Between the 1500s and 1600s, many castles were built in Japan. At that time, Japan was split into many small domains and castles were built as bases to protect the land.
These castles were called Yamajiro(castle atop a mountain). Most castles were not elaborate like the one illustrated above, but rather simple ones protected by moats or earthen walls surrounding the premises.
As a result, many of those castles are no longer standing, unbeknownst to travelers who show up only to be disappointed by a mound of ruins. However, the military sense of the samurai still amazes, with the strategic placement of the castles on high mounts overlooking the plains, or on cliffs that are difficult to attack. Don the military spirit and let’s go explore these amazing sites of castles past together!
Meanwhile, in the latter half of the 1500s, more and more castles like the one in the picture were built. This was due to a decrease in war and the need for convenience.
These types of castles are called Hirajiro (castle on flatlands). As they become more common, subjects started building houses around the castles, merchants gathered, and towns that centered around these castles prospered. These castle towns, with all major roads leading to the castle, can easily be noted as a major landmark in the area.
On a side note, many people mistake the structure above for a “castle”. In fact, it is a keep, just one part of a castle. The word “castle” actually refers to the entire stone building below, in addition to the moat, walls, and area enclosed by those walls.
Even though the war was sparse, there was still the possibility of the sudden attack by enemies. Small windows were designed into the walls to allow bows and arrow and guns to shoot out, and stone walls were constructed to be hard to climb. If you visit a flatland castle, make sure to not only ogle the giant keeps but also admire the defensive mechanism built into the castle itself.
But! Not only that. If you visit the keep of a castle, please also pay attention to its roof. On each end is a fish-like decoration with the head of a dragon and body of a carp. They are deities and protectors of the castle, said to be able to blow out water to put out flames in case of a fire. There are many fine details such as this, so don’t forget to take pictures!
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