Tuesday, March 27, 2012
It is said that there were almost 25,000 castles one time in Japan, big or small. Today only 12 remain with the original Main Tower (Tenshu). Four of them and Nijo Castle in Kyoto are designated as National Treasures, regardless that Nijo Castle lost its Main Tower by a lightning strike in 1750.
1. Himeji Castle, Himeji City
Known as the White Heron Castle, Himeji Castle has attracted tourists and photographers from all over the world. Himeji Castle is also designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. As informed via the JTS Bulletin News October 2010, the 5-year major restoration of the Main Tower started in 2010, and now the Main Tower is completely covered with the roofed scaffolding. An observation facility, Egret’s Eye View, is built inside to let the visitors see the restoration process. Please advise your clients to make reservations online to secure the admission to the Egret’s Eye View as they limit the admission occasionally.
Castle Visitor’s Hours: 9:00 am-4:00 pm (Castle area closed at 5 pm),
until 5:00 pm from April 27 to Aug. 31.
Closed: Dec. 29 & 30
Admission to Castle: 400 yen ($4.80)
Admission to the Egret’s Eye View is additional: 200 yen ($2.40)
Access: 5 min. by bus or 15 min. walk from JR Himeji Station.
2. Nijo Castle, Kyoto City
Nijo Castle is also designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Originally this castle was built as an official residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun Ieyasu in 1603. The Ninomaru Palace, a National Treasure, is well preserved with elaborate architectural design and gorgeous interior decorations. There are three beautifully landscaped Japanese gardens in the property.
Hours: 8:45 am-4:00 pm (The gate closed at 5 pm)
Closed: Dec 26-Jan 4; every Tuesday in Dec, Jan, July and Aug
Admission: 600 yen ($7.20)
Access: About 15 min. by bus from JR Kyoto Station to Nijo-jo-mae Bus Stop, or by subway with one transfer.
3. Matsumoto Castle, Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture
Constructed in the 16th century, Matsumoto Castle is one of the oldest surviving Japan’s castles. The six-story Matsumoto Castle against a backdrop of Japan Alps is amazingly beautiful. Seasonal events in the precinct are scheduled, such as the Castle lightning-up during cherry blossom season, Takigi-Noh (Bonfire Noh performance) and Japanese drum (taiko) performance.
Hours: 8: 30 am-5:00 pm (enter by 4:30 pm), until 6 pm during Golden Week (April 28-May 6, 2012) & summer season (Aug 4-19, 2012)
Closed: Dec 29-Jan 3
Admission: 600 yen ($7.20)
Access: 15 mn.walk from JR Matsumoto Station. Or 10 min. by bus.
4. Hikone Castle, Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture
The construction of the castle began in 1603 and it took almost 20 years to build the whole castle. The 3-story Main Tower, a National Treasure, was built around 1606 and the top floor provides breathtaking view of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake.
Hours: 8:30 am-5:00 pm, year-round
Admission: 600 yen ($7.20), including the admission for Genkyuen Garden
Access: 10 min. walk from JR Hikone Station. Hikone Station is 5 min. from Maibara Station by JR rapid train. Maibara is 30 min. from Nagoya Station, or 40 min. from Shin-Osaka Station by Shinkansen, Bullet Train.
5. Inuyama Castle, Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture
Inuyama Castle was constructed in 1537 and the Main Tower is considered Japan’s oldest. The castle stands on the steep cliffs overlooking Kiso River. The external corridor on the top floor provides superb view of Kiso River, and mountain ranges over the city.
Hours: 9:00 am-5:00 pm (enter by 4:30 pm)
Closed: Dec 29-31
Admission: 500 yen ($6.00)
Access: 20 min. walk from Inuyama Station. Inuyama Station is 25 min. from Meitetsu Nagoya Station by limited express train on Meitetsu Railways.