Speaking of Hiroshima, most visitors head straight to the Peace Memorial Park (平和記念公園) and the Atomic Bomb Dome (原爆ドーム) or the World Heritage Site, Miyajima (宮島). While the two top-ranked destinations in Hiroshima Prefecture are certainly the must-visit, you should also go to Hiroshima Castle (広島城). After all, it is one of the Top 100 Castles in Japan (日本百名城) with a rich history, being the base of three feudal families!
Hiroshima Castle’s History
The castle’s construction began in 1589 by Mōri Terumoto (毛利 輝元), the grandson of the prominent feudal lord Mōri Motonari (毛利 元就). Situated at the delta of Ōta River’s (太田川) mouth, the castle was not completed until Fukushima Masanori (福島正則) became the second lord of the castle in 1600.
A delta is an area of low, flat land shaped like a triangle, where a river splits and spreads out into several branches before entering the sea.
After the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い), with the Mōri Clan defeated in the war, Fukushima Masanori (福島正則) took over Hiroshima Castle. However, his effort to strengthen the castle’s defense line by completing the outer moat and wall was being taken as an excuse to banish him from his province.
Masanori, originally a lord under the Toyotomi Administration in the Sengoku era, was disliked by the Tokugawa Shogunate in Tokyo. After a typhoon damaged the castle, he increased the size and scale of the building during repairs. The Shogunate used this as a reason to banish him, claiming only permission for repairs was granted and that the expansion was his first step toward rebellion. Masanori was consequently transferred to a rural province in what is currently known as Nagano Prefecture.
Currently, the National Historic Site is around 118,000 square meters, surrounded by a triple moat (inner, middle, and outer moat). But, when the castle was first completed in the Edo period (1603 – 1867), its ground was around eight times of what it is now!
In the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the scale of the castle was reduced for more land due to the increase in population. The outer and middle moats were filled, leaving only the inner citadel, Homaru (本丸), and the outer citadel, Ninomaru (二の丸).
Hiroshima Castle’s Nickname
Hiroshima Castle has a cute nickname – Carp Castle (Rijō, 鯉城). It isn’t because the castle is in the shape of a carp (which would be really cool), but because the castle’s location was called Koinoura (己斐浦), which used to be written as (鯉浦). So the castle in Koinoura (carp bay) was called Carp Castle.
Other theories are it was because there were abundant carp in the castle moat or because the castle’s color is black.
Getting the Full View of Hiroshima Castle
To get a full view of Hiroshima Castle, you can book your stay in Hiroshima City at RIHGA Royal Hotel Hiroshima (リーガロイヤルホテル広島). Make sure your room is facing the castle on the hotel’s north.
The view of the castle park from above is sensational both day and night.
Tip: Another spot to get an aerial view of Hiroshima Castle is from the restaurants on the 8th floor of Pacela (パセーラ) department store. Please check with the concierge for the restaurant with the best view upon arrival.
The Restored Turrets and Castle Gates of Hiroshima Castle
When Hiroshima Castle was completed, there used to be as many as 88 turrets. Some were demolished in the Meiji period for more land, but many were lost during the bombing at the end of World War Two.
Fortunately, parts of the castle were restored in the peaceful Heisei era (1989 – 2019).
The Gomon Bridge (御門橋) leading to the Ninomaru is on the photo’s left. The turrets from left to right are Hira Turret (平櫓), Tamon Turret (多門櫓), and Taiko Turret (太鼓櫓), all still elegant and shiny since the restoration!
On a clear day, the reflections of these new turrets on the moat are some of the best scenery in Hiroshima Castle. When it rains, you can hide inside the connected turrets until the sky clears up (or until closing time, of course).
Tip: The best photography time at Hiroshima Castle is in the afternoon.
Omotegomon Gate (表御門)
With the outer moat filled in the last century, the Omotegomon Gate beyond the Gomon Bridge is the main gate of Hiroshima Castle.
The Ninomaru is the defense line for Honmaru. You will find the Ninomaru of Hiroshima Castle to be quite small regarding land occupied. It is because it was built as an “Umadashi (馬出し)“, which is an effective defensive barrier (a complex in the case of Hiroshima Castle), built in front of the castle gates (the Honmaru in the case of Hiroshima Castle). If there is too much space in Ninomaru, it will reduce its defense function.
Hiroshima Castle’s Castle Keep
The castle keep at the northwest of Hiroshima Castle’s Honmaru had a total of 14 lords before the abolition of the feudal system. After Fukushima Masanori (福島正則), Hiroshima Castle and the province were looked after by the Asano Clan (浅野家), who governed the region for 250 years. Across the 12 generations of the Asano Clan’s governance, Hiroshima once prospered as western Japan’s biggest city.
Unlike other Japanese castles that became idle after the Edo period, Hiroshima Castle served as the temporary residence of the Meiji Emperor during the First Sino-Japanese War (日清戦争). During the war, Hiroshima was essentially the capital of the country.
After the castle was destroyed in World War Two, it was rebuilt in 1958. Only the main castle keep was restored, though. Initially, in front of the castle keep in the photo, there were two smaller castle keeps.
Inside the castle keep, there is a historic museum exhibiting samurai culture. The first two floors are dedicated to the history of the castle. The third floor is heaven for those who love armor and swords. On the top floor, the observation deck will give you a panoramic view extending as far as Miyajima!
Important: There are many stairs to climb inside the castle keep.
Tip: It will take around 1 to 2 hours to explore Hiroshima Castle fully.
For more information about Hiroshima Castle, please refer to the official website HERE and change the language setting to English.
Hiroshima Castle’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information
- Hiroshima Castle’s Ninomaru is open from
- 9 am to 5:30 pm from April to September
- 9 am to 4:30 pm from October to March
- The last admission is at 30 minutes before the Ninomaru is closed for the day
- Ninomaru is closed from the 29th of December to the 2nd of January
- Hiroshima Castle’s Honmaru is open from
- 9 am to 6 pm from March to November
- 9 am to 5 pm from December to February
- The last admission is at 30 minutes before the Honmaru is closed for the day
- The castle is closed from the 29th to the 31st of December
- Honmaru’s admission fee is
- 370 yen for adults
- 180 yen for senior high school students and the elderly who is 65 years old and older
- Free otherwise
- From Hiroshima Station (広島駅), take Hiroshima Dentetsu (広島電鉄) and get off at Kamiya-cho-higashi (紙屋町東). From there, it is a 15-minute walk. If you get off at Kamiya-cho-nishi (紙屋町西), please take the underground road to the castle.
- Refer to the route map HERE.
- From Hiroshima Station’s Shinkansei Entrance (広島駅新幹線口), you can also take the Loop Bus Hiroshima Meipuru-pu’s (広島市内循環バス めいぷる～ぷ) Orange and Lemon Route and get off at Hiroshima Castle/Gokoku Shrine (広島城 護国神社前).
- Refer HERE for the bus fare, route map, and timetable.
- If you are taking normal JR trains, exit from the south exit and take the Hiroshima Station ⇔ Koyo – A Housing Complex Route (広島駅⇔高陽A団地) and get off at Godochosha-mae (合同庁舎前). It is a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.
- Due to a limited number of services that will stop by Godochosha-mae, you can also get off at Hiroshima Bus Center (広島バスセンター). From there, it is just a 10-minute walk.
- Refer HERE for the bus fare, route map, and timetable.
Find out Where else to Go in Hiroshima City Center
Apart from Hiroshima Castle, a couple of attractions in the city center are worth your time.
To find out what they are and how to get there, please refer to our Hiroshima City article. The article also has information about the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Park (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.