RaymondW's Visited Castles


Castle Date Comment
Akashi Castle I finally feel that I have done Akashi Castle properly after four visits. It was third time lucky last month before I was able to get inside one of the original yaguras (turrets). Tatsumi Yagura is open to the public on weekends in April, June, and October. I had to come back today to get inside Hitsujisaru Yagura, which is open to the public on weekends in March, May, September, and November. The volunteers who work there told us the other months are either too cold or hot to keep the turrets open. Given they sit outside the turrets, that is completely understandable. Inside the Hitsujisaru Yagura is a model of Akashi Castle and its surrounding castle town during the Edo Period. From the front as seen from JR Akashi Station, both Tatsumi Yagura and Hitsujisaru Yagura look roughly about the same size, but Hitsujisaru Yagura is actually a little larger and wider if seen from its north-south profile. It is roughly 1.5 times wider according to the volunteer guide at the Tatsumi Yagura last month. The volunteer guide today at the Hitsujisaru Yagura told us that Akashi Castle originally had 20 yaguras with four three-storey yaguras. According to one of the castle books that I have, some of these yaguras were built with materials taken from other castles such Funage Castle (Tatsumi Yagura), Fushimi Castle (Hitsujisaru Yagura), Takasago Castle, and Edayoshi Castle. There is also a Yakuimon-style gate from Fushimi Castle, which was first relocated to Akashi Castle before it was moved to Geshouji Temple in 1874. Having been inside both the original yaguras now, which are simple mini-museums with exhibits of original tiles (in the Hitsujisaru Yagura), explanations about the history of the castle (in both yaguras), and some replica castle maps, this castle site certainly deserves a solid 3.5 stars. If the upper floors of the yaguras were open to the public and there was an English pamphlet available (for purchase), then this could be bumped up to a four star site. Yes, from the train station, it does not look that special, but it does have lots of impressive stone walls, moats, and two original yaguras. Both the yaguras are constructed mainly from pine, and the volunteer guides are friendly and knowledgeable.
Aki Castle
Ako Castle I went to this castle in early March. It has been around two years since my last visit. More walls have been reconstructed. The local government is quite serious about restoring this castle with current building work focusing on fully reconstructing the Ninomaru Gardens. With work in progress, a visitor to the Ninomaru (Second Bailey) area can see a clear cross-section of how ishigaki (a Japanese stone wall) is constructed. It wasn't the best day for taking piccies, but it was nice to walk around this quiet castle ruin. Thank goodness I finished my visit before two busloads of tourists arrived at the site.
Akutagawasan Castle
Amagasaki Castle There are some reconstructed walls at this castle ruin site, but there was no sign explaining the historical significance of the site. Also, too much of the site is fenced off and inaccessible. I would not recommend castle fans to visit this site unless you happen to be in Amagasaki. Zero stars for this site.
Arato Castle
Ashikagashi Yakata For a Top 100 castle site, this is a huge disappointment. While the earthen ramparts and water moat enclosing the main bailey of this site remain intact with four extant gates (built or rebuilt in the15th to 16th century) make this a decent fortified ruin to visit, it should *not* be rated as a Top 100 castle. Instead, it would have been more appropriately placed on the Top 100 temple list. I have been to other similar castle ruins with roughly the equivalent amount of ruins, and they are not inscribed in the Top 100 castle list. There is very little that actually relates to the original fortified Ashigakashi Residence. Instead, it is more about Kongozanbanna Temple, and the numerous historic buildings related to this temple complex found on the grounds. There just isn't enough castle-related features like a castle / local history museum, extant or restored fortifications, a reconstructed palace or widespread and signposted ruins (not just the main bailey) to merit this site being in the Top 100 castle. Other more extensive castle ruins such as Naegi Castle or Tamaru Castle, which are not listed in the Top 100 castle list, have so much more to see and are much better signposted for castle-related features than Ashikagashi Yakata.
Azuchi Castle I went to Azuchi Castle Ruin first before making it over to Kannonji Castle Ruin on the last weekend of February. This is my fourth visit to this castle ruin, so I decided just to ride around the base of the hill and suss out the parts that I have not seen nor are regularly visited. If you are going to rent a bicycle, ride around the area a little, and you will see some of the canals lined with ishigaki created in the days of Oda Nobunaga. Also, go past the big Azuchi Castle sign on the main road heading towards Hikone. First, you will see the remnants of some kind of water moat (more like a pond now) and a bit of ishigaki. Go a bit further, and you will see an open space and a set of steps leading into the bush. Go up the steps, and you will find some ishigaki of some of the lower eastern baileys. They are heavily overgrown with bamboo and other trees.
Bitchu Matsuyama Castle I went to this castle in the afternoon after going to Kinojo Castle earlier in the day. You can get in both Kinojo and Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle in one day, but you will have to either have a folding bike or use the taxi. Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle is a very nice castle to visit. It's remote location and a lack of visitor means that you can really enjoy this little original castle in peace and quiet. When I went in March, part of the back section was still closed and so was the trail up to the Ohmatsu Castle Ruin a further 500m or so up the trail.
Bitchu Takamatsu Castle
Chiba Castle If I weren't passing through Chiba City on my way back to Tokyo from Sakura Castle, I would not have bothered with this castle site. It is quite disappointing. Having sussed out what others have said, I was mentally prepared for a fake concrete reconstruction where that was no such castle keep in its day. However, they could have had a much better museum inside this fairly big reconstructed castle keep. There was hardly anything in the castle museum about its design and history. No wonder it cost only 60 yen to get in. This is barely a one-star castle site for me.
Echizen Ohno Castle I visited this castle in mid-August. This castle exceeded my expectations. Prior to going, I had just expected a typical reconstructed concrete castle keep with very little to see in Echizen-Ono. While the castle is a concrete construction, the museum within was fairly informative about the castle and the surrounding castle town's history. As mentioned by another J Castle user below, the view from top of the castle is superb with a 360 degree view of all the surrounding mountains including several Top 100 mountains in Japan. The ishigaki (stone wall) foundation on which the castle was built is quite extensive for a medium-sized castle, actually bigger than its more highly rated Fukui cousin, Maruoka Castle. Some of the ishigaki around the main bailey have also been preserved. Unfortunately, there are no other original structures left, but two gates have been reconstructed, one at the bottom of the hill and the other one on the southern side of the Honmaru near a small stone-lined pond. There are a couple of samurai residences at the base of the hill, and this added to the experience of visiting Echizen-Ono Castle. My wife and I only had time to visit one of them, the Uchiyama Residence, located in the Third Bailey, which has been mostly built over. I have only been to a handful of samurai residences, but this is the best one that we have seen so far. Within the walled compound, there are two original houses, a garden, and three storehouses. The original wooden tiles of the Old House have been replaced by glazed tiles, but apart from that, it pretty much feels like it was from the late Edo Period / early Meiji Period. It was definitely the property of a rich and high ranking samurai. Entry to the Uchiyama Residence is only 200yen. There is also a temple quarter in this castle town for those interesting in sussing out temples. My wife and I went to Echizen-Ono by train. There are only a few trains a day from JR Fukui Station, so plan accordingly if you are going to go there using public transport. Buses are also another possibility to get to Echizen-Ono, but I never considered them because we used JR Seishun-18 tickets for this trip.
Edo Castle
Fukuchiyama Castle I finally made it inside this castle. My first visit here, a couple of years ago, was on a day when it was closed. Visitors beware. This castle is closed on Tuesdays or if the Tuesday is a public holiday, it will open and then close on the following day. The staff was pretty stoked when they found that a foreigner came all the way up to northern Kyoto to visit their reconstructed castle. This is quite a nice castle to visit with an okay museum. Of course, a working knowledge of Japanese is a must if you want to understand the displays. No photography is allowed inside the museum except for one small tatami room where you may put on the fake samurai helmets there. There were three helmets when I went. Entry into the castle museum cost 210yen.
Fukui Castle If you are passing through Fukui City and like ishigaki, this is one castle ruin worth visiting. The ishigaki surrounding the honmaru and its water moat are intact. As mentioned below by Furinkazan, the local authorities have also rebuilt a wooden bridge. As I was taking photos of the stone walls, one of the police officers who patrolled the area (the City Police Headquarters and the Prefectural Office are now in the original honmaru), gave me a brochure about the castle. Pretty cool stuff. The site is a mere five minutes from the JR Fukui Station. This site is worth a 2-star for its ishigaki and the reconstructed bridge.
