Japanese Hirajiros are five- or six-tiered castles. There are only five of them in Japan. Matsumoto is the oldest example of these beautiful and iconic structures. It was constructed at the start of the sixteenth century. Nicknamed Crow Castle due to its black color, it dates back to the Sengoku period.
Known as a flatland castle (because it wasn’t built on a hill or amid rivers), the full defensive capabilities include an extensive system of inter-connecting walls, moats, and gatehouses. Maintaining its original wooden interiors and external stonework, it is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.
Stirling Castle – Sterling, Scotland
Stirling Castle is said to be a “brooch” that holds Scotland together, situated right between the Highlands and the Lowlands. This ancient residence was once home to King James IV. The castle was also a symbol of Scotland's independence. During the numerous wars and conflicts between England and Scotland, the castle changed several hands and has been sieged at least eight times.
Sitting atop Castle Hill, an intrusive crag, its strong defensive position made it critical for any army who wanted to control the land. The most recent was only a few hundred years ago, in 1746. The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
The Greatest Tapestries in the World
No castle is complete without the hangings and trappings of royalty, and Stirling Castle is no exception. In fact, the tapestry hanging in the Queen's Presence Chamber, a recreation of The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, took years to complete, and cost more than two million pounds. And that's just a recreation!
After years of being forgotten, the royal residences (though they aren't in use) have been restored to their original states. The castle is the headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. However, the sole surviving unit of the regiment, the Balaclava Company, has been garrisoned at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh since 2014.
A Simple Samurai Home
The castle was originally slated to be torn down in the late nineteenth century, following a sale of the site. An influential figure from Matsumoto, Ichikawa Ryozo, started a campaign to save the building, and the efforts were rewarded when the city government acquired the building for preservation.
The interior of the building is simple and sparse, as befitting the home of the warrior class, the samurai. After a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in 2011, ten large cracks appeared in the inside wall of the main tower. The second floor features a museum with a collection of guns, armor, and other weapons.
Hochosterwitz Castle – Sankt Georgen, Austria
Rising more than five hundred feet around the countryside and built on a large dolomite rock, Hochosterwitz Castle dates back to medieval times. It is a major tourist attraction and one of the Austrian state's biggest landmarks. The castle is said to have been built circa 860 A.D. by the Osterwitz dynasty.
There's a long pathway up to the castle itself, which features fourteen fortified gates. The castle has been the same for hundreds of years. It remains in the possession of the Khevenhüller family, as requested by George Khevenhüller, the original builder. Some sections of the castle are open to the public.