Edo Castle 江戸城
Founder Uesugi Family
Year 1457
Type Hilltop
Condition Other Buildings
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Historical Site Special Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, Important Cultural Properties
Historical Artifacts Important Cultural Properties:
Soto Sakurada Gate, Tayasu Gate, Shimizu Gate
Location Tokyo
Map Google Map
Access Tokyo Station, among others
Website Imperial Household Agency
Visited August 1992, many times since
Visitor Info. Free admission. Opens from 9am. Closes between 4 and 5pm depending on the season. Closed Mondays and Fridays except when Monday is a national holiday, in which case it's closed on Tuesday. Also closed 12/28-1/3 and irregularly for other events. | Time Required: 3 hrs.
History The history of Edo Castle dates back to the Heian Period when a fortified palace was built by the Edo clan on this site. In 1457 the Uesugi clan constructed the first Edo Castle. The castle remained under the control of the Uesugi family until the coming of the Tokugawa. Before Tokugawa Ieyasu, Edo (Tokyo) was just another town in the Kanto area. Partly due to Ieyasu's revolutionary city planning, the town of Edo developed at lightning speed and quickly became the social and political center of Japan.

In 1590, after Toyotomi Hideyoshi completed the unification of Japan he granted lordship over the greater Tokyo region to his lieutenant Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa could have ruled from the well established castle town of Odawara (80km west of Tokyo); instead, he took the opportunity to build a new city from the underdeveloped village of Edo. In a little over 100 years, Edo's population would grow to more than a million people, making it the largest city in the world.

When Tokugawa became Shogun in 1603, Edo effectively became the capital of Japan. He mobilized a workforce from all parts of the country to build the huge stone walls, watchtowers, and palaces of the castle. The castle was the heart of Tokugawa's city and the largest castle in the world. The castle design was the work of the great castle architect, and Ieyasu's friend, Todo Takatora.

The 15km outer moat and the 5km inner moat connect to the Sumida River to roughly spiral around the inner compound of the castle. The entire 15km of the outer moat was dug and completed in around four months, an incredible feat in any century. These Inner and Outer moats were crossed by 36 gates, many of which have left their mark on well known place names: Hanzomon, Toranomon, Akasaka Mitsuke (-mon & -mitsuke are gates); Hitotsubashi, Kandabashi, Suidobashi, and Iidabashi (-bashi means bridge) are all namesakes from those fortified bridges. Buddhist temples were even strategically located in the Northeast (Kaneiji Temple) and Southwest (Zojoji Temple) to ward off evil spirits in accordance with Japanese feng shui.

Since the end of the Edo Period (1868), Tokyo has suffered calamities such as the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) and WWII where fires destroyed much of the city. Even so, you can still find remnants of the original castle scattered around Tokyo. There are around 20 original buildings (3 of the gates are registered as Important Cultural Properties) and sections of the stonework fortifications can be seen throughout the city.

The six main compounds surrounded by the inner moat remain almost as they were at the end of the Edo Period. The Western and Fukiage Compounds are now known as the Imperial Palace and the First, Second and Third Compounds are called the "Imperial Palace East Gardens." You can walk the gardens, but the public is only allowed into the Imperial Palace grounds on special occasions. The North Compound is home to a park, museum, and the famous Budokan event hall. Jogging around this central core is a popular course for Tokyo runners. Any day of the week, you will see countless joggers making the 5km trek around the castle grounds. Many people don't realize that the massive stone walls and waterway they jog around were the original castle walls and moat. Along this course you can also enjoy the sights of 9 gates and 3 watchtowers, including the Otemon Gate.

The amount of stonework that has lasted over the past 400 years is amazing considering all they have withstood. Each stone was expertly fit together without mortar to provide enough flexibility to stand through hundreds of years of earthquakes. Most of the stone walls and fortifications of the outer moat were destroyed to make way for new developments in the 1900s. Sotobori Dori (Outer Moat Road) was built over part of the outer moat after filling most of it in. The canal across the northern part of the castle today is the only part of the old moat that was not filled in. If you walk along the high embankments you will occasionally come across ruins from the original fortifications.

For 264 years, 15 generations of Tokugawa ruled Japan from Edo Castle. The Tokugawa gave up control of the castle when they lost the Boshin war in 1868. The Emperor was restored as the ruler of Japan and moved to Edo Castle. At this time, the city was renamed Tokyo, or "Eastern Capital". The next time you are in Tokyo or even look at a map of the city, note the large green area in the middle and think about how the castle defined the city of Tokyo today.

