the superb view of Mt. Fuji, its wooded surroundings, and the nearby old Tokaido (Tokai Road). I can see how for other castle fans, who prefer to see more fortified stone and wooden structures, would rate this castle ruin at 1 star or less.
Takamatsu Castle
Takaoka Castle
Takasaki Castle This castle has been mostly built over with government buildings. Some of the water moats, earthen ramparts (in some places 4 to 5 metres high), stone walls, and two original structures remain. The only remaining yagura, moved from its original location, is closed to the public. There isn't that much to see here, but in early November with some the tree leaves turning into their fiery autumnal hues, the castle park is fairly pretty and worth a detour if one is in the area visiting other castles. Of course, for Ii Naomasa fans, this is one of his pre-Hikone castles. Like at Hikone Castle, there are some significant earthen ramparts, but there is very little of the castle left to properly compare it with Hikone Castle. For me, this is only a one-star site. It could rate a little higher if they open up the yagura to the public.
Takashima Castle This castle is around 15 minutes walk from JR Kami-Suwa Station. If you want to get the classic photo shot of this castle with the castle keep in the background and the bridge and moat in the foreground, it is best to go in the morning. I got there in the arvo, so for that castle shot, you are shooting directly into the sun after midday. The reconstructed castle keep (rebuilt in 1970) is okay on the outside, but the museum inside and the architecture inside leaves a lot to be desired. The staff is pretty helpful, and there is a pamphlet available in English. The castle is opened from 9 to 5:30 (April - September) and 9 to 4:30 (October-March). Entry is 300yen.
Takatenjin Castle This was the first of three castle visits this weekend. As the website administrator have already mentioned, there isn't much to see here at this castle ruin in terms of stone walls, fortifications, and other remaining structures. What remains at this castle site are some dry moats, ruins of some baileys, and some earthen walls. The Honmaru (Main Bailey), Ninomaru (Second Bailey), Sannomaru (Third Bailey) and the Baba Bailey are well kept and clear of undergrowth or bamboo which often cover the ruins of baileys found at other yamashiro ruins (mountaintop castles) from the Sengoku Period. The Nishimaru (West Bailey) is now the site for a shrine. Some of the routes throughout the castle are closed because of fallen trees, which have not been cleared. Don't know when they will re-open some of the paths at this place. The trees must have been brought down in some typhoons (not recently) or typhoon-like conditions (recently?). It takes around 15 minutes walk from the bus stop to the trailhead at the base of the Otemon (Ote Gate). If you like taking photos and checking out all the features of this castle ruin, it will take around 1.5 to 2 hours to do this castle ruin properly. For me, this is a solid one-star castle ruin to visit, as long as you treat it as more of a bushwalk with some features of a castle ruin thrown in. I can see how other castle fans may rate this less, but (military) history buffs or Takeda fans will probably enjoy this site more.
Takatori Castle See my earlier comment below. I have given this castle three stars because it only has ishigaki and ruins left. However, if you could visualise what the castle looked like in its day by just looking at all the stone walls left, it would be a four-star castle site for you. Either way, this is a wonderful castle site.
Takatsuki Castle
Takeda Castle This castle is by far the most impressive castle ruin site that I have been to in Japan. The views from the top are spectacular and with the ishigaki layered in steps a la Machu Picchu-style, this mountaintop castle is definitely worth the long trip to remote northern Hyogo Prefecture. I took a series of JR trains, taking over 3.5 hours one-way to get there. There is a little tourist info office hidden in the JR Takeda Station. Drop in and see the model of the castle. It will give you a better appreciation of the castle layout when you get to the top. If you are in reasonable shape, it will take you less than 30 minutes to get to the top from the station. When you exit the station, go left, walk about 50 metres, go under the train tracks along something that looks like a drainage ditch under the train lines, turn left at the end, walk about 50 metres, and you will easily see the sign for the trailhead up to the castle. From there, the sign says that it is only 800m to the castle. If you are collecting the 100 Meijo Stamp for Takeda Castle, you can get it in the station. Also, there are some pretty good maps you can pick up at the tourist info office for free. According to the rating scale on this website, this site should probably only get two stars because it is a ruin without any reconstructions or original structures left. However, the view from the top, and the fact that the local government has cleared the area surrounding the castle site of vegetation has made this a great castle ruin to visit earning it four-stars for the views, location, and ishigaki.
Takenaka Jinya
Tamaru Castle I'm glad that you have added this little known gem of a castle ruin on your website. Your photos are great and really do justice to how much there is left at this ruin. Matsusaka Castle (one of the two 100 meijos in Mie) has more stone walls and a museum on site, but Tamaru Castle has more and a variety of defensive features left (stone walls, dry moats, water moats, earthen walls, one original gate.) For me, with the exception of when the autumn leaves are at their peak in early December at Matsusaka Castle, Tamaru Castle is the better one to visit.