Fukuoka Castle Prior to the construction of Fukuoka Castle, there was another castle nearby. Najima Castle, which was built by Kobayakawa Takakage in 1587, was about 5km away from Fukuoka Castle. However, the terrain restricted the expansion of the Najima Castle, so Kuroda Yoshitaka and his son, Kuroda Nagamasa, relocated to a new location and built Fukuoka Castle over a seven-period, starting in 1601. This was one of the largest castles built in the early Edo Period. It covered 2.46 million square metres and had 47 yaguras (turrets). According to one sign at the castle site, the experts still could not decide if a castle keep was actually built, but based on the size of the stone foundation, they estimated that it had a five-storey main castle tower with other lesser castle towers attached to form a multi-towered castle keep. This castle ruin has a couple of original yaguras left: the Tamon Yagura in the Minaminomaru (Southern Bailey) and the Kinen Yagura (Prayer Turret), located on the northeastern corner of the Honmaru (Main Bailey). There is also one original Honmaru gate, the Omote-Gomon, which was moved to Sofuji Temple in 1918 and is now the Sofuji Sanmon Gate. One of Najima Castle's original gates, a side gate, can also be found at Fukuoka Castle. It is a very easy castle site to visit as it is just a short subway ride from Hakata Station to Ohori-koen Station, which is just a few hundred metres from the restored Shimonohashi Otemon (damaged in a fire in 2000.) For castle fans who want to get their 100 Meijo Stamp, you will have to go to the Korokan. Entry is free, and it is a museum about a diplomatic embassy between China and Japan. The Korokan stood near Hakata Bay from the second half of the 7th century until the 11th century. Also, if you are interested in learning more about the two Mongol Invasions of Japan in the 13th century, there is the small but interesting Museum of Mongol Invasions near Maidashikyudaibyoinmae Station on the subway. It is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, but if you call ahead and make an appointment, they can open up the museum for you on a weekday. Since my previous visit to Fukuoka Castle in 2008, the local authorities have put up some new signs giving more detailed information about the castle and its history. Combined with the Korokan, this castle site is worth three stars as it has some original structures and good detailed signs in four languages including English.
Fukuyama Castle Ron S. is spot on the money about how if they had moved the JR train line further back, this castle would have seemed to be like a smaller version of Himeji Castle, being quite impressive on its little solitary hill. Of course, putting some thought into make the interior better and more authentic-looking wouldn't go astray either. I visited this castle again as part of a three-day to visit mainly a few castles in Hiroshima Prefecture early last week. This castle site looks great from the outside with two authentic structures left. I decided not to go inside the castle keep this time. Got better things to do.
Fushimi Castle I gave it two stars based on its appearance from the outside. You cannot go inside as it is closed and has not been opened the few times that I have been there. As a reconstructed castle keep, it is no worse and certainly better looking than some others. Of course, if you factor in authenticity and historical location, then it is only a one star castle.
Futamata Castle It takes around 50 minutes from Kakegawa Station to Futamata Honmachi Station on a one-carriage train on a little local non-JR train line. The castle ruin is around a 10 minute walk from the train station. Only three of the baileys, Honmaru (Main Bailey), Ninomaru (Second Bailey), and Kita Kuruwa (Northern Bailey) are easily accessible, signposted, and well-kept. Around the Honmaru and Ninomaru, ishigaki (stone walls) remain as well as the stone base of the castle keep. The Kurayashiki Bailey, can clearly be seen across the dry moat from the Ninomaru, but I decided not to venture inside as it was seriously overgrown, and there were signs up warning about the presence of poisonous snakes. By not going into the Kurayashiki Bailey, I also missed the Minami Kuruwa (Southern Bailey) linked to and located below the Kurayashiki Bailey. Some of the smaller baileys located west and below the Honmaru can clearly be seen on the path down to the Tenryu River, but these small baileys are overgrown with bamboo. One of these western baileys was so overgrown that I could not make it out. Several dry moats around the castle ruin can also be clearly seen. Surprisingly, some of the maple trees still have plenty of red leaves on them in late December. My girlfriend and I were the only ones there during the whole 45 minutes or so that we spent wandering around this castle ruin. For me, this is a 1.5 star site in autumn with the colourful red leaves and for being undiscovered by tourists.
Gifu Castle Some ishigaki have recently been found in the area where they think the palace once stood. The excavations are still ongoing.
Gujo Hachiman Castle
Hachigata Castle Visited this castle in November 2015. This castle ruin is quite an impressive Hojo castle with some deep ditches, earthworks, a few very small sections of original stone wall remnants and lots of rebuilt stone walls in the Chichibu Bailey. The actual castle site is massive, roughly on par with Sakura Castle (Chiba) and Yamanaka Castle (Shizuoka). The museum on site is pretty good, too, with an interactive CG display of what the castle looked like during the Sengoku Period and a model of the whole castle.
Hamamatsu Castle
Hikone Castle This is my local castle, taking only 40 minutes to get to JR Hikone Station from where I live. I went at the end of March. They are removing some of the trees behind the Tenbin Yagura, so now you can see clearly see a section of wall running up from one side of the Tenbin Yagura up to the Honmaru ishigaki.
Himeji Castle
Hiroshima Castle
Hizen Nagoya Castle This was the second biggest castle built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It is only second to the original black Osaka Castle built by Hideyoshi. Unfortunately, this was a fairly short-lived castle, and was demolished by Tokugawa Ieyasu after he came into power. Karatsu Castle, completed in 1608, was built with some of the materials taken from this castle. Hizen Nagoya Castle was massive with six gates, and it covered 170,000 square metres. I spent about 2 hours walking around parts of this castle ruin, and I could not cover all the historical baileys on site in that time (missed the Daidokoro Bailey and the Yamazato Upper and Lower Baileys.) There is plenty of ishigaki left for the castle fans, and the layout of baileys can clearly be seen. Careful restoration work and archaeological surveys are ongoing. The local authorities have restored some of the stone walls, but mainly in a way that prevents further deterioration of the walls without making them look brand new and losing the ruins atmosphere at the site. At the time when Hideyoshi launched his two invasions of Korea (1592 to 1598) from this point, there were over 110 encampments belonging to the various daimyos involved in the invasion dotted around the peninsular where this castle was built. Entry to the castle site is free, and so is the Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum. The museum has a lot of artifacts and models related to the castle, but it is geared mainly towards Japanese and Korean speakers with bilingual signs in Japanese and Korean. An English brochure of the museum is available. Unfortunately, I really had to rush the museum visit because the last bus back to Karatsu left at 3:48pm. Access by public transport is very limited and inconvenient. There are only several buses that go to the castle site from the Karatsu Bus Centre, costing 840yen one way. Most of the buses tend to run at far as Yobuko only, which is about 4-5km short of the castle site. Hizen Nagoya Castle is better visited by using your own transport if you want to have more time and a flexible schedule to do the whole castle site. For Hideyoshi and ishigaki fans, this is likely to be a fun three-star site for you. For castle fans who like to see more structures, then this site would probably not rate any higher than two stars. This is one castle that I will definitely re-visit if I'm back in northern Kyushu.
Hyakusaiji Castle There is certainly plenty of ishigaki (stone walls) at this castle ruin and now temple site. The photos for this castle profile features only ishigaki rebuilt for the temple. However, there are some original ishigaki dating back to when Oda Nobunaga took and burnt down the castle. Most of the stones were carted off to build Azuchi Castle, but some of the smaller and "unworthy" stones were left in place. Also, not shown are the earthwork remnants of the castle ruin including moats and earthen ramparts that can easily be found if you stray off the main stone stairway up the mountain. There are numerous baileys on either side of the stone stairs. One sign mentions that Nobunaga got some of his design inspiration from Hyakusaji. If you visit both castle ruins, you will notice that both of them have the central stone stairs will lots of baileys on either side of the main stone stairway. There is also another way to get to Hyakusaiji by public transport. You can take a JR train up to Notogawa Station and then catch an hourly bus to Hyakusaiji Honmachi. The bus ride takes roughly 40 minutes.
