Water Castle of Mizujiro (水城) refers to a castle built bordering the sea, rivers, and / or lakes. Therefore, it is also called Umijiro (海城 - sea castle). The sea, rivers and lakes replace the moat and play the role of protecting the castle from invaders. Generally, Imabari Castle in Ehime Prefecture, Takamatsu Castle in Kagawa Prefecture, and Nakatsu Castle in Oita Prefecture are called "Three Great Water Castles". This time, we would like to introduce you to these "Three Great Water Castles"!

Japan's leading sea castle "Imabari Castle"

Japan's leading sea castle Imabari Castle

"Imabari Castle", which stands on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture, is one of the best sea castles in Japan built in the Edo period. It was built by Todo Takatora (藤堂高虎), a military commander of the Warring States Sengoku Period.

The castle construction started in 1602 and was completed about 6 years later. Taking advantage of the land, seawater is drawn into the moat surrounding the castle - no wonder why you can see sea bream and other seawater fish swimming in the moat! At that time, the castle was equipped with one of the largest-scale boats in Japan (at the castle's port ), functioning as a major transport hub. By the way, it is said that the castle tower (天守 / Tenshu) of Imabari Castle was the first Soutou-gata (層塔型 - tower in which the roof of every floor shares the similar design) castle tower in Japan.

Japan's leading sea castle Imabari Castle

Imabari castle is also known as a famous place for cherry blossoms viewing. The Somei-Yoshino cherry trees planted on the premises beautifully bloom and color the springtime in Japan. On a clear day, you can overlook the Seto Inland Sea from the castle tower and enjoy the spectacular view of Shikoku.

Spot Information

  • Spot name: Imabari Castle (今治城)
  • Address: 3-1-3 Toricho, Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture
  • Opening hours: 9am-5pm
  • Closed: December 29th-December 31st
  • Admission fee: General 520 yen / University or College Student 260 yen / High school student or younger or under 18 years old - Free / Elderly (65 years old or older) 420 yen
  • Access: Approximately 9 minutes bus ride on the Setouchi Bus "to Imabari Eigyojo" from the Yosan Line "Imabari Station", and get off at "Imabari-jo mae" bus stop

A castle floating in the sea of Kagawa Prefecture⁉ "Takamatsu Castle"

A castle floating in the sea of Kagawa Prefecture⁉ Takamatsu Castle
Image courtesy of: Kagawa Prefecture Tourism Association

Takamatsu Castle is also known as Tamamo Castle. It is said that the origin of the name is that the sea around here was called Tamamo no Ura, named after "Tamamoyoshi" wrote by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro as he composed Makurakotoba (枕詞 - a modified word used to replace a certain name in waka peotry) of Sanuki Province in "Manyoshu" (万葉集 - collection of waka poems). 

It was built on a flat land bordering the Seto Inland Sea, and was a water castle with a three-storey castle tower, a floodgate to draw seawater into the inner and outer moats, and a shipyard to deploy warships. Currently, it is maintained as Tamamo Park, and the castle tower, the Kitanomaru's Tsukimi Yagura (月見櫓) turret, the Mizunote Gomon gate (水手御門), the former Higashinomaru's Ushitora Yagura (艮櫓) turret, the Ishigaki stone wall, and the moat still exist.

Spot Information

  • Spot name: Takamatsu Castle (高松城) (Tamamo Park / 玉藻公園)
  • Address: 2-1 Tamamocho, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture
  • Opening hours: 9am-5pm
  • Closed: December 29th to December 31st
  • Admission fee: Adults (16 years old and above) 200 yen / Children (between 6 years old and 15 years old) 100 yen / Under 6 years old Free
  • Access: Get off at JR "Takamatsu Station" and walk for about 5 minutes

Click here for more information on Takamatsu Castle:

"Nakatsu Castle" built by the famous tactician Kuroda Kanbei

Nakatsu Castle built by the famous tactician Kuroda Kanbei

"Nakatsu Castle" is located along the mouth of the Nakatsu River in the center of Nakatsu City, Oita Prefecture. The seawater of Suo-nada is drawn into the moat, and the water level changes depending on the ebb and flow of the tide. As it is fan-shaped with the Honmaru in the center, the Ninomaru in the north, and the Sannomaru in the south, it is also called "Senjo" (扇城 - fan castle). 

Nakatsu Castle was designed by Kuroda Kanbei (黒田官兵衛) and completed by Hosokawa Tadaoki (細川忠興). Speaking of Kuroda Kanbei, in 2014, his story was portrayed in the NHK Taiga drama "Gunshi Kanbei" (軍師官兵衛 - literally means Kanbei the Tactician) and became a talk-of-the-town. Since he left this area during the construction of the castle, Hosokawa Tadaoki, who entered the castle later, took over and completed Nakatsu Castle.

Nakatsu Castle built by the famous tactician Kuroda Kanbei

One of the features of Nakatsu Castle is the ishigaki stone wall, which is said to be the oldest in Kyushu. While the stone walls made during the Kuroda era are made sturdy using square-processed stones, the ones made during the Hosokawa era are assembled by taking advantage of the shape of natural stones. The stone walls, which are clearly different in their constructions, are connected together, and you can clearly see the difference between the two eras.

Spot Information

  • Spot name: Nakatsu Castle (中津城)
  • Address: Ninocho Honmaru, Nakatsu City, Oita Prefecture
  • Opening hours: 9am-5pm
  • Closed: Open all year round
  • Entrance fee: Adults (high school students and above) 400 yen / Children (between 6 years old and under 15 years old) 200 yen / Preschoolers are free
  • Access: Get off at "Nakatsu Station" on the JR Nippou Main Line and walk for about 15 minutes.