The 3 Castles By The Sea in Japan

Places to visit in Japan

Japan boasts a great number of incredible castles, some of them known as ‘original Japanese castles‘ with a castle tower of main keep dating back to the Edo Period or earlier. As a popular tourist attraction, they welcome numerous tourists from around the world who are interested in Japanese history or just want to take in the beauty of the architecture. Some of them are often featured in travel blogs and guidebooks, like for example Osaka Castle in Osaka and Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture. While these popular castles surely make for a great visit when you are travelling in Japan, there are also other stunning castles which are lesser-known, but definitely worth a visit because of the unique location. In this blog, we focus on Japan’s three beautiful castles located by the sea.

1. What is a ‘water castle’?

A water castle refers to castles that were built nearby the sea. They are known as “Umi-jiro” (海城) in Japanese which literally means “Castles by the sea”. One of the main purposes of these castles was to assist in the defense of the local people and the surrounding area.

The castles have seawater moats around them, where the water from the sea directly flows in and out. It played a key role in the defense against possible attacks by enemies. They also took advantage of these moats as a water transport, the moats enabled to get necessities from boats or ships directly and easily.

The three water castles below are all located around the Seto Inland Sea, a scenic area widely renowned for the peaceful sea with less waves and the warm climate. The Setouchi area is also home to other world-famous tourist attractions, including Miyajima in Hiroshima and a popular cycle spot known as Shimanami Cycle Route

1. Takamatsu Castle (Kagawa prefecture)

Takamatsu castle is a beautiful water castle in Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture. It faces the island-dotted Seto Inland Sea and the moats are filled with seawater even today. The construction started in 1588 and was completed in 1590 by Ikoma Chikamasa, the first feudal lord of the Takamatsu clan. Most of the original structures including the main tower were later demolished in 1884 due to deterioration, but we can still enjoy some gates, turrets, and stone walls that have survived for over centuries with significant cultural value. It is also open to the public as a Tatamo park, which is loved as a peaceful oasis in the heart of Takamatsu city among locals. 

One of the best ways to make the most of your time there is to take a pleasure boat tour which operates through the moats surrounding the castle. It allows you to feed fish swimming around the moats from the boat while exploring the vast grounds of the castle easily!

Takamatsu Castle
Opening times: depending on the season, generally from sunrise to sunset.
Admission fee: ¥200 (adult)

How to get to Takamatsu Castle

About a 10-15 min walk from JR Takamatsu Station

2. Imabari Castle (Ehime prefecture)

Another water castle that you can’t miss in the Shikoku region is Imabari Castle. Nestled in Imabari city in Ehime prefecture, it fascinates numerous visitors with its beautiful water moats and the beautifully reconstructed main castle tower. The history of the castle dates back to 1602 when the construction was originally started by Todo Takatora. He is famous not only as a feudal load but also for his involvement and outstanding skills in building a number of beautiful castles in Japan, including Nijo Castle in Kyoto and Uwajima Castle in Ehime. 

The castle features three moats that surround the castle grounds with seawater. It enabled small boats to get direct access to the castle easily from the sea. Most of the stone walls and inner moats have remained as they were back in the Edo period. The six-story main castle tower was reconstructed in 1980 and displays a large collection of cultural exhibitions such as samurai armors and helmets. It also offers a panoramic view of the Imabari city from the observation deck on the top floor.

Imabari Castle
Opening times: 9am – 5pm
Admission fee: ¥520 (adult) *free admission for those aged under 18

How to get to Imabari Castle

From JR Imabari Station take a but (7 min) for “Eigyosho” or walk for 30 minutes.

3. Nakatsu Castle (Oita prefecture)

If you have time to travel to the Kyushu area, visit Nakatsu castle which is loved as a symbolic landmark in Nakatsu city, Oita prefecture. Although the castle itself is small and not widely  known compared to other famous castles in Kyushu such as Kumamoto castle, the mix of the beautiful castle grounds and waterfront is something that you can only find here and definitely worth visiting. The construction was originally started by Kuroda Yoshitaka in 1588, and it has served as an official residence for the feudal lord of Nakatsu clan until it was finally demolished in 1871. The reconstruction of the main castle tower was finished in 1964, and the interior of the castle is open to the public. You can visit the informative museum with a wide range of exhibitions with Samurai armors and valuable items on display.

Other than Nakatsu Castle, Oita prefecture is widely famous for a number of great onsen resorts that can be found across the prefecture. Visiting these spots will bring you a refreshing onsen experience, which is a must when you are visiting Japan!        

Nakatsu Castle
Opening times: 9am – 5pm
Admission fee: ¥400 (adult)

How to get to Nakatsu Castle

About a 15 min walk from JR Nakatsu Station

Don’t forget to check out our private tour!

Japan Wonder Travel offers (private) tours all throughout Japan, to the popular places like Tokyo and Kyoto but also to lesser known spots. If you need some help to organize your trip to Japan, or want to book a tour, you should definitely check out website. We would be more than happy to assist you in planning your trip in Japan and welcoming you here. All of our (private) tours include an English speaking local guide and we can customize the programme according to your requests. Some of your popular tours are:

  1. Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
    Visit Tokyo’s popular fish market and try local specialties from Japan!
  2. Tokyo Private Tour
    Visit the must-visit highlights in Tokyo with our friendly local guide! This tour is flexible and the destination is customizable according to your requests. 
  3. Hiroshima Walking Tour
    Visit the two UNESCO world heritage sights of Hiroshima and learn about the fascinating history of the two must-see spots.

If you are interested in Japanese history, but have you already visited the famous spots in Japan? Why don’t you consider a trip to the water castles above as your next destination? Although they may seem a little hard to visit because of the remote location, far away from Tokyo, it will give you a great opportunity to discover the hidden secrets of water castles. It will also enable you to explore the peaceful surrounding areas which await you with exciting experiences that allow you to spend a pleasant leisure time in a local setting.

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Happy travelling!

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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with travelling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. Also love to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.

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