Ichijodani Castle
Ichinomiya Castle
Iga Ueno Castle
Ikeda Castle I went to this castle last week. It takes around 20 minutes from Hankyu Umeda to Ikeda if you take the express train which misses a bunch of stations between Umeda and Toyonaka. Ikeda Castle doesn't have much in the way of original ruins apart from some foundation stones laid out in the middle of the castle park, but what it lacks in original structures / ruins is made up for by having a bunch reconstructed defensive structures from the Sengoku period . Within the park, there are three styles of gates: three yakui-mons, one kabuki-mon, and one heijuu-mon. The kabuki-mon is built on the site where the archaeologists have undercovered the remains of a castle gate (koguchi). Leading to the Otemon (a yakui-mon) is a wooden bridge. The castle park is also enclosed by two types of walls: the white-wash type and the plain wooden type. Situated in the middle of the park next to a pond is the wooden castle keep shown in the photos on this website. Once again, this reconstruction is in line with earlier smaller Sengoku castle keeps / lords' palace with a turret. Overall, if you have an hour to spare and enjoy walking around a small castle park, this site is certainly worth a visit. There is one sign at the end of the bridge which is multi-lingual (Japanese / English / Chinese / Korean), and it gives a decent introduction to the castle site. All the other (more detailed) signs and displays are in Japanese. For me, this castle site is worth two stars because of the reconstructed gates and castle keep.
Imabari Castle Imabari Castle does have a very good museum. As Furinkazan has mentioned, there are lots of suits of armour there. If I recall correctly, there is a scroll painting of Tokugawa Ieyasu's Top 16 Generals along with some paintings of Toda Takatora. I have been to Imabari Castle twice, but unfortunately, each time I rushed it. The first time was so I could get to a camp site on Oomishima Island (part of the Shimanami Kaido) before dusk while on a bicycle tour in 2002 (focus on cycling and not castles) and the second time was when I tried to fit in both Imabari Castle and Iyo-Matsuyama Castle in one day two years ago. I definitely need to re-visit this castle and devote a good half day to properly enjoy it instead of doing it in just an hour or hour and a half. For me, this site is worth at least 3.5 stars. Furinkazan, do you know which museum or castle has the most important collection of samurai armour in Japan? I think Ueda City Museum in Nagano has a pretty good collection. Himeji Castle has also recently opened up its Watari Yagura (for a limited time during the current massive renovation), and inside must be around 20 suits of armour.
Inuyama Castle
Ishigakiyama Ichiya Castle For castle fans who like stone walls, this is a fine castle ruin to visit. You can easily visit this castle and Odawara Castle in one day. The photos put up by the administrator of this website show the site pretty much as it is. The ishigaki has fallen apart in places, but if you have a map of the castle (found in some castle books written in Japanese), it is pretty easy to navigate around this castle. For a spot to get a top photo of Odawara Castle, take the more direct road (actually little lane) up to the castle through the mandarin orchards. About halfway up, there is a very good spot to get a photo of Odawara Castle if you have a decent zoom lens on your camera. BTW, this is the second time Toyotomi Hideyoshi built an overnight castle to demoralize his opponents. The first time was with Sunomata Castle in present day Gifu Prefecture.
Itami Castle
Iwakuni Castle This castle exceeded my expectations. I knew that it was a concrete reconstruction with the castle keep moved to a more visible spot. The reconstructed keep is pretty impressive on the outside. Inside could have been done a little better with more wooden paneling to hide the concrete construction, but it is no worse than many other reconstructed castle keeps using modern materials. The museum has a pretty good display of Japanese samurai swords including one gigantic one that was over 1.5 metres! The view, like Gifu Castle, is amazing with the whole panorama of Iwakuni spread out below. Apart from the reconstructed castle keep, there is the base of the original castle keep plus original ishigaki to be seen. Some of these stone walls have fallen seriously into disrepair, and if you make it to the bailey lying just below the Kitanomaru, you will find blocks of stone just randomly lying around. This castle reconstruction and museum is worth a solid 2 stars, but taking into account the view, the castle town below with a samurai residence, some old gates, the famous Kintai Bridge, and a shrine in the former grounds of the palace located at the base of the hill, this is certainly a 3 star site and worth spending a good half day. If you have time, about 3km from JR Kuba Station is Kamei Castle Ruin. There are plenty of ishigaki (stone walls) to be seen here. By train, it is only around 15 minutes from JR Nishi-Iwakuni to JR Kuba.
Iwamura Castle This is not an easy castle to get to by public transport. It takes around 2 hours from Nagoya and almost 4.5 hours from Kyoto City if you are just taking local trains. Along with Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle and Takatori Castle, some people consider Iwamura Castle (721m) to be one of the Top Three Mountaintop Castles in Japan. There is an alternative list of the Top Five Mountaintop Castles, which includes a different set of five castles. Anyway, I digress. If you like your yamashiros, this is a pretty cool site to visit. There is less ishigaki here than at Takatori Castle, but the site is better maintained, so most of the stone walls and ruins are not covered by undergrowth. Plenty to see for the ishigaki fan. In absolute elevation, Iwamura Castle is higher up, but Takatori Castle has a bigger elevation difference between the castle town and the honmaru (around 400m.) Entry to the castle grounds is free, but if you want to visit the museum (where you can also get the 100 Meijo Stamp), it costs 300yen. I bought a reprint of an old castle map (300yen) and a castle booklet (in Japanese only, 300yen). The museum is okay featuring some old Matsudaira armour, weapons, calligraphy, documents, old castle maps, and paintings of the castle. It is around a 20-minute walk from the train station to the castle museum and trailhead. There are a few samurai residences which are open to the public. They are on the main street of the old castle town leading up to the castle. The castle site can easily be seen from the train station as there is a mock-up of a castle turret on one of the upper baileys.
Iyo Matsuyama Castle This is one of the twelve original castles left from the Edo Period. It is a magnificent castle which is often overlooked compared to some more famous extant castles like Himeji Castle, Hikone Castle, and the photogenic Matsumoto Castle. This was the last castle that I visited in my Ehime castle tour last month. It was the third time that I have been to this castle. The first time was back in 2002 when I took the cable car (aka Ropeway) up to the top of the hill and then did a quick squiz around the Honmaru (Main Bailey) before hitting the castle keep and then heading straight back down the same way like the majority of visitors. My second visit in 2010 was a bit more comprehensive as I started from the Ninomaru (Second Bailey) down at the base of the hill near the Ehime Prefectural Office and worked my way up, but I still had missed a few parts of the castle like the Ushitora Gatehouse, the Kuromon (Kuromon Gate) Ruins, and the kokuins (carved insignias) found on the some of the stone walls of the Honmaru and Ninomaru. This time I decided I wasn't going to miss anything and devoted a lot more time over two sunny days to suss out this wonderful castle properly. It is possible to visit this castle (the main bailey and castle keep up on the hill only) in about two hours like I did back in 2002, but you will miss out a lot of what this castle has to offer. The castle has retained a significant portion of the original castle land which has not been built over, unlike many other castle sites in Japan. From the massive Sannomaru (Third Bailey), which has been converted into a park, there is a panoramic view of the extensive layout of the castle with the Ninomaru ishigaki (Second Bailey stone walls) and its long tamon yagura (covered wooden gallery similar to a hoarding for European castles) in the foreground while some of the castle towers and keep are visibly perched on top of the hill in the background. The impressive thing about this castle is the number of original and reconstructed fortifications. With the exception of the Bagu Yagura (Bagu Tower), nearly 30 structures such as towers and gatehouses around the Honmaru have been reconstructed using wood in the traditional manner. Despite not being one of Tokugawa shogunate'stenkafushin castle, Iyo-Matsuyama Castle has kokuins galore. They can be found in the Ninomaru as well as mainly on a northeastern section of the Honmaru ishigaki. On one of the corner stones, near the Inuiichinomon Gate Ruin and Inui (Northwest) Tower, there are three kokuins on a single stone, something that I rarely see. Iyo-Matsuyama Castle also claims to have the longest curtain wall in Japanese castles at 230 metres in length, running up the hill from Ninomaru to near the Otemon (Otemon Gate) Ruin. Iyo-Matsuyama Castle is one of the very few castles in Japan which has retained some of its original structures other than the castle keep and so extensively rebuilt a lot of its towers and gates using traditional building materials. Check out the castle keep from near the Nohara Yagura as the stone wall is higher on this side and looks more imposing than from near the Bagu Yagura, where most tourists take their photos. The site is well signposted with bilingual signs in English and Japanese. There are volunteer guides, and their office is next to the cable car station. Some of the towers and gatehouses such as the Inui Yagura, Nohara Yagura, and Ushitoramon are not open to the public. I wonder if there is a special day or days when they are opened to the public. This is definitely a gem of a castle to visit if you are a Japanese castle fan. For me, this great castle ranks equal second with Hikone Castle behind Himeji Castle.
