Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle
Chūō-ku, Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan
Type Azuchi-Momoyama castle
Site information
Controlled by Ideta clan (1469–1496)
Kanokogi clan (1496–1550)
Jou clan (1550–1587)
Sassa clan (1587–1588)
Kato clan (1588–1632)
Hosokawa clan (1632–1871)
Japan (1871–present)
Condition Restored in 1960 and 1998–2008.[1] Currently moderately damaged as a result of the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes.
Site history
  • 1467 (original fortifications) [1]
  • 1496 (expansion) [1]
  • 1601–1607 (expansion) [1]
  • 1610 (Honmaru Goten Palace) [1]
  • 1960 (reconstruction) [1]
  • 1998–2008 (reconstruction) [1]
  • 2016-Present (repairs following Earthquake damage)
Built by
In use 1467–1874 [1]
Materials Wood, stone, plaster, tile
Demolished 1877 (Satsuma Rebellion) [1]

Kumamoto Castle (熊本城 Kumamoto-jō) is a hilltop Japanese castle located in Chūō-ku, Kumamoto in Kumamoto Prefecture.[1] It was a large and well fortified castle. The castle keep (天守閣 tenshukaku) is a concrete reconstruction built in 1960,[1] but several ancillary wooden buildings remain of the original castle. Kumamoto Castle is considered one of the three premier castles in Japan, along with Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle.[2] Thirteen structures in the castle complex are designated Important Cultural Property.[1]


Kumamoto Castle's history dates to 1467, when fortifications were established by Ideta Hidenobu.[1] In 1496, these fortifications were expanded by Kanokogi Chikakazu.[1] In 1588, Katō Kiyomasa was transferred to the early incarnation of Kumamoto Castle.[1] From 1601 to 1607, Kiyomasa greatly expanded the castle, transforming it into a castle complex with 49 turrets, 18 turret gates, and 29 smaller gates.[1] The smaller castle tower, built sometime after the keep, had several facilities including a well and kitchen.[1] In 1610, the Honmaru Goten Palace was completed.[1] The castle complex measures roughly 1.6 km (0.99 mi) from east to west, and measures 1.2 km (0.75 mi) from north to south. The castle keep is 30.3 m (99.4 ft) tall.

The castle was besieged in 1877 during the Satsuma Rebellion, and the castle keep and other parts were burned down.[1] 13 of the buildings in the castle complex were undamaged, and have been designated Important Cultural Properties. In 1960, the castle keep was reconstructed using concrete.[1] From 1998 to 2008, the castle complex underwent restoration work, during which most of the 17th century structures were rebuilt.[1]

The signature curved stone walls, known as musha-gaeshi, as well as wooden overhangs, were designed to prevent attackers from penetrating the castle. Rock falls were also used as deterrents.

In nearby San-no-Maru Park is the Hosokawa Gyobu-tei, the former residence of the Hosokawa clan, the daimyo of Higo Province during the Edo period. This traditional wooden mansion has a noted Japanese garden located in its grounds.

In 2006, Kumamoto Castle was listed as one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan by the Japan Castle Foundation. On December 7, 2007, a large-scale renovation of the Inner Palace was completed. A public ceremony for the restoration was held on April 20, 2008.

One of the turrets damaged by the earthquakes

The castle sustained damage in a magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck at 9:26 pm on 14 April 2016, in Mashiki town in Kumamoto prefecture. This event is substantially similar to the 1889 Kumamoto earthquake which also damaged the castle. A stone wall at the foot of the keep partially collapsed, and several of the castle's shachihoko ornaments fell from the roof of the keep and broke apart. It sustained further extensive damage the next day on 15 April following a 7.3 magnitude earthquake where some portions were completely destroyed. While the keep itself withstood most of the earthquake with little structural damage,[3] two of the castle's turrets were severely damaged and partially collapsed, more of the exterior walls at the foot of the keep also collapsed, and large amounts of kawara roof tiles on the keep's roof were also disrupted and fell from the roof as a result of the quake. The fallen roof tiles are actually deliberately designed to have done so – when the castle was constructed, such roof tiles were used so that in the event of an earthquake, the tiles would fall off the damaged roof, preventing it from being weighted down and collapsing into the building's interior. It is estimated that it will take decades to fully restore the castle from the earthquake damage, which undid 60 years of prior restoration work.[4]

As of June 8, 2016, the efforts to repair the castle have begun. [5]

Old photographs

Present exterior

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 O'Grady, Daniel. "Kumamoto Castle – 熊本城". Japanese Castle Explorer. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
  2. "The Three Famous Castles of Japan". Kobayashi Travel Service. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
  3. Spoon & Tamago, Damaged Kumamoto Castle actually withstood the earthquake just as ancient architects intended
  4. "Quake-damaged Kumamoto Castle to take decades to restore". The Japan Times.
  5. Yomiuri Shimbun, Kumamoto Castle repair work starts, retrieved 12/06/16
Further reading
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Coordinates: 32°48′22″N 130°42′21″E / 32.806063°N 130.705972°E / 32.806063; 130.705972

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