Matsue Castle – Shimane
Matsue Castle, which last year celebrated its 400 year anniversary is one of the very few remaining original wooden castles of Japan. After earthquakes, fires, wars and political strife, most of the hundreds of original castles have been destroyed and even the vast majority of castles still standing are concrete or modern reconstructions rather than the original building, but in this Matsue Castle is different. It is nicknamed “the Black castle” due to the color of the lower levels. It’s a tricky build, as from the outside you can count 5 stories but from the inside there’s actually 6 stories in the castle. At one point in 1875 it was scheduled for destruction but at the last minute the castle keep and and some parts of the walls were saved, but most of the vast original buildings are gone. It must have been impressive to see the original castle with all the defenses and gates still remaining. Today, like all other castles in Japan, the defenses have been replaced with a park. Another interesting fact is that the castle was only finished after the last major civil war in Japan ended, so the castle has never seen actual combat. If you ever visit Matsue city or Shimane prefecture, you’re very likely to see this castle I think! Matsue has excellent service for foreign tourists, so good in fact that some of the Japanese tourists grumbled a little bit about the unfairness. Well, sometimes it’s good to come out on top!