Kakegawa Castle This is a great reconstructed castle to revisit. Access is quite easy. It is just a 10 minute walk from JR Kakegawa Station. From the top of the castle keep, you can clearly see where Suwahara Castle Ruin is located to the east and Takatenjin Castle Ruin to the south. There is a helpful and friendly volunteer on the top floor who is quite happy to answer visitors' questions. There isn't much to see inside the castle keep. On the ground floor, there are some banners, a bronze statue of Yamanouchi, and some armour and weapons. At night, it was nicely lit up, too. Apart from the reconstructed wooden keep, there is an original palace which was rebuilt in 1861 after an earthquake. For me, this castle site is definitely worth four stars because of the wooden castle keep, the original palace rebuilt near the end of the Edo Period, and some original relocated castle structures nearby.
Kamei Castle
Kameyama Castle
Kanayama Castle
Kanazawa Castle I went to this castle on the weekend as well as visiting three other castle sites in Fukui Prefecture. It was my third time visiting this castle. Kanazawa Castle rocks! As Rebolforces has already mentioned below, the local government is consistently working on improving this castle site. The Kahoku Gate, which was being reconstructed when I last visited in 2009, is now completed. They rebuilt it based on old photos and original plans using authentic materials including four different kinds of timber. The reconstruction finished in April 2010. Apart from adding the Kahoku Gate to the list of original and reconstructed structures, the local authorities have also restored the Imori Moat and filled it with water as it was during the Edo Period. Next to the moat, they have rebuilt one of the bases of an outlying turret. Still, these guys are not done yet. They are currently renovating the Ishikawa Gate and a section of the northern wall. Also, they are rebuilding the Ninomon of the Hashizume Gate, restoring it to its original masagata style with a first gate(rebuilt awhile back) and the second gate (under construction and to be built in a yaguramon style), and a solid killing zone from three sides in the middle. One of the staff also told me that they will be clearing some of the trees and bushes obscuring the ishigaki on the western side of honmaru. This castle site is getting better and better. I was lucky with this visit as I could go inside almost all the structures: Sanjikken Storehouse, Gojikken Storehouse, Ishikawa Gate, and Kahoku Gate. Also, the castle is signposted in both Japanese and English, and there are plenty of educational displays explaining the construction of Japanese castles using traditional methods and materials. This is a fabulous reconstructed castle to visit. This castle is definitely worth a 4 star rating.
Kannonji Castle I went to this castle ruin on the last weekend of February. It's my second visit, but this time armed with a better map found on a Japanese website, I was able to suss out most of the castle site. As mentioned above by the site administrator, it is quite a sprawling complex. However, a lot of is overgrown and hard to find. Unlike Odani Castle Ruin in northern Shiga, the baileys at Kannonji are poorly signposted. Only the Honmaru and Hiraimaru have any signs. I was able to identify the following baileys with certainty based on the map that I had: Honmaru, Itoumaru??, Hiraimaru, and Ikedamaru?. These are all located in the northern part of the castle ruin. I think I also found the Sawadamaru?, but I could not be 100% sure. The other baileys like Sangokumaru??, Shindomaru??, and Sanimaru?? in the central and southern parts of the castle ruin were really hard to identify. I did come across some other baileys, but I could not reconcile them with what I saw on my map. If you want to see ishigaki (stone walls), there are ample remains in the baileys that I found on the northern side. To get to the Itoumaru (Itou Bailey), you need to get off the regular trail and trample through the bush above the Honmaru to get there. The two times that I have been to this castle, I have gone there by bicycle from JR Azuchi Station. I brought my own foldable bike, but you can easily rent one at a shop in front of the station. I accessed this castle from the Kuwanomi Temple? trailhead. Entry into the temple is 300yen. If you go to Kuwanomi Temple, the path that leads up to it about a third of the way up the mountain can be found about 500-600m from the museum which houses the reconstructed top two floors of Azuchi Castle. This certainly beats cycling 5km+ to the trailheads on the other side of the mountain. The path from Kuwanomi Temple will eventually take you to the gate ruin that leads into the Honmaru. Just before you go into the honmaru, you will find some steps leading down the hill on your right. Go down these steps, and you will find the remains of a well and more ishigaki. I did not notice this the first time that I went to Kannonji Castle. This castle ruin is not for everyone, but if you like your castle ruins, are happy with just seeing some ishigaki, stone stairs and some earthen banks, and like going bushwalking, then this is a great place to spend three or four hours. BTW, there is a lot more ishigaki left here than at Odani Castle Ruin, but Odani is much better signposted with each major bailey clearly marked and explained.
Kanou Castle There isn't very much here to see apart from some stone walls. If you are in Gifu City and have some time to kill, this castle ruin might be worth a visit. It is only around 15 minutes on foot from JR Gifu Station. I visited Kanou Castle Ruin last month as part of a three-castles-in-one-day trip. It was the final castle after Ogaki Castle and Inuyama Castle. A one star rating is about right for this site. I reckon only ishigaki (stone wall) fans will enjoy this castle ruin.
Karatsu Castle This castle with a reconstructed five-storey keep can easily be done in a day trip from either Fukuoka City or Saga City. For a reconstructed castle keep, the builders have made an effort to disguise the concrete interior by adding wooden panels to the walls and supporting columns. The museum inside has a nice model of what the castle keep looked like. It also splits in half to show the interior. There are also a few suits of samurai armour and their weaponry in the museum. This castle site is photogenic on a sunny day as it is built on a peninsular overlooking the protected harbour. There aren't many other structures remaining apart from the castle keep, two yaguramons (turreted gate), and a few reconstructed yaguras (turrets). The reconstructed Kita Yaguramon at the north end of the Honmaru (Main Bailey) houses the souvenir shop. One of the outer turrets has been rebuilt and can be found in the city not far from the bus centre. It is the Tatsumi Yagura in the former Sanomaru (Third Bailey). Only a little corner of the Sanomaru is left. Parts of the Sanomaru ishigaki and the water moat, which separated the Sanomaru from the original castle town, can also be found in front of the Karatsu City Hall. Some of the structures of original Karatsu Castle completed were built with materials taken from the demolished Hizen Nagoya Castle. Right now, Karatsu Castle is undergoing some restoration with parts of the Honmaru walls being repaired and half of the bailey (Ninokuruwa) below the Honmaru is closed to the public. The restoration work around the castle started in 2008 and is ongoing with no date mentioned for its anticipated completion (as far as I could make out from the Japanese signs.) This is a solid three-star castle site with a great view of the ocean and surrounding coastline.
Kaseyama Castle
Kawagoe Castle This is a fine palace to visit. It is one of only four original castle palaces left at Japanese castle sites. I went there a few weeks ago when I was in Tokyo. Apart from the actual palace, there isn't a lot of Kawagoe Castle's fortifications / structures left. Only part of the Nakanomon Moat, one of the outer moats, and the site of where the Fujimi Turret used to be can be seen now. The rest of the castle site has been pretty much been built over by modern day Kawagoe. For castle fans who collect the 100 Meijo stamps, there is a display of what all the 100 stamps look like in one of the rooms in the palace. There is also a pretty good book (in Japanese only) about the castle with lots of old period maps and a map of the original castle overlaid on a map of present-day Kawagoe.
