Feudal Heritage and Fortresses of the Archipelago
It was estimated that about twenty-five thousand castles were built throughout Japan’s history. However, only a hundred of them are still standing today.
Castles indeed suffered several rounds of destructions such as:
- Edo period, during which Tokugawa shogunate had enforced a law to reduce the number of castles a feudal lord could own;
- Meiji restoration, an era during which the modernization of Japan led to the destruction of many historical buildings;
- Bombings of the WWII;
- And several fires and civil wars at all historical periods.
12 Original Castles Remain in Japan
Therefore, even if a great number of them have been rebuilt, sometimes using the same techniques and materials than the original ones, there are only twelve original Japanese castles left. Among the most famous, we can cite the keeps of:
- Himeji (Hyogo);
- Matsumoto (Nagano);
- Matsue (Shimane);
- Matsuyama (Ehime);
- Hikone (Shiga), and
- Inuyama (Aichi).
The island of Shikoku itself shelters four of these preserved fortresses, two in Ehime prefecture, one in Kochi and the last in Kagawa.
Until recently, the most visited castle was surprisingly Shuri Castle in Okinawa. Of course, it remained less visited than the Louvre in France or the Forbidden City in China (respectively 6 and 9 times less), but it still welcomed 1,753 million visitors in 2013. The destruction of its main building by a fire in October 2019 shocked everybody in Japan, and many in the world. Its reconstruction is scheduled for several years, starting in 2022.