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These are the castles in Japan that I have actually visited. Many I have been to several times, some only once.

Japanese castles were defended in a very different way to their European counterparts. In Europe you were faced with one, two or sometimes three curtain walls. They would be thick but once breeched you simply faced the next wall until that in turn was broken.

Japanese castles on the other hand, while having one or sometimes more curtain walls were in fact defended by forcing the enemy, once in, to follow a winding complex series of passages and gates all with their own respective 'killing zones'. For instance charging through a breeched gate the enemy would find a right angle turn on a rising slope in front of them possibly followed by another one. This tended to slow them down, and all the time above them on the walls surrounding the pathway in would be defenders raining fire down. Some gates were simple to break through only for the enemy to find themselves in a compound with a much harder gate to the left or right and surrounded by stone walls with the defenders picking them off. This would be called a masugata gate. Truly a battle of arbitration.

The other main difference is the sheer beauty of some of the Japanese castles. The war Lords that lived in them were deeply cultured. Castles like Mastumoto would have 'moon viewing' turrets, defensive yes, but also built for it's ascetic value. Colour featured too, Himeji castle was white and known as the white 'Heron castle', while Okayama was black and was referred to as the 'Black Crow' castle.

Sadly only twelve castles survived world war two. Of the ones that have been re-constructed the results varie, from Kishiwada castle that looks great on the outside but inside is just a concrete hall bearing no resemblance to a castle, to Ozu castle where the attention to detail and materials used promise that within a few years this 'reconstruction' will probably be classed as a National Treasure.

A lot more information can be found at Jcastle, the biggest and best Japanese castle website on the internet. Jcastle

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