Castles of Japan &mdash ; visiting the land of samurai, sakura and maple trees

Japan is famous for cherry blossoms, tea ceremony, sophisticated geisha and stern samurai. Samurai castles are real architectural marvels of this unique country. There are about 50 castles in modern Japan, but most of these castles were rebuilt after fires, devastating earthquakes and bombings of World War II. The same castles that were not destroyed were often significantly rebuilt by their owners. Only a few authentic castles have survived to this day.

Castles of Japan — visiting the country of samurai, sakura and maples

Built in 1609, the “Castle of the White Heron” raised its white towers over the town of the same name. More than 80 stone and wooden buildings amaze with their elegance. The castle is surrounded by a labyrinth garden with many cherry trees. Many films were filmed here, including one of the first James Bond films, and The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. The castle is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and is incredibly popular with tourists.
Part of Himeji Castle is available for free viewing, but for those who want to go beyond the castle courtyard and cherry blossom lawn, there is a ticket kiosk at Hishi Gate. Behind the gate are the main tower, a small temple and the residence of the princess.

Castles of Japan — visiting the country of samurai, sakura and maples

Crow Castle was built in 1594. The black citadel is five stories high — floors has become a symbol of the city of Nagano. This is the oldest wooden castle that has survived to this day. The gloomy black “Raven” is surrounded by a moat with water in which Japanese carps swim.
It hosts local seasonal festivals such as the Drum Festival and the Noodle Festival. During the day in the castle you can take pictures with the characters of Japanese history – samurai or ninja. The garden and the area around the castle are open to the public free of charge, for a small fee you can see the inside of the castle. It houses an exposition of palace interiors in which samurai and their families lived, and a small exhibition of medieval weapons.

Castles of Japan — visiting the country of samurai, sakura and maples

Also known as Tsuruga Castle — The Crane Castle is a red and white ensemble built in 1384. The main seven-tiered tower was built in 1592. It was often rebuilt throughout its history, but in 2011 it returned to its original color, reminiscent of the plumage of Grus japonensis – the Japanese crane.
A small exhibition inside will tell visitors about the history of the castle and the life of its inhabitants. Holidays and festivals are held in the castle.
The gardens surrounding the castle were laid out in the 14th century. Here you can enjoy cherry blossoms, wander along the hidden paths and wide alleys, enjoy a tea ceremony at the Rinkaku Teahouse. The castle gardens are a favorite place for locals and tourists to relax.

Castles of Japan — visit the country of samurai, sakura and maples

Inuyama literally means “dog mountain”. It has another name — Hakutei – “Castle of the White Emperor”. The main part of the castle was built in 1537, but during the restoration it turned out that the two lower floors are much older. They are attributed to 1440. Until 2004, the castle was privately owned by the Naruse family.
The castle is located on a hill above the Kiso River and is considered one of the most traditional Japanese castles. It has been preserved almost in its original form, despite all the twists and turns of history. The castle is surrounded by sakura trees, which bloom in spring, and maple trees, incredibly bright in autumn, surrounding it with a real riot of crimson and ocher.
Inuyama Castle holds a festival of paper lanterns in the spring, which are usually floated on the Kiso River.

Castles of Japan — visiting the country of samurai, sakura and maples

Almost unchanged from its construction in 1622, this castle is listed as a National Historic Landmark and a National Treasure of Japan.
The castle is located on Konkizan Hill. Its silhouette above the lake is especially striking on moonlit nights. The sound of the castle bell, which strikes every hour, carries far over the water. A spiral rise leads to the castle, which is an element of the defensive fortifications of the castle — enemies climbing it became an easy target for archers.
The cherry blossoms surrounding the castle bloom a week later than those in Tokyo and Kyoto. In the halls of the castle there is an exhibition of household and cultural items: ceramics, weapons, scrolls with calligraphy and screens.

Castles of Japan — visiting the land of samurai, sakura and maples

Built in 1603, the residence of the powerful shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A huge complex of buildings, including 2 rings of fortifications, two palaces — Hommaru and Ninomaru, and several gardens.
This is a real national treasure of Japan, a magnificent example of Edo architecture. The castle houses a museum. One of its attractions are halls with “nightingale floors” — A specially fitted coating that warns the owner of the danger.
Around the castle there are magnificent gardens with a huge number of sakura trees blooming in spring, maples and gingko trees delighting with bright foliage in autumn.

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