|Hikone Castle & the Old Guard|
Japan used to have lots of castles. Several thousand of them, actually. Many were built in the 15th and 16th Centuries during Japan’s Sengoku-jidai – the 150 years or so when everyone was fighting with everyone over land and rice and who got to use what title.
The vast majority of those castles are gone, destroyed during the fighting, lost to natural disaster (fire and earthquake being the usual suspects), or purposefully demolished when, with the onset of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan decided they didn’t want to see any more castles (or use any more of those titles).
Today there are only about 50 castles in Japan. Most of those are either reconstructions or mere ruins. Only a dozen of Japan’s extant castles are originals, meaning they are the real thing, built when the Japanese were all fighting to keep each other off their land and their precious little titles.
Of these twelve still-standing castles, only four – Himeji, Matsumoto, Inuyama and Hikone – are on Japan’s list of Registered National Treasures.
Put another way, eight of Japan’s 400-year-old castles are not officially treasured. Meanwhile parents in the US are throwing their kids elaborate parties for making it to sixteen.