Kumamoto #2 : Kumamoto Castle (熊本城)

During my trip we were able to visit Kumamoto Prefecture in order to see the famous castle. For castle fans and regular tourists alike, this castle is one of the best in the country! You can read more about the castle and how to get there here.

Upon arrival and climbing through the gates, this was my first view of the castle:

As you can see, that’s not exactly like the postcard

Still, it’s a pretty neat view!

This is the view from the top of the main keep, looking out over Kumamoto City.

We also visited the beautifully reconstructed Honmaru Goten Palace

From there, we headed out a different way we came in, turned around to get a last glimpse of the castle, and…

Oh! Here we go!

The final shot

This is the Niyo-no-Ishigaki, the stone wall of two styles. Although it isn’t easily obvious in the picture, the closer wall is made of a more reddish-colored stone, while behind it is slightly grayer. To get here, head toward the Hazekata gate either on your way in or out, and you’ll find this spot!

Hyogo #3: Himeji Castle (姫路城)

So this Monday was a holiday here in Japan called 敬老の日 (Keirou no Hi, “Respect for the Aged Day”) which is celebrated the third Monday of September every year. It originated in Hyogo Prefecture, then gained popularity throughout the country until it was declared a National Holiday. Since Hyogo is its origin, I thought I’d highlight Hyogo today!

I went to Himeji to visit a cousin doing an exchange program last year, but basically only visited Himeji and Okayama. So I don’t have any pictures for the postcards except for Himeji Castle. You can read about the history of the castle on wikipedia here, but in summary it is one of the leading examples of castle architecture to survive to modern day.

When I visited the castle was under renovation. Although this meant I didn’t get to see the iconic white castle standing tall (it was covered by a building), I did get to go up and see the roof of the building, as well as workers working on the facade and roof, which was very unique. As such, I didn’t take a picture with the postcard. I hope to go back for that again!

The castle covered by a temporary structure

Inside the building covering the castle and looking down on the roof

2015.01.20: I came across this great program by NHK called Fudoki, which explores different elements of Japan in 5 minutes. They have a new video about Himeji, since the renovations are almost complete. You can watch Part 1 here and the new video Part 2 here. The first minute or so is much the same information, but the second video goes into more detail about the restoration, so just skip forward a bit.

Osaka #3: Osaka Castle (大阪城)

Another castle I visited in 2009 was Osaka’s magnificent castle. When we visited it was late afternoon, and the light and clouds were really beautiful with the castle in the forefront. The castle is a reconstruction, but it is still interesting and nicely done! You can read more about Osaka castle here.

Osaka Castle is also a famous place to see cherry blossoms. I’ve visited during cherry season once, but I was more focused on Kyoto at that time, so I don’t have many good pictures of the castle with cherries. Another time!

Osaka Castle

Slightly from the side

A neat tiger inside the castle

Looking out over Osaka

2015.01.20: NHK’s Fudoki series, 5 minute videos about various places and things of Japan, also has a video on Osaka castle. I recommend giving it a watch here.

Nagano #2: Matsumoto Castle (国宝松本城)

So, I’m actually supposed to be in Gifu now, sightseeing and taking pictures, and of course, buying my postcards. Unfortunately, the typhoon that hit us this weekend derailed those plans. We could have gone, but torrential rain and the possibility of mudslides didn’t sound too appealing when it was easy enough to change our plans. So I’ll be visiting Gifu this coming weekend instead, and meanwhile, I’m going to start talking about some of my favorite postcards in the Gotochi collection: The Castles.

Let’s start with the first I ever visited, waaaay back in 2009 before this postcard even came out (it’s 2010’s version): The beautiful black castle of Matsumoto, Nagano! You can find some info on its history and features, plus opening times and costs, here.

Black Matsumoto Castle with its iconic red bridge

Not only is the moat very photogenic, you can also see the Japan Alps in the background, still snowcapped of course!

Night views of this castle are also really beautiful!

As you can see, I went during cherry blossom season, which was a truly beautiful time to go! The pink flowers/red bridge/black castle combination is a really nice one! At that time, I was still using a point and shoot camera (ah, way back when…) so these pictures don’t do it justice. Matsumoto is actually on the way back from Gifu for us, so I might be able to stop and take some new pictures!

2015.01.20: I’d like to add a interesting video of Matsumoto I recently discovered on youtube. This video, part of NHK’s 5 minute Fudoki program, is an interesting look at the defenses of the castle, including a recent find in the moat! It’s worth a watch!