Kawamura Castle
Kawashima Castle
Kinojo This must the oldest castle site that I have visited in Japan. There isn't a lot to see here. There are some ishigaki, particularly ones with the water gates for rain run offs. As Eric has mentioned on his website, the views from this castle ruin are spectacular, and like him, I highly recommend you do walk right around the whole perimeter of this castle site. There is ongoing reconstruction work. Getting up to this castle is easy if you have a car or a motorbike. I took a train to the JR Hattori Station and then got to the castle on my folding bike. It isn't that far, but on some stretches, the gradient certainly exceeded 10%. I reckon some of them could be as much as 14%. I have done similar climbs on my crossbike touring other parts of Japan. I rate this castle a two star for its ruins / reconstructions and three stars for its magnificent views.
Kishiwada Castle
Kitanosho Castle As already commented on below by Furinkazan about the paucity of structures, ruins, and things to see, this must be one of the most disappointing and smallest castle sites that I have ever visited in Japan. Apart from the statue of Shibata Katsuie and a few stone blocks, there is nothing here almost zippo. The castle ground has been pretty consumed by modern Fukui City. Of course, at one stage, it had a 9-storey castle keep and is famous for Shibata's suicide after his forces lost the Battle of Suzugatake. Still, they could have built a small museum nearby to promote this site better. With almost nothing here, this castle ruin should be renamed Kita No Show. If Fukui Castle is a one-star site, this site must surely be a no-star site.
Kiyosu Castle This place is really trying to cash in on the current NHK Gou drama series. Where there used to be just a small dirt field at the back of the castle last autumn, a visitor can now see a Gou Drama Museum, a souvenir shop, and several food stands. This has a very distinct commercial amusement park feel to it. In addition to the stand alone castle ticket (300yen), you can now get the combo ticket for both the castle and the drama museum (700yen). Good for fans of the drama series, but I passed on the combo ticket.
Kochi Castle Kochi Castle is a fabulous castle to visit. It has plenty of stone walls, actually more than I had expected. In some ways, it is like Marugame Castle, but a lot of its ishigaki are hidden by the trees while the stone walls at Marugame can clearly be seen. As mentioned already by other JCastle users, it is the only Japanese castle which has all its buildings in the main bailey intact from the Edo Period. It is also one of four Japanese castles with an original palace from the Edo Period. Inside the castle keep is a museum which has a very detailed model of what Kochi Castle looked like during the Edo Period. Like many other castles built in the late Sengoku Period and early Edo Period, it used some recycled materials from other nearby castles in its construction. The castle keep from Urado Castle (at the site of the present day Sakamoto Ryoma Museum) was moved to the eastern side of the Third Bailey and became one of its turrets. Unfortunately, this structure along with almost all the other structures in the outer baileys has been demolished. The exception is the Otemon (Main Gate). I was in Kochi for three days, so I took the opportunity to go and visit a few Chosokabe (Chosogabe on all the English signs that I saw in Kochi) castle ruins nearby.
Kofu Castle I talked with a staff member in the reconstructed Yamanote Gate (rebuilt in 2007.) He told me that most of the gate was built with red pine (akamatsu in Japanese) while some of the broad supporting beams were sourced from another type of tree. Those beams were from trees that were around 1,000 years old. All the wood was sourced from within Japan, and the pine was sourced from within Yamanashi Prefecture. If you go to the Yamanote Gate, they will play a complete video for you lasting 26 minutes. You don't have to watch the whole thing. The guy there said that I could stop watching it whenever I want. The whole video is in Japanese, but parts of it are pretty interesting about the construction and history of the castle. Kofu Castle has plenty of ishigaki, and it reminds me a little bit of Marugame Castle, where practically the whole hill is encased in stone blocks. They are doing some renovation on part of the ishigaki, so one of the access routes to the honmaru is blocked off. This is a nice castle ruin for castle fans. I gave it three stars because it has a reconstructed turret, a masugata-style gate, lots of reconstructed smaller gates, and plenty of ishigaki. Both the turret and the Yamanote Gate are reconstructed using wood.
Kokokuji Castle
Kokura Castle A little slow with writing a comment for Kokura Castle, but I went to this castle as part of my trip down to Kyushu in March earlier this year. Kokura Castle is around 10 minutes on foot from JR Kokura Station. The castle keep is a concrete reconstruction built in 1959. The original castle keep burnt down in a fire in 1837 and was never rebuilt. There is a lot of ishigaki left as well as the ruins of eight gates. Some of stone walls have been restored. There is a building that looks like a reconstructed sumi yagura (corner turret), but it is part of a temple complex now. Any remaining castle buildings were destroyed by the Ogasawara Clan after they lost the Second Battle of Choshuseito in 1866, setting the castle on fire before fleeing to Tagawa. Entry to the castle keep cost 350yen. This is a castle geared towards families as there are lots of hands-on stuff and videos for young kids to try out. There is also a nice diorama of the keep and surrounding castle town as well as a replica room from the Edo Period showing Ogasawara Tadazane meeting his high-ranking officers. For me, this is a solid 2.5 star site and worth a visit for any castle fan in Kitakyushu.
Komaki Castle I went to this castle last weekend. I had low expectations of this castle ruin site after reading the website's description and Furinkazan's comment about it. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there. Yes, the castle keep is definitely rubbish-looking on the outside and, of course, there was no such castle keep in its day. However, if you enjoy tracking the development and evolution of Nobunaga's castles, this is an interesting site to visit. In many ways, it is a prototype for his later and grander Azuchi Castle. There are baileys (some overgrown) lining both sides of the long Otemichi (Main Road) running up the hill eventually to the Honmaru. This is just like the design at Azuchi Castle. The main difference is that at Azuchi, the Otemichi and the baileys lining it were all encased in stone, while at Komaki they were mainly just earthenworks for the baileys and stones for the Otemichi. Once you have reached the honmaru, there is a tacky pseudo-castle concrete building which houses a museum. However, on the inside they have made some effort to fit it with wooden paneling, wooden ceiling, and covered the concrete stairs with wood. Almost everything is in Japanese except for four pages in English in a booklet describing the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute. After reading the English explanation, I pressed a nearby button to get the full audiovisual rundown in Japanese about the battle. The museum has only one suit of armour, lots of pottery, and a pretty cool section about the famous battle including a copy of a screen painting showing the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute. Standing on the veranda of the top floor, you can clearly see downtown Nagoya and the pin-prick outline of Gifu Castle perched on Mt. Kinka. Also, you can just make out the hill where Inuyama Castle is located. Just below the fake castle keep in the honmaru are some ishigaki ruins and three piles of stones that the archaeologists have found and stacked up in their 2003 excavation of the area around the honmaru. They will use all the loose stones in the future when restoring the honmaru ishigaki. Located at the base of the hill to the east and north are a series of restored baileys (obi kuruwa), their earthworks, some moats, a well, a cross-section of one part of the earthen embankments to show how they built, and some koguchi (gates) ruins. Up on the hill, there are four more koguchi ruins. Overall, this castle ruin actually had a total of 9 koguchis, but I could only locate 6 of the 9 gate ruins. I guess a re-visit is needed in winter when the undergrowth and weeds have died back. While this castle won't compete with some of the nearby heavyweights in Aiichi Prefecture like Inuyama Castle, Okazaki Castle, and Nagoya Castle, I reckon this castle is worth a re-rating to 1.5 to 2 stars because it is well signposted in Japanese (except for some of the koguchis), there are enough older sengoku-period-style defensive features to be seen, and the museum, while not great, is pretty informative about its most famous episode: the Battle of Komaki-Nagakute in 1584.
Komoro Castle
Kumamoto Castle This is one castle site without an original castle keep that can easily compare well with and surpass some of the smaller original castles in Japan. I spent two days at this castle. I think for most castle fans, you can easily spend a full day at this castle as it is huge with lots of ishigaki, original and reconstructed turrets and towers, a reconstructed palace, multiple massive baileys, deep moats, and a concrete castle keep. The original Uto Tower (Uto Yagura) would be a castle keep in its own right anywhere else in Japan, but at Kumamoto Castle, it is just one of the major defensive towers protecting one corner of the inner castle site. As mentioned on this website already, there are 13 original structures including the Uto Yagura. Not all the yaguras are open, but you can go inside Uto Yagura, Iida-maru Five-storey Yagura, Sukiyamaru Two-storey Hall, the Honmaru Goten (Main Bailey Palace) and, of course, the castle keep. Some of the other yaguras and structures are open to the public only on special occasions. About a third of the original Honmaru Goten has been restored, but it has been done very well. You can take photos inside the palace with the flash off. This is an awesome castle site to visit. If you can make it to only one castle site in Kyushu, make this your number one priority, but give yourself plenty of time to see it all. These guys are continuously working on improving the castle site. Right now, they are working on restoring the Bagu Yagura next to the Hazekata Gate. This is certainly a five star site.