Please visit the Edo Castle feature page for more photos, maps and descriptions

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  • furinkazan    May 09, 2017 at 10:32 PM
    I arrived today in Japan. I visited the Sengakuji, the Zôjôji and made a new stroll on the grounds of Edojô. When you visit the Sengakuji(known for the graves of Asano and his 47 rônin). Enter the museum. There is a video of about 15min. The employee who sold me the ticket, put the english version. The nice thing for castle fans is the first part. You'll see a 3D model of Edojô with all its buildings, even the tenshukaku. They confirm that at the time of the Ako incident the tenshukaku had been destroyed by a fire and never rebuild. You see also some parts of the goten from the outside untill you reach the matsu roka, where the incident took place.
  • ART    November 29, 2016 at 06:09 AM
    Question: What was the name of the bailey where the kokyo-gaien (outer garden) is today? It's surrounded by babasaki-bori and hibiya-bori moats.
  • johnsonb on My Page    November 13, 2016 at 07:12 AM
    Visited 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015
  • ART    April 20, 2016 at 01:30 PM
    Owch, that must have hurt
  • Eric    April 17, 2016 at 12:34 AM
    Maybe if you're sneaky about it ;) When I was, ahem, caught taking photos despite the sign, the guard watched as I deleted each photo from my camera :(
  • ART    April 16, 2016 at 08:38 PM
    Thanks, Eric! That is the building I heard about. It was recommended as a "good place to take pictures from" but I guess maybe not after all.
  • Eric    April 12, 2016 at 10:31 PM
    There may be more than one such building. Edo Castle is a pretty big place. I know the Palace Side Building (near Takebashi Station / Hirakawa Gate) has a nice view from that side. You can't take pictures though. The guards will get really grumpy. I work nearby and take my bento lunch here once in awhile. The last photograph in the link below shows the top of the building. http://www.mai-b.co.jp/about/
  • ART    April 11, 2016 at 10:12 AM
    So i heard there is a tallish building which for two hours daily opens its roof top for panoramic views of Edo castle. Does anybody know the details?
  • furinkazan    April 06, 2016 at 07:54 PM
    I finally visited the eastern gardens today. The interesting parts are the moats, the teahouse and guardhouses. The rest is a nice park. The weather was nice today and i enjoyed strolling around.
  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    February 03, 2016 at 05:21 AM
  • Anonymous    February 26, 2015 at 08:33 AM
    Will be in Tokyo May 4 - 12 and will visit Edo castle my wif'e maiden name is Uyesugi.
  • furinkazan on My Page    May 12, 2014 at 06:55 PM
    Since i was only visiting Tokyo for 2 days, i had to make a choice. Or visiting on sunday the Eastern gardens(closed on monday) or visiting today the palace grounds (closed on weekends). I decided to visit the palace grounds. I think it is more rewarding because you pass really next to the Fujimi-yagura and you see the Fushimi-yagura,which some parts are being restored. After the visit i did a complete tour around the park. There are alot of masugata-mon all over the place. It was really interesting. Next time i'll try to visit the eastern gardens.
  • Eric    November 20, 2012 at 12:17 PM
    mex, Odawara is a concrete reconstruction but it is a very worthwhile place to visit. They have put a lot of effort into rebuilding other gates and structures to give you a good impression of what the castle was like. The museum in the tenshu is pretty good too.
  • mex    November 20, 2012 at 10:42 AM
    Ah.. unfortunately.. maybe i'll try to visit Odawara castle, the closest castle from Tokyo.. Thanks for information, Eric..
  • mex    November 19, 2012 at 11:58 AM
    Hello.. Is there Tenshukaku in edo castle? I'd like to see it, but i only visit tokyo. Thanks..
  • Eric    June 24, 2012 at 08:00 AM
    Sorry, I've never seen a souvenir coin for Edo Castle before.  I did a brief search on the net but I didn't see any either.  One father-son blog also said they wished there was such machine around Edo Castle.
  • Steve Mc    June 22, 2012 at 10:58 PM
    Does anyone know if there is a souvenir coin for this castle? I have collected souvenir coins (usually 500 yen from a machine in the gift shop) from many of the well known castles in Japan. I visited the Imperial Gardens and near the statue of Matsuhige (sp?) the other day but no one at any of the gift shops knew of any coins. If anyone knows, let me know. I'm leaving Japan in a few days. On a sidenote, I thought Edo Jo is definitely worth a visit. Walking around the gardens and observing the walls is worth your time alone.
  • Craig    June 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM
    Despite the grand name of the imperial palace and the fame of Edo Castle I found this a rather pointless place to visit. The moat is rather lovely and the contrast of this park surrounded by skyscrapers is interesting but overall...there's just nothing special to see. Its a nice place to hang out if you live in central Tokyo but not a worthwhile place for visitors to go unless they've time to kill.