Tanabe Castle
Tanaka Castle This was the second castle in Shizuoka visited this weekend. There isn't much left of this rare circular flatland castle ruin. Most of it has been built over by schools and houses. The photos shown on this website are of original buildings from the castle and castle town preserved at a nearby castle park. The two-storey tower is an original fortification from the Honmaru (Main Bailey), as is the footman's guardhouse, granary and a tea house. However, if you pick up a map from the volunteer guide at Tanaka Castle Park, you will find directions to some of the few remaining ruins of the castle left, mostly located around the local primary school. There is a section of the Sannomaru (Third Bailey) Water Moat preserved along with a section of earthen wall. There is part of the Ninomaru (Second Bailey) Water Moat left as well as part of a dry moat from one of the Umadashi. The volunteer guide was very helpful in providing a brief history of the castle as well as answering questions. He told us that Tanaka Castle is only one of two castles in Japan that was built with circular concentric moats as most Rinkakushiki (castles with concentric moats) like Nijo Castle have square or rectangular moats. Also, he pointed out two of the nearby yamashiro ruins (mountaintop castles) in the area: Asahiyama Castle (which can be seen on a little hill a few kilometers away) and Hanagura Castle. On leaving the castle park, he waved us to stop and gave us two English pamphlets about Tanaka Castle. Unlike some experiences in Japan, this guide was not overwhelmed by having a foreigner visit the local historical site. He spoke in simpler and slower Japanese, so I could follow most of his explanation. I didn't need much help from my girlfriend in translating what he said. Like other volunteer guides at other castle sites like Kakegawa Castle and Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka, this man was professional, knowledgeable, and courteous. Top marks for volunteer guides in Shizuoka. One star for the original buildings found at the castle park, a half-star for the very few remnants left of this castle ruin, and top marks for the volunteer guide here. Overall, one star for this castle ruin and buildings in the castle park, but on the day, I certainly had a very good three-star experience thanks to the volunteer guide.
Tanba Kameyama Castle
Tatsuno Castle I went to this castle with some fellow castle fans recently. Scott's recommendation about heading up the mountain (Mt. Keirou) behind the reconstructed Tatsuno Castle palace to see Old Tatsuno Castle is spot on. There are plenty of baileys to be seen. Some of them still have very clearly delineated earthen walls surrounding the bailey, particularly a couple of baileys located below the Ninomaru on the eastern side of the castle. A few of baileys still have sections of its stone walls mostly intact, but most of the bailey's stone walls have long since disintegrated and rolled the hillside as a result of neglect since the it was decommissioned in 1871. On the western side of the castle, there are some wells to be seen, more stone wall ruins, and some clearly terraced baileys that had at one point in time had samurai homes built on them. I missed going up to the Old Tatsuno Castle on Mt Keirou back in 2009 and am glad that I did it on a re-visit last weekend. I second the recommendation on taking the trail up to see the old castle ruin. It has a lot more ruins to be seen compared to other yamajiros (mountaintop castles) that I have been to. If you take in Tatsuno Castle Ruin, the museum, and Old Tatsuno Castle Ruin up on Mt. Keirou, give yourself a good three hours to enjoy them once you are at Tatsuno Castle Ruin.
Tobayama Castle
Tokushima Castle
Tottori Castle
Toyama Castle
Tsu Castle After visiting Matsuzaka Castle and Tamaru Castle, this castle was a bit of let down. Unlike the other two castle ruins in the area, all the outer baileys of this castle site have been built over. The city hall is where the Ninomaru used to be, a NTT building is where the Yozoukan used to be, and the inner dry moat (uchibori) is filled in and now a park. Only the honmaru is left. There is one reconstructed turret (Ushitora Yagura) with plenty of the honmaru ishigaki still around with a water moat on the north and west side. There is a nice statue of Takatora Todo, the great castle architect, in the middle of the honmaru near the tenshudai. The sign about Todo is in English and Japanese. This castle ruin is about 15 minutes walk from the Kintetsu Shintsumachi Station. As it has a reconstructed turret and a statue of Todo, this castle site just made a two-star rating. If you are running short on time in Mie, visit Matsuzaka Castle and Tamura Castle before Tsu Castle.
Tsumagi Castle
Tsutsujigasaki Palace I went to this place first before going to Kofu Castle. I can see why Takeda fans like this place. The museum is pretty cool with lots of Takeda artifacts including some of their battle flags including an old Furikazan banner, war fan, armour, and weapons. There are also some paintings with one featuring Takeda Shingen and his 24 generals. There was also one display featuring some Uesugi Kenshin stuff as well. Entry to the museum is 300yen and no photography is allowed. To get to this site, take the bus from Kofu Station. Cost 180yen. One star for the ruins and a second star for the museum.
