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Did you know Japan is a top destination for castles? Yes, really! While countries such as France, England and Germany are obvious choices when it comes to picturing a fairytale castle, Japan has some seriously beautiful castles and they are well worth a visit. The Japanese began building castles around the 14th century, as warlords were seeking fortified protection. Of the 5,000 castles that once existed in Japan, today there are only 100 standing. Here are the five top castles in Japan:
1. Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle sits at the top of a hill in Hyōgo Prefecture. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site made up of over 80 buildings. It’s said the castle was built in the 1300s as a fortress to protect a samurai warrior and it was expanded in the 17th century. The castle survived World War Two, even though the surrounding area was badly damaged by allied bombardment. Explore places to stay near Himeji Castle in Hyogo.
2. Osaka Castle
The Osaka Castle sits on top of a hill looming over the valley below. The castle was built in the 16th century on a large stone foundation, which gave it the ultimate protection from attackers as it boosted the castle’s height. It fell victim to gunpowder, however, and much of the castle went up in flames in the 17th century. It also suffered attacks during the civil war in the 19th century. It has since been restored by the Japanese government and today is one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks. Find places to stay in Osaka.
3. Matsumoto Castle
The stunning Matsumoto Castle features an ominous black exterior, giving it the nickname ‘Crow Castle’ as it looks like a big black bird. It makes a great day trip from Tokyo as it’s just a few hours from the city by train. The castle is built on a plain, instead of on a mountain or hilltop. It features a main keep and a smaller donjon that was added in the 16th century. It’s the perfect spot to visit during the spring as cherry blossoms bloom in the trees surrounding the castle.
4. Matsue Castle
Matsue is another castle that features an ominous black exterior. It was built in the 17th century, however all of the castle’s buildings were destroyed in 1875, except the keep. It’s one of the few remaining castles in Japan that has kept its original wooden structure, and not been remodeled with concrete.
5. Hirosaki Castle
The Hirosaki Castle was built in the early 17th century. It’s surrounded by nearly three thousand cherry blossom trees within the castle grounds and surrounding park, making it the perfect place to visit in the spring. It’s a Hirayama-style Japanese castle, with tiers and stunning curved roofing. You can explore all accommodation options in the Aomori Province, where the Hirosaki Castle is located.