  • George (譲治)    October 04, 2011 at 06:23 PM
    Being Japanese, I can tell you that the main reason that the keep has not, and never will be, rebuilt is political. To this day, the government and imperial family tend to look down on the samurai, as they (the gov.) 'reformed' (I have my woes with the Meiji Restoration) society during the Meiji Restoration. They were the ones that tore down most of the castles left in Japan in the name of modernising society. Even without a tenshu (keep) it is actually strange, when you think about it, that the imperial family lives in what was a castle of the samurai. Thus, adding a tenshu would be a tribute to the samurai and the Shogunate, which the government would never allow, unfortunately. As far as Aizu-Wakamatsu goes, I was there just 2 weeks ago during the Aizu Festival! It was far from the epicentre, so as Eric said, the castle and city are fine, but unfortunately because it is in Fukushima prefecture (albeit 100km away from the reactors), the number of tourists has greatly decreased. There is no danger as far as going to the city (and the vast majority of the rest of Fukushima). So I strongly encourage anyone with interest to go, without tourism to help stimulate the economy, the recovery process will be a lot harder.
  • Eric    April 26, 2011 at 11:21 PM
    Regarding earthquakes, Aizu Wakamatsu is pretty far from the coast and the center of the earthquake。From what I've read the castle has sustained no damage. I have friends who lived much closer in Fukushima with little or no damage. There was some significant damage at Shirakawa Castle to the stone walls also some stone walls crumbled at Aoba Castle in Sendai and there was some cosmetic damage to Shiroishi Castle.
  • Eric    April 26, 2011 at 11:14 PM
    There is a group that has been trying to raise funds to rebuild the main keep for years, but I do not think they will ever succeed. It's just my theory, but ...such a huge keep would look directly down into the imperial family's home territory. I think they would consider it a privacy and security risk which is why the government has probably never supported the cause. http://npo-edojo.org/
  • John    April 21, 2011 at 01:38 AM
    Heard that some group was raising money to rebuild the c Keep of Edo-Jo. I looked it up, but my search was hampered by the fact that I don't speak Japanese. And about earthquakes, I beleive Aizu Wakamatsu-Jo is in a city that was Devastated by the earthquake-tsunami of march 2011, and while the city was ruins, Aizu-Wakamatsu-Jo was barely damaged. Japanese castles were, and still are,remarkably resiliant to earthquakes.
  • Usagi on My Page    January 08, 2011 at 06:39 PM
    Passed daily on the way to work, always a luxurious sight. Visited regularly at lunchtime for a pleasant summer walk. Always activity, with improvements, excavations, and new signs on display to make return visits continually interesting.
  • Anonymous    October 27, 2010 at 11:48 PM
    Thank you. I'll try and get it soon. Your information is always excellent. Congratulation on 100.
  • Eric    October 26, 2010 at 11:04 PM
    Kris, Stamps should be located in the 3 rest areas inside the castle grounds: Kitanomaru, Wadakura and Nanko rest areas.
  • Julian (from Canada)    October 23, 2009 at 09:20 AM
    I've only spent time at this castle on the side nearest Tokyo Station, except for actually going in to hear the Emperor's New Year's speech. Someday I'll get around to seeing the rest of the grounds. It's a nice retreat from the craziness of the city.
  • Nathaniel    August 18, 2009 at 08:44 PM
    If you get a chance... come in early April and join the throngs of Tokyo in gazing at the beautiful cherry trees in full blossom draping across the great stone escarpments. It is an amazing site!
  • MM    March 17, 2008 at 03:19 AM
    This castle is very interesting to go to. It is well worth seeing the huge walls. Also, at the time of its construction, it was the largest fortification in the world in terms of area.
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Edo Castle views
Fujimi Yagura Fujimi yagura
Main Keep foundation Honmaru Bailey
Sakurada yagura Otemon Gate
Otemon Gate Kikyomon Gate
Tatsumi Yagura, Kikyomon Gate, Fujimi Yagura Kikyomon watariyagura gate
Kikyomon Gate Sakuradamon Gate
Sakurada Gate Inside the Sakuradamon Gate
Sakurada Moat Sakashita Gate
Doshin Bansho Guard House 100 man guard house
Daibansho guard house Shiomizaka slope
Ishimuro Stone Cellar Fushimi Yagura
Nishinomaru Otemon Nijubashi Bridge and Fushimi Yagura
Fujimi Tamon Yagura Nishi Hanebashi Gate.
Hanzomon Gate Sakurada Moat
Stone walls of the Bairinzaka Suwa no Chaya Tea House
Hirakawa Gate Fujomon Gate in the Hirakawa Gate
Hirakawa Gate Kitahanebashi Gate
moat, stone walls Kitahanebashi Gate
Tayasu gate Tayasu Gate
Ushigafuchi Moat Shimizu Gate
Shimizu Gate Inui Gate
Buddhist invocation against evil