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Castles anywhere in the world are just cool. The castles in Japan are very different from European castles and have their own very unique style and capabilities. Japan castles are not only bastions of defense, they are also very beautiful. It is said that throughout Japanese history there were up to 5,000 castles built throughout the land... 5,000! Some were just small little "fort" types while others were massive strongholds. From Okinawa to Hokkaido there were castles upon hilltops and on the flatland owned by one of the many "Clans" that were vying for power in Japan's medieval times.
Unfortunately after the Meiji Restoration, the Meiji government ordered the destruction of most all the castles in the late 1870's (because they were viewed as symbols of the previous Shogun elite) and the Tokyo area (Kantou Region) Japan castles did not survive this onslaught. There are a few "Re-Constructed" castles (mostly just "parts" of the original using the original's plans) but most are "Mock Ups" (not even the original castles design) in the spot or near the spot where the original stood. The "Mock Ups" are very interesting and pretty but just understand that if you visit, they are a modern times (usually in the 1970's and 1980's) constructed structures. The "Mock Ups" are usually museums that contain history of the original castle, the surroundings and artifacts such as swords and armor.
Visiting Castles near Tokyo
There are two very interesting castles near Tokyo that a tourist may want to consider visiting while they are in Tokyo. If you have extra time and love castles, please consider the others and view their detail pages (click on the castle in the image below). The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is also an easy half day trip and can be visited rather easily. However, the two interesting castles we mention are "Oshi" castle and "Odawara" castle. "Oshi" castle is very cool because it is a "re-construction" of the original and it held off 23,000 troops with only 619 samurai and 2,000 troops made up of farmers and village people! "Odawara" castle is cool because its pretty big, it is a "re-construction" and was the main bastion of the Hojo Clan who fought vigorously against the Tokugawa alliance and the castle successfully repelled many large attacks. For more details on these castles please click the castle on the image below.
Visiting Castles near Osaka & Kyoto
If your travel plans include the Osaka/Kyoto area (or you live in the Kansai region) you have the opportunity to see some of Japan's best castles. Osaka Castle is simple to get to and offers an incredible look at a Japanese stronghold and piece of history. From Osaka or Kyoto you can catch a Bullet Train to Himeji and see one of top four best castles in Japan, Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle is an "original" structure (surviving quite the onslaught of destruction from many sources) and is absolutely gorgeous. Himeji Castle is frequently listing in lists of "The most beautiful castles in the world.", especially during the fall or cherry blossom season. Another option is to catch an express train out to see Hikone Castle (or go to Nagahama Castle first and catch it on the way back). Hikone Castle is another "original" structure and quite astonishing. If your just a "casual tourist", a visit to Osaka, Himeji or Hikone Castle is highly recommended. If your a "castle fan", you will be in "castle heaven"... visit them all! The Japanese train system makes it convenient and relatively inexpensive to experience a piece of famous world history.
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