It’s time to plan your sightseeing campaign across Japan!

When you think castles, you might be more inclined to think of the European kind, made of stone and fortified for defense as well as outfitted to be a luxurious home for the wealthy and royal. But Japan has its own castles, which are equally ancient and equally impressive, and which have played their own roles in the undulating history of the country.


Japan’s castles are wonderful spots to sightsee no matter part of the country you’re in, but if you’re on a limited budget or only have a short time to go on vacation, how do you know which ones to check out? That’s where this list comes in handy. Check out the top 10 castles in Japan, as ranked by ratings from TripAdvisor users.

10. Shuri Castle, Okinawa

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"Shuri Castle" Shurijo Castle Seiden, which functioned as the "central structure of the Ryukyu Kingdom" It is said to have been built on the model of the Daiwaden in Beijing's Forbidden City. But it also incorporates Zen Buddhist design details of Japanese buildings. The Seiden's natural surroundings and the taste of its designers are ingeniously expressed in its plan of construction, giving it an altogether distinctive Ryukyuan atmosphere. It is a two-level, three-story structure (two levels seen from outside; three stories inside) and its decorative dragon pillars are features not found in either China or Japan; they are distinctively Ryukyuan forms Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan 🇯🇵 Photography 📷 27 x 19 cm July 2019 #首里城 #shuricastle #castle #城 #worldheritage #世界遺産 #unescoworldheritage #那覇 #おきなわ #沖縄 #okinawa #琉球 #ryukyu #うちなーんちゅ #日本 #japan #fengshui #architecture #photography #photoshop #art #artoftheday #picoftheday #dailyart #photooftheday #instaart #instagood #photooftheday #instadaily #instalike #ファインダー越しの私の世界

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Shuri Castle was the former residence of the Ryukyu Kingdom’s royalty. Though the current version was rebuilt in 1992, its history goes back almost 700 years. The beautiful, vibrant colors and countless artifacts also make this a great date spot as well as a must-see UNESCO World Heritage site in Japan, and of course it is one of the most iconic landmarks of Okinawa.

9. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, Okayama Prefecture

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. . 岡山の天空の城🏯 . . 今まで撮影ポイントが少ないとの事で . 避けてましたが予報見てこちらに🚙 . . 紅葉もしててばっちりでした😋 . . 朝からご一緒していただいた @hiromitsu_aoki あおきさん . 2日間一緒していただいた @koua.manma ちあきさん @spice_ruriko るりこさん . 楽しい時間をありがとうございました😌 . 普段の写活はコンビニ飯で済ませる事が . 多いのですがたまには . 食ってばかりのゆる活も良きかな🤤😋 . . また画質劣化してない?笑 . . kanifilter ND16 . location:#備中松山城 (岡山県) . 2018,11,16 . . #ファインダー越しの私の世界 #earth_shotz#kanifilter_ln2018秋 #ig_phos #autumn #wonderful_places#earthfocus#visitjapan #rox_captures #japantravelphoto #雲海#風景 #紅葉 #icu_japan #whim_life #wu_japan #team_jp_ #ptk_japan#bestjapanpics #daily_photo_jpn #nipponpic #岡山へ行こう #japan_of_insta#photo_travelers #light_nikon #広がり同盟 #art_of_japan_ #tokyocameraclub #japan_daytime_view

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This castle is probably lesser known than most of the famous sites on this list, but it’s well worth visiting because it’s the oldest surviving castle in Japan. It’s also the highest, situated on top of a mountain overlooking the town of Bitchu. That makes visiting this castle somewhat of an adventure, because it’s so high up that visitors have to hike 20 minutes to get there. From a nearby mountaintop, the castle looks like it’s floating in the clouds on overcast days, which makes like a real life Castle in the Sky.

8. The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Located smack in the middle of Tokyo, this is the former site of Edo Castle, where the Tokugawa shoguns and the Emperor Meiji resided during their reigns. Though there are no castle buildings remaining on this spot today, the beautiful gardens of the Imperial Palace are still encircled by the walls and moats of the original fortification. Plus, visitors can enjoy lush lawns and an ornate Japanese garden, perfect for an afternoon stroll or a family picnic.

