Top of Japan

More than 100 Castles...

Today there are more than 100 castles in Japan, when it was at most it was about 5000. Originally a Japanese castle (Shiro) was a fort built to guard important or strategic sites like trade routes, villages, cities, river crossings and ports. From the 7th century the forts/castles were to military defense, but gradually they became feudal centers of governance whereby many also became smaller palaces.

The first castles were built on mountains or elevations to better defend against attacks. From the 16th century more and more advanced castles began to be built and they were placed on the plains. Several were surrounded by walls and moats as the main defense. From 1543 harquebuses began to be used in Japan why they had to change the construction of barriers and walls.  

Walls and foundations were of stone, but the design was dominated by wood. During the Sengoku (Warring States) period (1467-1603) built most castles but many were destroyed.
It is worth noting that at siege there were possibilities to destroy the castle walls with catapults and trebuchets but this was never done. An enemy either stormed the castle and tried to get over the walls or surrounded and cut off supply routes. For a castle lord It was more honourable to leave the castle with his troops to defeat the enemy than to wait for the siege would cease. 

To strike against the morale and culture of the Japanese people several castles were destroyed during World War II but is now rebuilt and serves as national heritage sites or museums. Four of Japan's castles (Hikone, Himeji, Inuyama, and Matsumoto) are National Treasures.

Today there are 12 castles that can be termed as “original”,  Himeji Castle is the most famous. I have visited many castles in Japan, most of them will be featured on TOP of JAPAN, including four of the “original” castles;  Himeji Castle (1333/1346), Matsue Castle (1661), Matsumoto Castle (1504) and Uwajima Castle (1596).  

To visit at least one castle when you visit Japan is a must. The real enthusiasts visiting multiple castles and that is understandable as all represent an important part of Japan's history.

Sweden in May 2013
Leif Almo
Hon. Consul General of Japan - All about kendo

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