Feel the Samurai Culture! 7 Castles You Must See in Kansai
The Kansai region was the center of politics during the Sengoku Period (Warring States Period) (late 15th to late 16th centuries), when samurai warriors were active. With that, there are many castles and castle ruins in the region that offer a glimpse into Japan’s samurai culture. Below are seven of the most recommended spots for enjoying the culture of these warriors!
1. Himeji Castle (Hyogo Prefecture)
Himeji Castle is a castle that is also called Shirasagi-jo (White Heron Castle) because it resembles the graceful form of a white heron with its wings spread. The cluster of castle towers, columns, gates, mud walls and other buildings that were constructed during the golden age of castle architecture have been well preserved, and their high degree of aesthetic perfection has led to the castle’s designation as a World Heritage Site. Inside the castle, you will see exhibits and explanations using augmented reality (AR) that offer realistic videos and photos, so please try it.
Admission fee: Adult: 1,000 JPY, Child: 300 JPY
2. Hikone Castle (Shiga Prefecture)
Celebrating its 410th anniversary in 2017, Hikone Castle is an extremely well preserved castle even when compared to the other castles in the country, and visitors can enjoy its turret, moat and other structures built for war. In particular, the tenshu (castle tower) is a beautiful structure that demonstrates the finest craftsmanship at the time that it was built, and it has been designated as a national treasure. The tenbin-yagura (turret) is also a must-see here since it is perfectly symmetrical, so it looks like a balance scale. Among the many Japanese castles, this is a rare design that is only seen in Hikone Castle.
Admission fee: General: 800 JPY, Elementary/junior high school students: 200 JPY
3. Takeda Castle Ruins (Hyogo Prefecture)
Takeda Castle Ruins are the ruins of a mountain castle (a castle that uses the mountain range) that is perched at the summit of Kojozan (Mt. Kojo) that is 353.7m above sea level. Spanning about 100m east to west and around 400m north to south, these ruins boast that largest area in terms of complete stonewall remains in Japan. This castle is also called the “castle in the sky” for often looking like it is floating in a sea of clouds when it is surrounded by a thick fog during autumn.
Admission fee: Adult: 500 JPY
4. Osaka Castle (Osaka Prefecture)
Osaka Castle is the castle that was built by the feudal warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who unified the nation towards the end of the Sengoku Period. Also known as the symbol of Osaka, this castle is famous for its luxurious tower and 30m-high stonewall that is the tallest in Japan. Inside the castle tower, you can look at various materials on the history of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Osaka Castle. You can even try on the helmet and battle surcoat and take photos wearing them (for 500 JPY).
Admission fee: Adult: 600 JPY
5. Azuchi Castle Ruins (Shiga Prefecture)
The Sengoku warlord Oda Nobunaga enjoys enormous popularity among Japanese history fans. Azuchi Castle is the castle that Oda built. This castle was built through the combination of the best technologies and artistic designs in Japan at that time, including the rooms that are decorated in ink painting and rooms finished in brilliant gold and blue colors. It was, however, burned down just six years after it was built. Today, only the stonewalls remain as evidence that this castle once stood there. There is also a mausoleum of Oda Nobunaga inside the castle, so this spot is a must-see for history buffs.
6. Fushimi Momoyama Castle (Fushimi Castle) (Kyoto Prefecture)
Fushimi Momoyama Castle (Fushimi Castle), which existed in Kyoto in the past, is a castle that traces its origin to the mansion that was built as a retreat for Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It was completely abandoned in 1620, but it was said to have been a gorgeous castle that had golden ornaments on its black lacquered walls. Today, if you visit the ruins, you can tour the imitation castle keep made of reinforced concrete that was built in 1964 (the inside is not open to the public).
7. Kishiwada Castle (Osaka Prefecture)
The last castle on the list, Kishiwada Castle, is an old castle that is said to have been built during the Kenmu period (1334 – 1336). It is famous as one of the military strongholds of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The castle tower that visitors get to see today was rebuilt in 1954, and inside it is a local museum.
Admission fee (castle tower): Adult: 300 JPY
As showcased in this article, the Kansai region is filled with castles that are packed with the history of Japan. So, visit these castles and think about the culture and way of life of samurai warriors in the past.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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