Early castles were utilitarian in design; however, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyo’s warlordship promoted more elaborate construction as an emblematic display of power; these mountain castles became known as yamajiro ().
Each castle consisted of several fortified compounds known as baileys; the innermost bailey (known as honmaru bailey ) contained both the tower and palace residence for its lord.
Himeji Castle in Japan is one of its most celebrated structures, originally constructed as a fortress to defend its original owner (daimyo) against local warlords. Over time it became associated with the samurai lifestyle depicted in films like You Only Live Twice featuring Sean Connery playing Ian Fleming’s James Bond character from that film series.
Himeji Castle, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, is well known for its white walls and features a distinctive layout with the main tower (Honmaru yagura) connected through passageways to other towers in its complex, creating both physical and psychological barriers for attackers. Defensive measures such as arrow ports, drop holes and concealed spaces help create this barrier effect.
Himeji Castle is surrounded by three moats, one of which you can explore on a small boat ride. There are two shikare () bridges used to access its inner part. Situated atop a hill gives Himeji great prominence and offers unparalleled views from within its walls.
Honmaru Goten was rebuilt after it was damaged during World War II and is considered one of Japan‘s finest castles and a National Treasure. Each room in its palace features traditional Japanese tatami mats as well as replica fusuma-e (paintings on sliding doors).
The castle was designed to fulfill multiple functions; its outer moat served to keep out invaders while its inner kuruwa were used as living quarters. There were also obi-kuruwas that wrapped around its exterior perimeter for extra defense against attacks from enemies within and without.
The castle grounds are full of Japanese trees and plants, including ginkgo, camellias, lilies and sakura blossoms in spring; wisteria and iris in summer; plantain lily, crape myrtle and confederate rose for autumn/wintersweet in wintertime – perhaps you might even catch sight of Sika deers roaming about!
Near JR West Otsu Station in Hamaotsu lies a castle known as “hira-jiro” or level ground castle that was defended by Kyogoku Takatsugu during the Battle of Sekigahara.
Todo Takatora was one of the leading samurai castle architects during this era. This castle stands out from others by not featuring a tower keep base; rather it contains two three-story and 13 two-story Yagura watchtowers instead.
Hideyoshi ordered Asano Nagamasa to construct this castle after abandoning Akechi Mitsuhide’s Sakamoto Castle in 1586, possibly to protect Lake Biwa port goods as well as rice tributes stored within.
Hikone Castle and its associated castle town were completed by 1622. Their main enclosure (honmaru) sat atop Mt. Hikone and would have proved formidable against enemy attack with multiple walls and three concentric moats surrounding its main enclosure (honmaru).
The three-story keep was constructed on the summit of a hill and enclosed by two fortified courtyards, each separated by an inner and outer moat. Within its inner moat were official buildings and residence for the daimyo, with houses belonging to top retainers of Lord Takechi encased within its outer moat encasing their homes as well. Outside these moats was an additional third area which served as a village for lower ranks of samurai soldiers and foot soldiers beyond these moats.
Many walls and fortifications at Hikone Castle were constructed using the uchikomi hagizumi style, where long uncut stones are fitted together and secured using metal fittings, often leaving scars where material had been joined differently at an earlier date. Furthermore, Hikone Castle’s architecture features Irimoya gables at its summit, Kara gables in between and triangular Kirizuma gables at its base – each providing different benefits in terms of climate protection.