Kuwana Castle
Mariko Castle Eric, the JCastle site administer, is absolutely spot on about how Mariko Castle utilized the latest military know-how in castle design when it was significantly modified by the Takeda Clan in the Sengoku Period. If you are looking for stone walls, watchtowers, and castle keeps, then this wouldn't be a fun castle site for you to visit. However, for those castle fans interested in tracking the evolution of Japanese castles from its smaller earthen and wooden mountaintop castles to the massive stone behemoths like Himeji Castle and Osaka Castle, then Mariko Castle Ruin is a fabulous one to visit. Located on a small mountain about 140m above sea level, it is a formidably constructed castle in its day designed to maximize its defenders' firepower. On it northern approach, are two sets of parallel earthen ramparts and moats while on the western side, there are three sets of parallel earthen ramparts and moats. All the earthen ramparts on both the western and northern sides were built successively higher and overlook the previous set. In effect, this is like the concentric sets of curtain walls found surrounding medieval European castles, where archers from both the lower and higher curtain walls can pour fire into the attackers. Roughly located in the middle of the second earthen rampart is a protruding semi-circular strongpoint, giving the defenders a 180 degree firing angle, allowing them to pour enfilading fire on attackers trying to scale the middle earthen rampart. This strongpoint functions very much like a mural tower on European castles' curtain walls. In Japanese, it is called Hourui. On the eastern and southern sectors of the castle, a series of vertical moats were carved into the steep mountainside to limit attackers' movement and channel them into kill zones. Two sets of terraced baileys running down from the eastern and southeastern of the main bailey allows the defenders pour fire on attackers from three directions if the southeastern corner of the castle complex is attacked. The southwestern sector of the castle is protected by two circular barbican-like baileys located below the main bailey, and they are nearly encircled by a mixture of horizontal and vertical ditches including one massive vertical moat extending over 100 metres down the mountain. This castle dates from as early as the Namboku Period (13th Century), but mostly what visitors can see nowadays of the castle ruin are the improvements made to the castle after the Takeda Clan took over in 1568. There are only earthen ramparts, earthen bridges between baileys, and moats left. All the wooden structures are long gone. Access to Mariko Castle is fairly easy. It is around a 20-minute bus ride from Shizuoka Station. From the bus stop, it is about a seven minute walk to the trailhead. It took my wife and me around 2.5 hours to do this site as we were scrambling around the mountainside sussing out most of its defensive features. Going by the JCastle rating scale for castle sites, this castle ruin probably deserves only a one-star rating, but for me, Mariko Castle Ruin is certainly worth two stars because of its intelligent design with defensive features that I rarely see at other yamajiros. Also, it is better signposted than most mountaintop castle ruins that I have been to.
Marugame Castle
Maruoka Castle
Matsue Castle
Matsumoto Castle I made it to this castle again last week. This has to be one of the most photogenic castles that I have visited, but going in August is controlled madness particularly around the Obon period when many locals are on holiday. It's a great castle to visit, and there are volunteer guides who speak English. Also, until 11 in the morning, they have a guy decked out in all the trappings of a samurai with whom you can take some photos. He had a couple of female helpers. I stayed at Toyoko Inn, so I was able to buy the discounted ticket for half price (300yen instead of 600yen). The Top 100 Castle stamp is in the little office next to the souvenir shop.
Matsusaka Castle For fans of ishigaki, this castle ruin has tons of it. I went to this castle in mid-February after going to the nearby Tamura Castle Ruin (not listed on this website yet), about 20 minutes away by JR train from Matsuzaka Station. Matsuzaka Castle is quite an impressive castle ruin with enough signs and explanations in Japanese to clearly identify the various baileys and ruins around the site. The museum on the castle ground does have some nice black and white photos of the castle before it was demolished. I spent almost two hours at this castle site. It possible to visit three castles ruins in the Matsuzaka / Tsu area in one day. I managed to get in Tamaru Castle, Matsuzaka Castle, and Tsu Castle in that order.
Matsushiro Castle
Mihara Castle There isn't much to see here. The JR train line runs right through the middle of the honmaru. There is some ishigaki to be seen as well as part of the water moat seen in the pictures on this website. Also, you can find part of the honmaru ishigaki embedded in a passageway that runs right under the train line. I only sussed out the honmaru part of the castle ruin as I had a connecting train to catch. Nearby are the remnants of parts of the outer moats and outer baileys' ishigaki. Only stop by here if you are visiting the Onomich / Mihara area or you're on your way to Hiroshima by local JR trains and have some time to spare. This is just barely a one-star site for me.
Minakuchi Castle I went to this castle ruin in late February and was pleasantly surprised. I know they have reconstructed the demaru of the castle ruin with a two-storey yagura (which was not there in the original castle) and two gates. However, once inside the yagura, I found it was a wooden reconstruction using Hinoki Cypress. The lady at the reception was very helpful. She even managed to find a simple explanation of the castle history in English which she gave me along with other pamphlets in Japanese. She also told me that they don't get many visitors as most people go to the more famous and accessible castle sites like Azuchi, Hikone, and Nagahama. Inside the yagura is a nice little museum on the ground floor which includes a model of what the original castle looked like. Entry is a measly 100yen. Apart from the demaru, the honmaru is still around, but all the buildings and other yaguras are long gone. Instead, you will find a couple of baseball fields in the honmaru. There is still a water moat running around the honmaru. It is certainly worth walking around the outside of this castle ruin. It doesn't take long to visit this castle site. I think if you spend around an hour here, it will be enough. If you have time, it may be worth your while to visit its older brother, Minakuchi-Okayama Castle Ruin located on hill nearby. There isn't much up at the older castle site up on the hill, but the baileys are clearly marked, and there are some earthen embankments, dry moats, and some ishigaki remains (not much) to see.
