I visited two castles this trip, but didn't go inside either. I've done that before (the much superior "White Heron" in Himeji, as well as the "Black Crow" in Matsumoto), and you don't get much for your money -- maybe the privledge of viewing some museum displays (with no text in English) and you might even have to remove your shoes, and shuffle through while carrying them in a recycled plastic shopping bag. Oh, there's a nice view from the top, but for both of these I was up high anyway. The first one is in Osaka.

Osaka-jo was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583, an enormous construction project employing a huge army of thousands of laborers. Its original tenshu (the main building, also called the donjon) was eight stories tall, and its roof tiles were covered with gold leaf. The shogun's army destroyed it in two sieges, 1614 and 1615. Starting in 1620, the castle was completely rebuilt, which took ten years -- this included all the walls, with their massive stones, some weighing seven or eight tons. There's also a few monster stones, weighing over a hundred tons.

This is the biggest, called the Octopus, along with a tour group approaching, from the left (their leader is carrying a red pennant). The five-story tenshu was built in 1628, but was struck by lightning in 1655, and burned down. The current concrete reconstruction was built in 1931. Looking up at it, I could see fluorescent lights inside -- I hear there's a good Hideyoshi museum in there (as well as an elevator).

On the island of Shikoku I visited Matsuyama for the Dogo baths there, not their castle -- but since it was up there, on a hill in the center of town, I couldn't resist. (Iyo) Matsuyama-jo suffered destructive fires in 1933 and 1949, and was bombed in 1945; but it was all restored by 1969.

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