There are many castles in Japan, some which we're sure you already know such as Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle, and Nagoya Castle. From long ago these castles have been a sign of political power as well as a symbol of the people, while in current times they are more of a sightseeing spot for many local and foreign tourists. There are 5 castles throughout Japan that are designated National Treasures of Japan, all of which are a must-visit for fans of Japanese history and culture. All 5 of these national treasures are very popular meaning access is very easy, making them a great recommendation for travelers to Japan!
About the 5 National Treasure Castles
It is said that in Japan there was once over 20,000 castles. However, after both the Warring States period of Japan as well as the wars with outside nations, and the orders of destruction during the Meiji period, almost all of these castles have disappeared. Currently, there are only around 90 castles that have a castle tower in Japan, most of which have been restored or recreated at least once or twice. In fact, there are actually only around 12 castles that have remained from the Edo period of Japan. Some of these castles are said to have survived various emergencies and situations, and are thought to have been saved only by miracles. These castles are Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture, Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture, Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture, Matsue Castle in Shimane Prefecture, and Inuyama Castle in Aichi Prefecture, all of which are now national treasures of Japan.
Himeji Castle - The only Castle to be Recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
Within the 5 castles that are designated national treasures of Japan, Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture is the only one to be designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was built in the year 1346, and has the largest castle keep in the whole of Japan, both the keep and castle walls are made using a brilliant white mortar, and is said to look like the spreading wings of a beautiful Egret bird, which gives it its other name "Egret Castle".
- Castle Name: Himeji Castle
- Address：68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012
- Open Hours：9:00-16:00 (Gates close at 17:00)
- Entrance Fee: Adult (18+) 1,000 JPY, Child (Elementary, middle, high school student) 300 JPY, Infants go free
- Holidays: Dec 29 / 30
- Access：20-minute walk from JR Sanyo Electric Railway "Himeji Station" / 5-minute walk after riding Shinki Bus from Himeji Station departing at Ōte-mon Gate
Matsue Castle - The Only Surviving Legitimate Castle Tower
Matsue Castle can be found in Shimane Prefecture's Matsue City. It has over 400 years of history and is the only castle in the San-in region of western Honshu. Matsue Castle was built in 1611 and has the only legitimate castle tower in all of Japan. A "legitimate castle tower" refers to a castle tower from which you can see 360 degrees around you. The roof of the castle keep is said to be similar to that of a plover spreading its wings, which is why it has a second name of "Plover Castle".
- Name: Matsue Castle
- Address: 1-5 Tonomachi, Matsue, Shimane 690-0887
- Open Hours:
- Inner Citadel：
- Apr 1 - Sep 30 7:00 - 19:30
- Oct 1 - Mar 31 8:30 - 17:00
- Castle Tower
- Apr 1 - Sep 30 8:30 - 18:30 (L.E. 18:00)
- Oct 1 - Mar 31 8:30 - 17:00 (L.E. 16:30)
- Entrance Fee: Foreign Visitor (Adult) 470 JPY / Foreign Visitor (Elementary / Middle School Student) 200 JPY
- Holidays: Open All-year-round
- Access: Approx. 10 minutes via bus from Matsue Station
Hikone Castle - The Only Castle in Japan with a Stable on Castle Grounds
Hikone Castle is found in Shiga Prefecture's Hikone City and is built on Hikone Mountain which gives it another name, "Konki Castle". It was built in 1604, and finished construction in 1622. It's multicolored and intricate design is one of its most telling characteristics. The stable which remains within the castle grounds is the only one in the entirely of Japan making it an extremely rare sight.
- Name: Hikone Castle
- Address：1-1 Konkichō, Hikone, Shiga 522-0061
- Open Hours: 8:30 - 17:00 (L.E. to the castle keep is 16:45)
- Fee: General Entry 800 JPY, Elementary / Middle School Students 200 JPY
- Holidays: Open all-year-round
- Access: 15-minute walk from JR Hikone Station
Japan's Oldest Castle with 5 Layers 6 Floors - Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle, which can be found in Nagano Prefecture's Matsumoto City is jet black in color, and has another name known as "Crow Castle". It is said to have been built around the year 1504. Currently, there are many castles within Japan such as Himeji Castle which have white castle towers, but Matsumoto castle was built using a method that was often used before the fight of Sekigahara which is why it's one of the only currently standing castles that is jet black in color, it is also the oldest castle in Japan which has 5 layers and 6 floors.
- Name: Matsumoto Castle
- Address: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0873
- Open Hours: 8:30-17:00（L.E. 16:30）
- Entrance Fee: Adult 700 JPY, Elementary / Middle School Student 300 JPY / Infants Free
- Holidays: New Year Period (Dec 29 - 31)
- Access: 20-minute walk from JR Shinonoi Line "Matsumoto Station"
The Only Castle in Japan for 1 Person - Inuyama Castle
Inuyama Castle, located in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture, was built in 1537, with the castle keep being the only current remaining part, and also the oldest style of castle keep in the whole of Japan. This castle is also known as "Hakutei Castle". Furthermore, one of the more interesting facts about this castle is that, for quite a long period of time, it was owned by a single person. It is the only castle in Japan that has become a national treasure when being owned by a single person. The current owner is a non-profit foundation set up by the Aichi Prefecture's Board of Education.
- Name: Inuyama Castle
- Address: Kitakoken-65-2 Inuyama, Aichi 484-0081
- Open Hours: 9:00-17:00（L.E. 16:30）
- Fee: Adult 700 JPY, Elementary / Middle School Student 300 JPY / Infants Free
- Holidays: 12/29-31
- Access: 18-minute walk from Inuyama Station
If its Japanese Castles you Want, Start with the 5 National Treasure Castles of Japan!
In this article, we introduce 5 castles in Japan that are designated as national treasures, but there are still many more castles to visit across Japan! If you're someone who wants to travel Japan and experience something a little different, then try visiting these 5 castles during your journey. Maybe you could even aim to visit every single castle across Japan?!
- About the 5 National Treasure Castles
- Himeji Castle - The only Castle to be Recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
- Matsue Castle - The Only Surviving Legitimate Castle Tower
- Hikone Castle - The Only Castle in Japan with a Stable on Castle Grounds
- Japan's Oldest Castle with 5 Layers 6 Floors - Matsumoto Castle
- The Only Castle in Japan for 1 Person - Inuyama Castle