Minowa Castle Minowa Castle Ruin is like other earthen castles in Eastern Japan such as Sakura Castle (Chiba) and Suwahara Castle (Shizuoka) with well preserved earthen ramparts, earthen bridges, very deep moats and, in Minowa's case, a few stone walls. Some of the moats used to be filled with water. For castle fans who want to track Ii Naomasa's castles' evolution, this is certainly a worthwhile site. There isn't a lot of ishigaki (stone walls) at this castle site. What is left is located mainly around the Sannomaru (Third Bailey) and at the Kotomon (Koto Gate) on the west side. The photos have already been posted by the website administer from his trip in 2008. There is also some ishigaki at the Gozen Kuruwa (Gozen Bailey), but the area was roped off and closed to the public. Minowa Castle has some huge moats. The deepest moat, at around 20 metres from top to bottom, is located between the Honmaru and Ninomaru. As you move from north to south, the moats get shallower. Most of the moats protecting the inner baileys of Minowa Castle: Honmaru (Main Bailey), Ninomaru (Second Bailey), Kuruwa Umadashi (Kuruwa Barbican), and Gozen Kuruwa (Gozen Bailey) are 10 to 20 metres deep. The baileys are terraced and overlook the next layer of defences as you descend down the hill from north to south. Since 2011, a lot of effort has gone into making more of the castle ruin visible and accessible to visitors. Some of the massive moats have had all of its undergrowth and trees removed, so you can see them clearly as well as actually walk in them unlike at Sakura Castle, where the deep dry moat around the main bailey is full of undergrowth and inaccessible. Many of the major baileys have also had their undergrowth and weeds cut back, so they are a lot more visible now compared to some of the photos on this website. As mentioned already by web administrator, you can catch a bus to Minowa Castle from Takasaki Station. My wife and I got off at the Shiroyama Iriguchi stop (550yen), entering the castle complex from the southeast. Alternatively, you can get off at the Shogakkomae (Primary School) stop and get into the castle complex from the south via the Mizunote Bailey. This is a solid two-star castle (mainly for its impressive moats and massive earthen ramparts), but it will morph into a three-star experience if you come across Okada-san, the local castle expert who is at the site almost every day of the week. This guy is very knowledgeable about Minowa Castle (and other castles), and he is one of the members of the local NPO which promotes Minowa Castle. He explained to us about some Hojo-period ishigaki (at least 6 metres high) found in the excavation of the earthen bridge linking the Kuruwa Umadashi and Ninomaru. He also told us about the types of ishigaki found at the Sannomaru. The other ishigaki visible dates from when Ii Naomasa upgraded the castle fortifications, particularly along the main path up to the castle. Misaki City will rebuild two of the castle gates, including a wooden two-storey gatehouse at the Kuruwa Umadashi and a simpler wooden gate on the western side on the Honmaru (Nishikoguchi). If I remember correctly from what Okada-san told us, both gates will be built from Kiyaki (Zelkova).The wooden bridge which used to link the Honmaru and the Kurayashiki Bailey will also be rebuilt. It is similar to the one which links Kane Bailey and Tenbin Yagura at Hikone Castle. The work is scheduled to start next year and will take five years to complete. Guess when I will be back for a re-visit. The site is reasonably well signposted with additional signs put up since the web administrator's visit in 2008. According to Okada-san, there are plans to upgrade the signs further by making them more detailed with multilingual explanations in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and German. Whether this actually happens will depend on funding available. Oh, I almost forgot: before you head out to Minowa Castle, stop by the tourist info counter at Takasaki Station and ask the helpful ladies there for an A3 double-sided handout(in Japanese only) with a map of the castle ruin and detailed explanations about the castle as well as information on catching the bus to get there and back. Armed with a map of the castle, we had no problem at all in locating one of the six ways to get into and navigate our way around this massive castle ruin. This castle ruin certainly deserves its place in the list of top 100 castles in Japan. For me, Minowa Castle Ruin is definitely worth at least 2.5 stars.
Naegi Castle My wife and I went to this castle ruin in early October. We took a taxi from Natsugawa Station. It costs around 2,000yen, but I think it saved us a lot of time because of the intermittent buses, and the fact that the nearest bus stop is around a good half an hour walk away to the castle museum and trailhead. Entry into the castle ruin is free, but if you want to see the displays inside the castle museum, it will cost you 310yen. There is a nice model of what the castle looked in its Sengoku days along with the usual displays of armour, weapons and artifacts related to the castle. They have a nice booklet for sale (only 500yen and in Japanese) and worth buying if you want some kind of detailed reference material for Naegi Castle. Well, I don't know how this isn't a Top 100 castle because it has plenty of original and restored ishigaki and earthen ramparts. The design of the castle is also quite rare in that the whole castle was built on this hill full of rocky outcrops and massive boulders which have been cleverly integrated into its defensive features and stone walls. The original castle had a lot of its buildings hanging over some of the steep sides, supported by wooden pillars anchored to the steep rocky cliffs. The lookout at the Honmaru tries to recapture some of this architectural feature. The view from the lookout is absolutely fabulous. In the distance looms Mt Ena, which Japanese hikers consider to be one of the top mountains for bushwalking in Japan. We were very lucky as we went to Naegi Castle on a fine day, so we could really enjoy a clear view of the surrounding valleys and mountains. This is a wonderful castle ruin worthy of three stars because of the unusual design, great views, few tourists (not discovered by the masses yet like Takeda Castle), and a good castle museum.
Nagahama Castle
Nagoya Castle A very impressive reconstructed castle with a great museum inside the keep. However, since the keep is not an original or rebuilt from wood, it gets excluded from getting five star in my book. Lots of ishigaki, moats, and one original corner turret left. When the reconstructed palace is finished in about ten years, then I will probably bump the ratings up to five stars.
Nakatsu Castle
Nanao Castle My wife and I finally made it to this castle after a few false starts because of bad weather for the previous times that we had planned to go. We went during Golden Week and had an absolutely perfect spring day for enjoying this mountaintop castle ruin. We took a taxi from Nanao Station up to the castle ruin. It cost about 2,500yen, so I reckon it must have been around a 7 to 8km ride. If you are driving up to Nanao Castle, there is a carpark with space for at least a dozen cars. There is also a modern toilet block opposite the carpark. This castle ruin certainly deserves its reputation as a highly rated yamajiro in Japan with the likes of Iwamura Castle, Takatori Castle, and Oka Castle. A free pamphlet (Japanese only) with a detailed map is available in a box at the entrance to this castle ruin. There is plenty of ishigaki to be found around the Main Bailey (Honmaru) and Sakurababa Bailey with a panoramic view of the Nanao Bay from the Honmaru. There are also earthwork remnants left including gate ruins, earthen embankments, and moats. All the major baileys are open to the public with easy paths, wooden stairs linking the Second Bailey with the Third Bailey, and sufficient signposts to know let where you are. In general, the castle site is fairly well maintained. According to our taxi driver, Nanao Castle has a festival on 13th September every year. This is the date when the Hatakeyama Clan lost the castle to Uesugi Kenshin after a long siege. After spending around 2.5 hours on site sussing out the stone walls and earthworks, we descended the mountain via the old Ote Trail. It's only 1.5km and even including scrambling around and taking photos of the overgrown Bansho Bailey and Jisho Bailey further down the hill, it only took us around 30-ish minutes to get down to the trailhead. From there, it is roughly another 0.5km to the Nanao Castle Museum. At the museum, there are exhibits (outside the building) of mainly tiles found from archaeological digs on site. Also, there are just two wooden doors from one of the castle's yakuimons (yukui-styled gate). Inside the museum, the highlight was a computer-generated virtual tour of what this sprawling castle complex looked like during the Sengoku Period. It looked like during the Sengoku Period, the whole mountain was covered with terraced baileys, and the ??castle proper accessible now is only a fraction of the fortified town of Nanao Castle. This CG video was only introduced from 2014. Entry to the museum cost 400yen which includes both the museum and a traditional house with a straw roof. A taxi back to Nanao Station from the Nanao Castle Museum cost about 1,300yen. Nanao Castle Ruin along with the castle museum is certainly worth at least two stars, but on the fine spring day with its fantastic view, it may be more enjoyable for a castle fan than just a two star rating.
Natsukawa Castle
Niitakayama Castle This was my first castle visit in 2014. This castle ruin is not on the Top 100 castle list, but it is a fabulous mountaintop castle to visit. On some Japanese castle websites, it has been included in a Top 100 Castle Ruin List for castles not already included in the Top 100 Castle list. This is quite a significant castle in Japanese history as it was the home castle of Kobayakawa Takakage, who played a significant role in his father's (Mori Motonari) Battle of Miyajima in 1555 and the Battle of Pyokje in 1593 on the Korean Peninsular. The castle ruin is reasonably well signposted. There is an original gate, but it has been moved to Soukou Temple in Mihara. Unfortunately, it was dark already by the time the train pulled up at Mihara Station, so I guess I will have to revisit this castle site to get in all the 60 baileys and suss out the relocated Otemon Gate at Soukou Temple.
Nijo Castle This is a great castle ruin to visit if you want to see one of the few extant castle palaces left in Japan. Other remaining ones from the Edo Period that I know of are at Kochi Castle, Kakegawa Castle and Kawagoe Castle Ruin. I took a friend who was visiting Japan here last weekend. There is a little bit of restoration work going on. The Karamon and parts of the walls surrounding the Ninomaru Palace are under wraps until 30th September 2013. The Ninomaru Palace remains unaffected and is business as usual. Also, there is a drive by the castle staff asking for donations to raise funds for preservation and restoration work.
Nirayama Castle
Nishio Castle The curse of Monday strikes again! This is another one of those minor castle sites in Japan that is closed on Mondays. There is a museum, a gate, and a turret, but both the museum and turret were closed. Some restored water moats and earthen embankments can be seen. There are also the remains of a well in the honmaru remains. Some remnants of original ishigaki can still be seen. Since I could not visit either the turret or museum, I can only give this castle site, a one-star rating on Mondays. If you are using a JR Seishun-18 ticket, you can get off at JR Anjo and either walk to the Meitetsu Kita-Anjo or Minami-Anjo Station. The latter has more trains because the express trains also stop there. A one-way Meitetsu ticket from either of the Anjo stations to Nishio Station cost 340yen. From Nishio Station, it is around a 15 minute walk to the site.