Tsuyama Castle
Ueda Castle
Urado Castle
Uwajima Castle I went to this castle in mid-August and was pleasantly surprised by how much there is to see at this original castle. The only original structures left at Uwajima Castle are the castle keep, the Yamazato Weapons Storehouse, the Noburitachi Gate, and the Hanro Koorishi Bukenagaya Gate, but it has many more stone walls (ishigaki) than are shown in most books and magazines. Most castle publications tend to show just the castle keep, the Noburitachi Gate, and some of the main bailey's stone walls. However, there are also extensive ishigaki around the Ido Bailey, Nagato Bailey, Third Bailey, Toubei Bailey, Daiuemon Bailey, and Shikibu Bailey. The latter two baileys along with the Obi Bailey on the southwestern side of the castle complex are off-limits to visitors as the stone walls are being restored. The Noburitachi Gate is a yakuinmon-style gate and claims to be biggest and oldest one in Japan, built during the Keicho Period (1596-1615). This is a fabulous original castle to visit. My wife and I took 2.5 hours to get around to all the baileys. If you don't take a lot of photos, it is possible to do the whole site in around 2 hours. This is definitely a solid 4-star castle site because it has an original castle keep, three original structures, and lots of well preserved stone walls.
Wakayama Castle The reconstructed castle keep is fairly average and the museum is pretty decent. The four stars is mainly for its ishigaki, historical importance, and gardens.
Yamanaka Castle I went to this castle today. This castle is little bit hard to get to by public transport if you throw in all the traffic jams on the Coming-of-Age long weekend in January. The bus back to Mishima was late by over 30 minutes, and once it came, it took around 45 minutes to get back to JR Mishima Station. Still, if you are a yamashiro (mountaintop castle) fan and want to see some very well preserved moats and earthworks, then this is one castle ruin that you should not miss. There are all kinds of dry moats, some spanned by wooden bridges. The whole site is very well kept and free. From the Nishinomaru (Western Bailey) and the Daizaki Outer Bailey, one has a very fine view of the Mt. Fuji and nearby mountains on a fine day. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy today, so Mt. Fuji was shrouded in cloud. The siege and battle was over quite quickly. According to "Battles in Shizuoka Which Changed Japan", Toyotomi had 67,800 troops vs Hojo's 4,000 to 5,000 defenders. With odds of at least 15 to 1, it is not surprising that the castle fell so quickly. It took me 2.5 hours to do this site quickly, but I reckon you could spend a good half day here if you bring along a packed lunch to enjoy while admiring the panoramic views from some of the baileys. Take the bus from the No.5 bus stop outside JR Mishima Station and catch the one with Hakone as its final destination. Get off at the Yamanaka Castle Ruin Stop. A one-way ticket cost 590yen and takes around 30 minutes if there are no traffic jams. The 100 Meijo stamp is in the little shop / restaurant opposite the bus stop when you get off. For me, this is a very good 2.5 stars because it is one of the few castle ruins which showcase so clearly the different types of dry moats used by Sengoku Period yamashiros.
Yamato Koriyama Castle There aren't many reconstructed fortifications at this castle ruin site, but the ishigaki, dry and water moats are pretty nice. The castle is also concentrically ringed by moats. Unfortunately, the Kintetsu train line runs right through one of the baileys of this castle ruin. Access is very easy from Kintetsu Koriyama Station, almost an hour by train from Kyoto Station if you take the ones with limited stops. There are also lots of cherry trees here, so it will be quite pretty during cherry blossom season.
Yatsushiro Castle
Yodo Castle
Yoshida Castle This is not a bad little castle to visit with plenty of stone walls to see, particularly around the honmaru and some of the moats have been preserved. I went yesterday after going to Okazaki Castle and just missed out on being able to suss out the inside of the reconstructed turret. It was opened from 10:00 - 3:00. There was a sign hanging on the door saying that it will be opened again on 11th / 18th / 19th / 23th / 25th September.
Yuzuki Castle This is an interesting little fortified settlement to visit. The two reconstructed samurai residences are pretty interesting. One of them is even air-conditioned, so it was a nice respite from the heat on the 36C day that I visited this place with my wife. The local guide inside the small museum was a talkative chap who was very happy to provide a wealth of information about the site. There is a little tunnel excavated into one section of the earthen ramparts. Once inside, you can see a cross-section of the rampart with explanations about its development and when certain layers of earth / stones were added. Yuzuki is an easy site to get to by using the local trams in Matsuyama. Get a 400yen day pass if you are going to use the trams at least three times a day. It will save you money and time fumbling for change. Each single journey costs 150yen. You can get the pass at the tiny tourist info counter located in the souvenir shop at JR Matsuyama Station.
Zeze Castle The local council workers have just cut the grass and cleared the weeds at Zeze Castle Ruin, so everything is tidier than in the photos shown. Also, I have been to this castle ruin a number of times, and the best time to go is during the cherry blossoms.
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