7. Uwajima Castle, Ehime Prefecture

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【宇和島城】(愛媛県宇和島市) 昨年最後の城攻めとして、数年ぶりに宇和島城に登城して来ました。 しかし、残念ながら生憎の天気により思うような写真を撮れなかったので、今回は現存天守の内部を中心に載せてみました。 現在、宇和島城天守は、外壁の改修工事のため足場を組んでいる状態なので、また改修工事が終わってからリベンジ登城したいと思っています。 久々の御殿建築の意匠(いしょう)を凝(こ)らした天守は、外観・内観共に最高でした!!(^-^)v 1️⃣二の丸からの宇和島城天守 2️⃣~3️⃣本丸からの天守 4️⃣~6️⃣天守内1階 ※レプリカの甲冑は(左から)豊臣秀吉・伊達秀宗・伊達政宗 7️⃣~8️⃣天守内2階 9️⃣天守内3階(最上階) 🔟史跡宇和島城 城内マップ #宇和島城 #日本100名城 #現存12天守 #現存天守 #重要文化財 #伊達十万石 #宇和島伊達家 #伊達秀宗 #伊達宗城 #幕末の四賢侯 #藤堂高虎 #お城王国愛媛 #四国現存天守4城 2018.12/23(日)

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This small but interesting castle is one of the oldest in Japan, standing intact since the beginning of the Edo period in the 17th century. It has three floors and is situated on top of a hill, so be prepared for a bit of climbing if you go! Inside is a collection of samurai armor and swords, so it makes for a pretty cool stop for history and samurai buffs.

6. Inuyama Castle, Aichi Prefecture

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" 【 #犬山城 】 木曽川の南岸にそそりたつ犬山城は、 今から470年ほど前、織田氏によって築かれました🔨 別名「白帝城」といわれており、 日本最古の天守閣は国宝に指定されています。 . . . ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━ 📍 犬山城 住所 / 愛知県犬山市大字犬山北古券65-2 アクセス / 犬山遊園駅から徒歩約15分 . 📷 photo by @oyumi413 📅 2019.06.17 ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━ . . こちらのお写真は #jalan_travel からpick upしました🔍 ステキなお写真ありがとうございました😊 . . ✔ お出かけの際は、公式ホームページで詳しい情報をご確認ください👀 ✔ #jalan_travel のハッシュタグをつけて、 絶景・おでかけ・グルメ写真を投稿してね🏷 このアカウントや、じゃらんニュース、pintarestで、紹介します! (撮影日・撮影場所の情報があると嬉しいです♪) . . .

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Built in the 16th century, Inuyama Castle also stands among Uwajima and Bitchu Matsuyama as one of the oldest standing castles in the country. It is located on top of a small hill, and a further climb up four flights of steep stairs will reward visitors with beautiful panoramic views of the city of Inuyama and of the Kiso River that it stands beside.

5. Matsue Castle, Shimane Prefecture

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松江城 〜桜空に翔ぶ〜 ・ ・ 朝陽を浴びる天守と桜、松江城でこれが見られたのは本当に嬉しかった。 ブルーシート敷かれる前に撮りたい一心で開門ダッシュした甲斐がありました。 ・ ・ ・ ・ location:島根県松江市 ・ #松江城 #島根 #松江 #城 #城好き #城巡り #Sakura ・ #写真好きな人と繋がりたい #写真撮ってる人と繋がりたい #東京カメラ部 #ig_phos #ig_japan #ig_myshot #hubsplanet #art_of_japan_ #lovers_nippon #team_jp_春色2019 #はなまっぷ桜2019 #daily_photo_jpn #whim_life #japan_daytime_view #visitjapanjp #nipponpic #histrip_japan #ptk_japan #japantravelphoto #sorakataphoto #bestphoto_japan #nikond750

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Matsue Castle, another of the only 12 original castles still standing in Japan, is unique on this list in that its exterior walls are painted black. That, coupled with its steep moat, gives it the imposing impression of a sturdy stronghold. Visitors can gaze upon a collection of weapons and artifacts from the Edo Period inside the castle, and boat tours of the moat are also available in good weather.