Niwase Castle
Nochiseyama Castle This castle ruin is also easy walking distance from JR Obama Station, you can easily get in Obama Castle and Nochiseyama Castle in one day. It is on the opposite side to Obama Castle and takes only around 8 minutes to get to the trailhead from Obama Station. The initial part of the trail up to the castle ruin is fairly steep, but the local authorities have put in steps on the trail, so it is fairly easy to get up and down the trail. At the start of the trail, there is a massive vertical ditch (Tatebori in Japanese) which can be seen. About 15 minutes or so up the steep trail, it levels out, and there is a sign in Japanese indicating a series of terraced baileys. No original structures have survived at this castle ruin, but you can see some stone walls up at the main bailey, stone stairs, earthworks, moats, and an earthen bridge linking two baileys. Around the main bailey, the ishigaki (stone walls) are around 1.5 metres high. Also, on the main path just below the main bailey, there are some stone wall remnants on the terraced baileys and stone stairs. This is one castle ruin off most castle fans' radar, so my wife and I practically had the whole place to ourselves. We only bumped into one other castle fan while we were there. It is a national historic site, and for those who enjoy a bushwalk around a castle ruin, this is a nice one, worthy of at least a one-star rating.
Obama Castle Obama City is raising money to rebuild the castle keep. See the following website (in Japanese only) for more details. It looks like if they can raise the funds, reconstruction of the castle keep will start in 2015.
Odaka Castle
Odani Castle This is quite an extensive mountaintop castle ruin. As mentioned by Kristy in the notes, another castle fan, you get off at JR Kawake Station. There are some mini-buses which you can take from the station to the Odani Sengoku History Musuem at the base of the mountain where the castle ruin is located. Entry to the museum cost 300yen, but it is worth the price of admission because along with getting to see the few exhibits in the museums and illustrations of the different parts of Odani Castle you get a very detailed topographical map of the whole castle site which identifies and explains 49 features in and around the castle site. I went to Odani Castle in late February. The trailhead up to the castle along the Ote Route is about 300m from the museum. This is one of the best signposted castle ruin that I have visited in Japan. It's a far cry from Kannonji Castle Ruin (another extensive mountaintop castle ruin in Shiga) where practically nothing is signposted. A lot of the signs were very new and a few have not been completed yet with the explanations not mounted on the wooden frames. I think this is the positive flow on effects of the current NHK drama which features Odani Castle. I went in late February and was surprised by the amount of snow left after the big dump of snow in mid-February. I managed to get up to Point 20 on the map, Sannou Bailey??, the highest point of Odani Castle Ruin. By that time, I was walking in around 30 to 40cm deep snow. Without some decent gaiters to keep the snow out of my hiking boots, I decided not to go on up to the northernmost two baileys of Odani Castle and missed out on the chance to get to the top of the mountain and see another castle ruin, Oozuku Castle Ruin, I think around 0.5km from Sannou Bailey. Also with so much snow, a lot of ishigaki (stone walls) were covered, so I could not even see the Big Ishigaki at the base of Sannoumaru. It was also hard to identify some of the gate ruins at the different baileys. I guess I will make another trip to this castle ruin later this year to complete the course and see the whole castle complex. Some of the baileys have had its trees and bushes removed, so visitors can see the full extent of some of the baileys. There is some ishigaki left, particularly up around Honmaru and Sannoumaru. BTW, there are shuttle buses running up to a point near the Banshomaru from the Odani Sengoku History Museum every 30 minutes, but they were not running in February. I guess they only operate them during the warmer and more popular seasons for visiting Odani Castle Ruin. This is a solid two-star site and could be three stars if you treat it as bushwalking with some castle ruins thrown in.
Odawara Castle This is a good castle to visit if you are in the Kanto Region. I made it to this place on my way to a recent conference in Tokyo. As stated on this website, it has plenty of reconstructed gates and earthworks. The museum is pretty good, and there is some attempt to make the inside of this castle look wooden with some wooden panelling. No photos are allowed in the castle. Good place to learn about Hojo Clan.
Ogaki Castle The cherry blossoms around Ogaki Castle are in full bloom this week. All the renovations are done, so the castle looks brand new on the outside. For those visiting on a weekday, this place is closed on Tuesdays. BTW, the official Ogaki City webpage for Ogaki Castle in Japanese is
Oka Castle This is a fabulous mountaintop castle ruin to visit. Personally I rate this very highly, second only to Bitchu-Matsuyama Castle, which has an extant castle keep. Out of the many yamajiros (mountaintop castles) that I have visited so far, Oka Castle for me, surpasses almost all of them including highly rated ones like Takatori Castle (Nara) and Iwamura Castle (Gifu). Oka Castle Ruin is very impressive for a number of reasons. It is a massive castle on the same scale as Kannonji Castle (Shiga), Niitakayama Castle (Hiroshima), and Okishio Castle (Hyogo, not listed on JCastle yet.) It has way more ishigaki (stone walls) than the Castle in the Clouds: Takeda Castle and probably about the same amount of ishigaki if not more than Takatori Castle. If they chop down all the trees, the visible ishigaki of Oka Castle, perched on a mountain 352 metres above sea level (actual height differential is around 100 metres from the valley floor), would stretch for almost a kilometre in roughly a J-shape. As it is, there is a team of gardeners who regularly weed-whacks the site, so that most of this massive castle ruin is accessible to castle fans unlike other yamajiros such as Takatori Castle and Kannonji Castle, where many of the sprawling baileys and stone walls are buried under dense undergrowth and trees. Despite the efforts of the gardeners, the sides of some of the baileys (the stone wall parts) are still covered by a verdant carpet of ferns and weeds. I guess the castle ruin is just so big that it is impossible to keep it completely free of the rampant summer growth. Still it is much better maintained than similar-sized yamajiros that I have been to. Size and accessibility to most of the baileys alone don't account for the wow factor of this castle ruin. It has many features that appeal to castle fans. Around a dozen different stone wall construction styles can be found at Oka Castle. In addition, there are several types of gate ruins including an Uzimon, kokuins (carved insignias), wells, an extensive drainage system, two massive display stones each measuring nearly 2m x 2m at the gate ruin to Sannomaru (Third Bailey) plus other smaller display stones elsewhere, very steep walls (particularly around the Ninomaru and Sannomaru), panoramic views including Mt. Aso in the distance on a clear day (unfortunately, it was somewhat hazy when I visited with my wife), and reasonably good signposting (in Japanese only). One final point in its favour is that there are relatively few tourists. In the four hours that we were on site, we came across probably around 50 to 60 people, and that was during the height of the Obon holiday. Combining all these factors with the detailed coloured map that you get with the 300yen entrance fee, and the fact that this castle ruin was the inspiration for Taki Rentaro's famous composition, make this a great yamajiro to visit. BTW, Taki Rentaro's statue is located in the Ninomaru (Second Bailey), not far from the site of where the Tsukimi Yagura used to be. The only downside to Oka Castle is that if you are using public transport to get there, express trains to JR Bungo-Takeda (from either Kumamoto or Oita) are quite limited with only several trains a day. The castle ruin is only a 20 minute walk from the station. The staff at the ticket booth to the castle site was very helpful, and if you ask, they do have a one-page A4 explanation of the castle in English. Kudos to the people managing Oka Castle for making it such a wonderful and accessible castle ruin to visit.
Okayama Castle
Okazaki Castle I rushed my first visit to this castle three years ago, so I decided on a re-visit yesterday and actually walked around it a bit more leisurely. I got round to see more of the moats and ishigaki on the north side of the castle ground which I missed last time. There is a free English pamphlet available on request. You can only take photos on the top floor of the castle. The other parts of the castle museum have no photos signs all over. A 44-page book in Japanese with colour photos of some of the displays in the museum as well as the history of the castle is available for 600yen. The interior of the castle could have been done better with wooden panelling to hide all the concrete. Still, the museum was pretty good.
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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