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9 Castle Visits  
  1. Akashi Castle
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    I actually only saw this castle from the train (not shinkansen) passing by. The first time I was squashed against the door window a while past sunset, the train was packed full, and the turrets were lighted up bright and were very clear even in the dark. The second time I was going the other way, towards Kobe, it still looked very white and much longer in the daylight. Taking the express is actually a pretty good way to do some, well, express sightseeing of Kobe. You can easily see Akashi Castle, Akashi-Kaikyo (on clear days), Kobe Tower, Mt.Rokko and the ropeway, the Tetsujin Statue, etc.
  2. Ako Castle
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  3. Edo Castle
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  4. Fukuyama Castle
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  5. Himeji Castle
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  6. Hiroshima Castle
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    Hiroshima Castle was the fifth castle I had seen from the outside, but the first I actually went inside, I must say that it’s my favourite castle in Japan (granted, I haven’t been to that many but even on future trips I think it will be hard to beat). The Ninomaru is the first building one sees as they enter the castle grounds after crossing the initial bridge, entrance was free so I made my way in and looked around there first. It was reconstructed with wood and resembles more what it would’ve looked like in the past. One of the turrets only had a large taiko drum in the middle of the room, the other side had a few tatami mats and a couple of wooden models of the castle. The hallway between the two yagura was full of photos of the reconstruction of the castle and, although all explanations were in Japanese, I still understood the general idea of how it was done. Just outside the Ninomaru there are a few lines and signs on the floor that I had no idea what they were for, after my castle visit I learned that they must have been the locations of the rooms and other buildings belonging to the castle. The water of the moat was full of koi fish and turtles, I found it ironic to see them all there considering the castle is also called ‘Carp Castle’ and some of the fish shared its brown colour. There was a very big eucalyptus before the bridge that had survived the bombing, the branches twisting and turning and falling all around it. Right before Gokoku Shrine is a bunker where the first radio broadcast out of Hiroshima fallowing the atomic bombing was made, now there are only a couple of senbazuru waterfalls and a small building hidden between trees and moss. Gokoku Shrine was great, but I’m supposed to be talking about the castle so not really relevant. The first floor explains the history behind the castle, plus it has a very interesting model of how the castle would’ve looked including all the other buildings besides the main keep. I honestly had no idea that there were so many buildings but the model showed rows and rows of tatami and rooms after rooms occupying what would probably be most of the castle grounds, if not more. They have a few architectural objects like old tiles and the like and also talk about the small town on the delta before Hiroshima. The third floor was my favourite simply because of the armours. I had seen a few samurai armours before in the Tokyo National Museum of Ueno, but there were so many people there at the time that I hardly had room to look at them properly. This time I stayed and imagined them being made in front of me, threads with such strong colours being looped together with the plates. It almost seemed more like art than a dressing for war, I still remember clearly the dark blue of one of the armours. The rest of the third and fourth floor have great displays of swords and a gun, although I think the fourth floor changes exhibits every now and then. Most people seemed to be passing the displays rather quickly, I was practically alone looking at the weapons, but the Observation Platform was full of people. I liked the bars around the fifth floor, making it feel like a cage. Since it’s a cement reconstruction the inside of the building doesn’t feel like a castle (really just an interesting museum) but when I was on the top floor and could feel the wooden walls it was easier to imagine how castle-life must’ve been. Making my way back down to the bottom I collected the castle stamp and asked a Spanish couple to take some photos of me with the castle. I took 3h15min to visit the whole castle and grounds (including Gokoku Shrine), so I set off to visit Shukkei-en before it was too late. Worth mentioning that they do samurai performances (singing, plays and sword shows) every Sunday from 13:30 to 15:00h at the Ninomaru in case any of you are interested in seeing that. On Saturdays you can also spot people dressed up as samurai walking around the castle at about the same time. Note for people using the ‘Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass’: for the discount to the castle you must also bring the little booklet that comes with the pass, else it doesn’t count.
  7. Iwakuni Castle
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  8. Okayama Castle
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  9. Osaka Castle
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    I really liked the castle itself, the museum inside was very interesting and detailed the history behind it well. However, the overall experience wasn’t that great because of the amount of people that were there, it was much more crowded than Himeji castle the day before. For this reason I don’t think I’ll revisit the main keep of the castle and don’t remember it too fondly, but it’s good to have been to a place with so much history behind it at least. What I did enjoy the most was the video downstairs explaining the transportation of materials to build the castle, after that I went outside to check the rocks in the area and loved to find the different markings on them telling us which general was in charge of their mobilisation and placement. Since I visited this on my second trip to Japan I really only visited the main keep and the kura storehouse (I did love kura storehouses even then…) but I think I’ll go again one day just to check out the rest of the grounds and area on a future trip to Osaka.