4. Matsuyama Castle, Ehime Prefecture

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**🌿🌿 松山城 🌿🌿** . こんばんは 久しぶりに地元の松山城に自宅から往復歩いて行ったきました。流石に疲れました 全国的にも珍しい「登り石垣」が二之丸を取り囲むように山麓から本丸にかけてあります。「登り石垣」を眺めながら登りました。 松山城と言えば「加藤嘉明」 姫路城と並ぶ典型的な連立式天守をもち、慶長期の様式を引き継ぐ、我が国最後の完全な城郭建築だそうです。 明日も笑顔で過ごせますように . ** ** 🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿 ** ** . . #japan #ehime #castle #instajapan #愛媛 #松山城 #城 #日本百名城 #加藤嘉明 #城郭 #城好きな人と繋がりたい

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Ehime’s actually a pretty cool place to visit, especially since two of the top ten castles are there! Matsuyama Castle is another intact castle, originally built in the early 17th century, though the current three-story tower was built in the early 1800s. The castle is one of the biggest and most complex in Japan, and is a great example of feudal castles the Edo and Tokugawa Periods. It’s also on top of a mountain and surrounded by cherry blossoms, which makes the chairlift, ropeway, or 15-minute hike up absolutely beautiful. At the base of the mountain, there are also remains of the lords’ quarters, which haven been remade into a really beautiful garden called Ninomaru Garden. For history buffs, this is absolutely a must-see castle in Japan!

3. Kumamoto Castle, Kumamoto Prefecture

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熊本県 熊本市 中央区 熊本城 最近のお城連投に継いで 2015年頃かな。 熊本地震前の熊本城です。 今でも地震に苦しむ方は各地にいます。 ちょうど今年の5月には 熊本県益城町に行ったのですが。 ビニールシートを張った家がまだ いくつもありました。 現在の熊本城も頑張ってもとの姿に 戻ろうとしていますよ。 できることは限られてるかもしれませんか 思いつくできることはやっていこうと おもいました。 がんばろう日本。 #熊本県 #熊本市 #熊本城 #castle #日本 #beautiful #bestphoto_japan #beautiful_world #bestjapanpics #camera_club_finders #camera #happy #instagood #ig_japan #japan_pic #japan #japantrip #japan_of_insta #lovers_nippon #love_japan #nikon #nippon #nipponpic #sky #sky_lovers #sdgs #がんばろう日本 #益城町

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This castle sits on impressive grounds that contain multiple buildings and hundreds of cherry blossom trees, so it’s certainly a sight worth seeing. Most of the 17th century buildings have been reconstructed over the years, and the interior may be modern, but the castle has a great museum exhibition on the history and construction of the original castle. There is also a reconstruction of the daimyo’s palace on the grounds, with beautiful painted sliding doors and opulent interiors befitting a lord’s residence. Unfortunately, since the 2016 earthquake in Kumamoto, the castle was severely damaged and is not yet open to the public, but you can still observe its imposing architecture from afar.

2. Matsumoto Castle, Nagano Prefecture

One of the only castles on this list not built on a hill or a mountain, Matsumoto Castle is one of the most splendid castles in Japan. It stands mostly intact since its original construction in the 17th century, and has a large, six-story main keep that’s worth climbing to see the built-in fortifications, as well as the view of the city of Matsumoto. The outside of the castle also hosts a lovely garden, which in spring becomes a very popular cherry blossom viewing spot.

1. Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture

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最後に #姫路城#好古園

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Ranking at number one for the fourth year in a row is the truly impressive Himeji Castle in western Japan. This stunning, almost all-white castle is considered one of the most beautiful in Japan, and is both a national treasure and a World Heritage site. It also is almost entirely composed of its original 16th century construction, though it has been extensively renovated, which makes this castle a historical gem. It contains over eighty buildings, including the quarters of a princess and an impressive six-story main keep, which is mostly unfurnished except for explanations of architectural features. Of course, the grounds of this castle are also dotted with cherry blossom trees, making this a very popular spot in spring.

Some entries on this list cross over with the list of ten best castles as rated by experts and castle fans that we shared earlier this year, but there are some differences, so it’s interesting to see how certain castles are rated over others. Honestly, though, all of the castles in Japan are worth visiting; it just comes down to what you want to see the most!

Source: TripAdvisor via Japaaan
Top Image: Pakutaso

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