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Kochi Castle – The Only Castle in Japan with Original Honmaru Part Remaining!

Main Part of Castle Still Remains As it Originally Was

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Kochi Castle is among the 12 Japanese castles retaining their original “tenshu” keep towers. Especially notable about Kochi Castle is that it is the only castle in Japan which has its honmaru (main stronghold) part remaining in full.

*Tenshu: abbreviation of “tenshukaku,” which is the tallest keep tower located in “honmaru,” the main stronghold area of a castle.
*12 Castles with Original Tenshu Towers: Hiromae Castle, Matsumoto Castle, Maruoka Castle, Inuyama Castle, Hikone Castle, Himeji Castle, Bicchu Matsuyama Castle, Matsue Castle, Marugame Castle, Matsuyama Castle, Uwajima Castle and Kochi Castle


Superb View from the Castle

Writer’s Photo

Kochi Castle is 18.5 meters tall so you can overlook the panoramic view of the town.


Valuable Historic Site of Japan

Writer’s Photo

The construction of Kochi Castle was begun in 1601 by the feudal lord, Katsutoyo Yamauchi, who sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu for the battle of Sekigahara (which fortified the power of Ieyasu, the founder Tokugawa Shogunate) and was given the land of Tosa as the reward for his contribution. The construction was fully completed in 1611, ten years after it was started. It was at a time when the head of the Tosa clan had already been succeeded to the second generation.

Kochi Castle was once almost entirely lost in fire in 1727 and was fully restored in 1753, 25 years after the fire. It has remained standing since then through the Meiji and Showa period (19th – 20th century) until today.

The castle was designated as a nationally important cultural property and listed as one of the 100 best castles in Japan; the high historical as well as artistic value of the castle was recognized by the government and the specialists from the Japan Castle Association also admired its cultural and historical importance.

Not many other castles in Japan have been given such a prestigious recognition as Kochi Castle.


Only Spot Where You can Capture the Keep Tower and the Otemon Gate in One Photo

Writer’s Photo

In the east side of the castle, there is an impressive gate called “Otemon Gate,” which serves as the front entrance. “Ote” means the front of a castle and a front gate of a castle is called “Otemon.” More functional connotation of the word “Ote” (differentiated when the term is written in kanji characters) is to “drive off enemies,” from the east or west gate in case of Kochi Castle, to defeat them in a wholesale assault at the front area.

Kochi Castle, Hiromae Castle in Aomori Prefecture and Marugame Castle in Kagawa Prefecture are only three castles in Japan with both its original tenshu keep tower and otemon gate still remaining. And what separates Kochi Castle from others is that it is the only place where you can take a photo to fit both the keep tower and the gate in one frame.

Inside the castle site are also the statues of Katsutoyo Yamauchi, the founder of the castle, and his wife as well as of Taisuke Itagaki.


Katsutoyo Yamauchi: the Founder of Kochi Castle


Writer’s Photo: Statue of Katsutoyo Yamauchi

Katsutoyo Yamauchi was born in Owari, the present Aichi Prefecture, in 1545. He served as a retainer to Nobunada Oda from around 1568 and then became a vassal of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. After the death of Hideyoshi, he followed Ieyasu Tokugawa, contributed to his victory in the battle of Sekigahara and became the lord of Tosa Clan as the reward.

His wife Chiyo is known to have greatly supported her husband’s success with her self-sacrificing devotion.


Taisuke Itagaki, the Historical Figure Produced out of the Yamauchi’s Retainer Family


Writer’s Photo: Statue of Taisuke Itagaki

Taisuke Itagaki was born in 1837 into the Itagaki household who had served the Yamauchi family generation after generation.

Ryoma Sakamoto is one famous samurai who was from the same clan and lived around the same time as Taisuke Itagaki. They never met each other in person but there were times when Ryoma favorably mentioned Taisuke in his letter to someone and Taisuke also provided assistance to Ryoma’s political activities, which proves their mutual recognition.

There is also a well-known remark by Taisuke Itagaki, which is “Itagaki may vanish sometime, but liberty never will.” The remark is known widely still today as a great example of his commitment to liberalist movement.


We have introduced the main features of Kochi Castle, its history and historical figures of Kochi. Besides being one of the only 12 castles in Japan which still have its original main keep tower and especially most of its honmaru stronghold area remaining, Kochi Castle still have many other great features that are worth checking out. If you ever have a chance, please visit the castle and enjoy its great historic atmosphere close at hand. Information: Map

Related Articles: 
Sunday Market in Kochi: Castle Town Market with a History of Over 300 Years

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