The different types of Japanese castles 日本の城

Japan's iconic castles

The Japanese castle, with its multi-story guard towers, its wooden architecture, and its huge open gardens has established itself as one of the iconic places in the country. But did you know that there are different kinds of castles across the land?

The yamajiro


Before the 14th century, Japan only knew temporary castles, consisting of wooden fortifications surrounded by moats, whose objective was to serve as defenses against foreign invasions. The Ki nojo castle, dating from the 7th century, located in Soja (Okayama prefecture) represents this type of construction.


During the Sengoku period of the Warring States (1477 - 1573), the multiplication of conflicts across the country led to the construction of the first castles intended for internal use. These castles are built high up on hills or mountains. "Yamajiro" means "castle on the mountain".

Château d'Inuyama

Inuyama Castle dominates the Kiso River and protects its bank.


The hirayamajiro


The hirayamajiro, or   "plain and mountain castle" is a castle built in such a way that it combines the advantages of the heights and those of the plain, allowing both military and civil use (place of political power).

Thus, a castle was built on a hill easily overlooking the plain, like the very famous Himeji Castle, built on an artificial hill.


Himeji Castle

The Himeji Castle Dungeon appears to have only 5 floors, but includes a hidden one.


The hirajiro


The hirajiro is a "plain castle" corresponding to the castles built during a more peaceful period. At that time, the fortress, seen as a symbol of power, played a role that was much more political and economic than strategic, like Nijo Castle in Kyoto.

Indeed, the topographic location makes it much more difficult to defend. Located in the center of towns, it nevertheless retains large moats and turrets as a means of protection.


Château Nijo-jo

Nijo-jo Castle

miss vichan

The mizujiro


Alongside these large categories of castles, there is a smaller category, called "mizujiro" or castles in the water.

It includes three castles: those of Nakatsu (Oita prefecture), Takamatsu (Kagawa prefecture), and Imabarai (Ehime prefecture). Castles that face the sea and take advantage of the latter as protection.


Imabari Castle


Latest Articles

Red spider lily: How to grow and care for this enchanting fall-blooming bulb

The red spider lily (Lycoris radiata) is a striking fall-blooming bulb known for its vivid red flowers that seem to appear magically on bare stalks.

Japan Visitor - manyoshu20195.jpg

The Manyoshu: Japan's oldest and most renowned poetry anthology

The Manyoshu, meaning "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves", is the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry.

Japan Visitor - mask20192.jpg

Unmasking the Mystique and Allure of Traditional Japanese Masks

Masks have been an integral part of Japanese culture for centuries, dating back to at least the 6th century.

See All (368)