Japanese Castles – A Backpacker’s Guide

If you’re interested in Japanese castles (like me), then you shouldn’t miss today’s interview.
My guest is Julien Mentzer who has published a book called “Japanese Castles – A Backpacker’s Guide“. He’ll talk about his newest project with us today.

He’s a fellow castle lover and I enjoyed being interviewed by him in March 2014.
Even if you’re not super passionate about Japanese castles, I’m sure you’ll enjoy today’s interview.
Let’s start!~


Zooming Japan: Hi, Julien. Please introduce yourself.

Julien Mentzer: I’m a French man who loves to discover the world and its people. I’m interested in foreign cultures. I love discovering new ways of life. I like walking in a city and get lost in its streets. I’m passionate about travelling and taking photos. That’s how I eventually also became a huge fan of Japan.

Japanese Castles Backpacker's Guide

Zooming Japan: What do you like the most about Japan?

Julien Mentzer: I’m a Japanese Castles Hunter!

Zooming Japan: Oh, so just like me!

Julien Mentzer: Yes. I like Japan and I’m passionate when it comes to Japanese castles. Since I was a little boy it was my dream to go to Japan one day. I was motivated by manga, samurai life, Japan’s technology and many other things that make Japan unique. In 2002 I travelled to Japan for the first time and found this country very appealing.

Japanese Castles Backpacker's Guide

Zooming Japan: How exactly did you become interested in Japanese castles?

Julien Mentzer: My passion for Japanese castles began in 2007 with Himeji Castle. I was bewitched by the main keep and the park. Japanese castles may seem similar if you just look at the moat or the walls, but the main keep is unique and different for each castle. For me the discovery of Japanese castles opened the door to Japanese culture and history.
In 2010 I visited Hiroshima Castle and also went back to Himeji Castle. Unfortunately it was undergoing renovation and the main keep couldn’t be seen anymore. As many visitors I was a little bit disappointed but after this journey I had learned even more about Japanese castles.


Zooming Japan: You’re working on a documentary about Japanese castles. Please tell us more about it.

Julien Mentzer: The project began in April 2012 when I planned yet another Japan trip with my brother who is a filmmaker. We wanted to try and make a TV documentary about Japanese castles. After 12 days we had visited 12 Japanese castles and were happy with the outcome.

With that our project started off. We planned two more trips and went to Japan yet again in November 2013 and April 2014 getting more material for our documentary. Currently we are looking for a TV broadcaster to host our documentary. It’s in French with Japanese subtitles.

We’ve already shown it to people in Japan in November 2014 and they really liked it.

Here’s a short teaser of “Balade du Sakura“:


Zooming Japan: That looks great!

Julien Mentzer: Yes. We also published a book about Japanese castles as well:

Japanese Castles Backpacker's Guide
The original book is in French but we had it professionally translated into English as well. The ebook version features more than 20 videos. The PDF version comes with over 300 pictures and is more like a travel journal:



Zooming Japan: Wow! I’m sure castle lovers will appreciate your hard work. What are your future plans?

Julien Mentzer: The main keep of Himeji Castle will reopen this month (March 2015) and my brother and me hope to be in Japan to visit it then.

Japanese Castles Backpacker's Guide

Zooming Japan: That’s a great idea! I bet it will be super beautiful with the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Do you have any recommendations for fellow castle lovers?

Julien Mentzer: Shikoku is always worth a visit as you can find 4 original castle keeps there. If you stay in Tokyo, you could do a day trip to Matsumoto. It’s only 2.5 h by train from Shinjuku Station and you’ll discover one of the most beautiful castles in Japan there.
If you stay in Kyoto, you should go to Hikone Castle. It’s one of the 12 original castles.
There are only 12 castles with its original (wooden) main keep. Exploring the inside of such a main keep is a great experience. It feels like you’re a samurai of the 21st century.

Zooming Japan: Haha, I agree.
Alright. Thank you so much for your time. Good luck with your future projects. emoticon


  • Hey there.

    I was blown away by Himeji Castle. Really impressive. The castle is Matsumoto is also a good one. My favorite, though, is the castle in Kanazawa; it has a really cool, low-lying design. What’s Zooming Japan’s favorite?

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