If you’re interested in ninja, you should visit one of Japan’s oldest ninja villages in Iga Ueno.
But the ninja village is not the only thing you can find there. There’s also Iga Ueno Castle – which was the main reason for me to visit as the castle hunter I am.
Iga Ueno Castle is located in Mie Prefecture (map) which makes it a nice day trip from either Kyoto or Osaka.
Like mentioned before, Iga Ueno has more to offer than just the castle, so it’s well worth a visit – and you can easily do all of them in one day.
You can find the castle within Ueno Park (*not the famous one in Tokyo) which is just a short walk (5-10 mins) from Iga-Ueno Station.
Iga Ueno Castle (伊賀上野城) is also known as Hakuho Castle (白鳳城, White Phoenix Castle).
It received that name because of its floor plans and beautiful structure.
While the construction of the castle began in 1585 supervised by Takigawa Katsutoshi, the honmaru wasn’t finished until his successor, Tsutsui Sadatsugu, took care of it.
Later, daimyo Tōdō Takatora, an expert on castle building, rennovated the honmaru so that it had 30 m high walls.
These walls were the highest of any castle in Japan – and it still holds that record as of today.
The castle was in use from 1585-1871.
The 5-tiered tenshu of the castle was actually destroyed in 1612 by strong winds. As Iga Ueno Castle was not considered a strategically important castle, it was never rebuilt. Finally, in 1935, they decided to re-construct the tenshu (this time with only 3 tiers). They only used wood which makes Iga Ueno Castle special as most reconstructed castle keeps are made of concrete.
Luckily, the impressive wall still stands nowadays.
With the 30 m high walls, this is probably one of the most impressive castle moats in Japan.
The main keep houses a museum featuring artefacts, displaying the local history.
You won’t learn anything about the ninja secrets, though. For that, you really should visit the Ninja Museum of Iga-ryu instead.
As with many Japanese “hill” castles, you get a stunning few from the top floor.
An interesting fact for movie fans, “Kagemusha” (1980) by Akira Kurosawa was partly filmed at Iga Ueno Castle.
Kansai houses some really impressive castles and castle ruins. I highly recommend visiting the other prefectures within Kansai besides Kyoto and Osaka, because that’s where you’ll find the awesome stuff. You won’t only find the famous castles such as Hikone Castle or Himeji Castle, but a lot of other interesting ones such as Azuchi Castle Ruins or Takeda Castle in the Sky.
If you’re interested in castles AND ninja, then you absolutely have to visit Iga Ueno!
As it’s so close to Osaka and Kyoto, you have no excuse! ;)