Updated: December 25, 2016
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Perfect Guide To 10 Must-Go Japanese Castles

Japanese castles come in all shapes and sizes, so there are bound to be some that will resonate with you. Here are ten recommendations on which castles you should visit.

1. Shuri Castle (Okinawa Prefecture)

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Shuri Castle: one of nine UNESCO World Heritage sites in Okinawa
The only red castle in Japan, Shuri Castle not only cuts an impressive figure, but also enlightens you about the rulers of the Ryukyu Kingdom which ruled most of the Ryukyu Islands from the 15th to 19th centuries. Check out the throne inside the main hall, the Seiden, and have fun visualizing how the past rulers interacted with their loyal subjects!

2. Matsuyama Castle (Ehime Prefecture)

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Matsuyama Castle: looking over Matsuyama City on Mt. Katsuyama
Getting to Matsuyama Castle is an exciting adventure in itself, as you can either use a ropeway or a chairlift to get to its hilltop location. Once you get there, you can admire the spectacular view of Matsuyama City AND the Seto Island Sea before you. It is one of only 12 castles that have remained intact since 1868, so bonus points for its authenticity!

3. Hirosaki Castle (Aomori Prefecture)

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Hirosaki Castle: A visual spectacle in spring
Photography buffs will be tickled pink (no pun intended) by the sight of Hirosaki Castle gorgeously framed by bright pink cherry blossoms. What's more, there is a traditional red bridge right in front of the castle tower, thus adding a dose of explosive energy to your photos!

4. Nagoya Castle (Aichi Prefecture)

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Nagoya Castle: Keep an eye out for the shachihoko
Nagoya Castle stands out from other castles because of its pair of striking golden shachihoko (mythical sea creatures with tiger-like heads). In fact, they are so well loved by Nagoya natives that they have come to be regarded as a symbol of Nagoya City. Also, if you visit in August, you may just be able to join in the "obon odori" dance festival and dance at the castle grounds with very enthusiastic locals!

5. Iwakuni Castle (Yamaguchi Prefecture)

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Iwakuni Castle: Admire the array of Japanese swords
If you are into history, Iwakuni Castle makes for a real fun visit as it contains a pretty wide range of samurai swords and armour. Another appealing factor: its stunning panoramic view features the Kintaikyo Bridge, a bridge that is in a league of its own with five wooden arches!

6. Nijo Castle (Kyoto Prefecture)

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Nijo Castle: A beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site
As the Kyoto residence for Japan's first shogun, Nijo Castle has a lot of historical significance as it showcases how powerful the shoguns were over the emperors during the Edo period. Indeed, its surroundings were befitting of a shogun - think attractive gardens with beautifully pruned pine trees.

This castle is also famous for its "nightingale floors"; they would squeak when you step on them because they were designed to do so as a warning sign of intruders.

7. Matsumae Castle (Hokkaido Prefecture)

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Matsumae Castle: The only castle in Hokkaido
The one and only Japanese style castle on Hokkaido, Matsumae Castle has so many kinds of cherry blossoms that it has a Sakura Museum on its grounds so that you can acquire knowledge of the various species! Unlike other parts of Japan where the sakura season lasts for two weeks, Matsumae Castle enjoys a long sakura season from late April to late May, so this will give you more leeway when you plan your trip!

8. Himeji Castle (Hyogo Prefecture)

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Himeji Castle: One of the Top 3 Castles in Japan
Do you know that Himeji Castle was the first landmark to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993? This is due to its sheer size and outworldly beauty of its procelain white walls. A powerful fortress with 21 gates, it will captivate your attention because it was built with many traps aimed to deter intruders. Enjoy learning all about them!

9. Matsumoto Castle (Nagano Prefecture)

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Matsumoto Castle: Another one of the Top 3 Castles
Your memory of seeing Matsumoto Castle will imprint itself in your mind. Its dignified black walls - a rare trait in Japanese castles - make for Instagram-worthy photos. Its interior is also fun as you can explore steep stairs and openings that were used to drop stones onto enemies or shoot arrows at them!

10. Kumamoto Castle (Kumamoto Prefecture)

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Kumamoto Castle: Last one of the Top 3 Castles
Due to the Kumamoto Earthquake in April 2016, reconstruction work is now being done on the castle facade and interiors. Nonetheless, it is possible to admire the formidable exterior from outside. And strike a domineering presence, it does. Here's a fun fact: no building in the whole of Kumamoto City is allowed to be taller than Kumamoto Castle!
Towering and majestic, Japanese castles are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also give you great insights into the lives of feudal lords and samurai. Have fun visiting these castles!

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