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Travel Edo Castle

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This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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Edo Castle (江戸城 Edo-jō) was built by Ōta Dōkan (太田道灌, 1432-1486) in 1457. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), it was the administrative headquarters of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the residence of the shōgun, and the largest castle in Japan at its time. Although it is classified as a flatland castle (平城 hirajiro), it splendidly made use of the elevation of the former cape it was constructed on; spiral moats surrounded it to reinforce its defence.

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- Blue line: moats
- White dots: gates and bridges built along the moats
(This map is based on the Tokyo Terrain Map by gridscapes.net

In the Meiji Period, Edo Castle became the Imperial Palace, but the main area of the castle is open to the public as the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. As the admission fee is free, it is always full of local and foreign visitors. It may be said that Edo Castle has kept its dignified appearance as a historical landmark of Tokyo.

As I am working in an office adjacent to the castle, I often take a walk there for the lunch break. Here, I would like to introduce my favourite course exploring the most famous sites around this massive castle.

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(The map is based on Google Earth. The location of enclosures or other structures are based on my speculation, so they may not be correct.)

① Otemon → ② Doshin Bansho (Guardhouse) → ③ Hyakunin Bansho (Guardhouse)
→ ④ Hakucho moat → ⑤ Shiomisaka → ⑥ Resting place → ⑦ Lookout
→ ⑧ Fujimi turret → ⑨ Site of Matsu-no-roka Corridor → ⑩ Stone cellar
→ ⑪ Base of Castle tower → ⑫ Kita-Tsumehashimon → ⑬ Shimizumon
→ ⑭ Tayasumon → ⑮ Chidorigafuchi moat → ⑯ Hanzomon → ⑰ Sakuradamon
→ ⑱ Double-arched bridge & Fushimi turret → ⑲ Sakashitamon
→ ⑳ Kikyomon → ① Otemon

① Otemon (大手門 Main gate): visitors enter the castle (East Gardens of the Imperial Palace) from here. It is closed on Mondays and Fridays.

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② Dojin Bansho (同人番所 Guardhouse): Samurai guardsmen kept constant watch especially on the members of a lord's retinue who entered though Otemon.

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③ Hyakunin Bansho (百人番所): One hundred samurai guardsmen, chosen from among the kinsmen and loyal retainers of each of the four main branches of the Tokugawa clan, had their quarters there and worked in shifts day and night.

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④ Hakucho moat (白鳥濠): It rises above the main enclosure, so we can conclude that this castle was located on a cape.

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⑤ Shiomisaka (汐見坂 "Tide-view slope"): It is the slope which connects the main and second enclosure. Hibiya Bay came into the front of the castle and was able to view from here.

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Honmaru (the main enclosure) site: nowadays an open space, it was the site of the palace in the Edo Period.

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⑥ Resting place: displaying pictures of old Edo Castle.

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⑦ Lookout: It is in contrast that the near Ninomaru grove and the far Otemachi/Marunouchi business districts.

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⑧ Fujimi turret (富士見櫓 "Viewing Mt.Fuji turret"): It is one of the three remaining turrets and the only three-storied keep. It served as a substitute for the castle tower destroyed by fire in 1657.

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⑨ Site of Matsu-no-Roka Corridor (松の廊下跡): every Japanese knows that this corridor was the locus of the unfortunate event when Lord Asano Takumino-kami attacked and wounded Lord Kira Kozukenosuke in 1701.

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⑩ Stone cellar (石室): said to be an underground passage or a treasury, but it was most likely used as an emergency storehouse.

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⑪ The base of the main keep (天守台): massive stones were piled up meticulously. The castle tower was destroyed by fire in 1657 and has never been rebuilt.

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⑫ Kita-tsumebashimon (北詰橋門): North entrance of the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

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After leaving Kita-tsumebashimon, we cross the pedestrian bridge and go to Kitanomaru-koen. Or, if you are busy or tired, you can turn left and go toward Hanzomon.

⑬ Shimizumon (清水門): reconstruction started in July 2013.

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The restoration was completed in 2014.

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The view from the inside.

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⑭ Tayasumon (田安門)

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⑮ Chidorigafuchi moat (千鳥ヶ淵): the most famous place for cherry blossoms in Tokyo.

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⑯ Hanzomon (半蔵門): named after the famous ninja Hattori Hanzo. It is said to be the emergency escape route of the shōgun.

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The view from Hanzomon to Sakuradamon: it's my most favourite view of the castle. The vast moat and the gentle long downhill slope make me feel the grandeur of this castle.

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⑰ Sakuradamon (桜田門): It is famous for the Sakuradamon Incident (1860), the assassination of Japanese Chief Minister Ii Naosuke.

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⑱ Double-arched bridge & Fushimi turret (二重橋と伏見櫓): one of the most famous vistas of the castle.

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⑲ Sakashitamon (坂下門): the main entrance to the Imperial Palace; VIPs often enter and leave through this gate.

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⑳Kikyomon (桔梗門): A small but beautiful gate

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Sakurada two-storied turret: with Otemon visible in the back, visitors conclude their tour here. It takes about two and a half hours.

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Date of visit: 28th July 2013, 27th April 2014

Access Information

  • Address: Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Map
  • Transportation: (To Ote Gate): 3 minutes from Tokyo Metro/Toei Subway Otemachi station on foot; 10 minutes from JR Tokyo station on foot


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Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.

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