Often called Crow Castle (and occasionally Raven or Cormorant Castle) because it is one of the two
castles that were painted black (Matsumoto Castle is the other), Okayama Castle was built from 1573-1597
by Ukita Naoie and his son Hideie. Hideie was one of the Western Daimyo who lost the battle of Sekigahara in
1600 to Tokugawa. When the Western lands were redistributed to the Tokugawa allies, Ieyasu gave the castle
to his grandson Ikeda. The Ikeda family ruled the area until the 1868 Meiji Restoration abolished feudalism.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Castles are in the following Gallery (Direct Link) —

Photoshelter Castles of Japan Collection


Okayama Castle


Okayama Castle 0333
1500 x 1065 (389 KB)

Although only the shachihoko (fish-shaped tiles with tiger heads, shown later on the page)
and the ends of some tiles are now gilded, before the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the roof tiles were
gilded also. This prompted people to call the castle Golden Crow Castle. After the battle of Sekigahara (1600),
when Ukita Hideie was exiled to Hachijo (an island prison), the castle became the property of the Ikeda clan.


Okayama Castle 0311
795 x 1200 (376 KB)

Notice in these two images how shallow the castle is.


Okayama Castle 0317
960 x 1200 (460 KB)

Roof detail of the side of Okayama Castle.
Note the gold Shachihoko (fish tiles, detail below).
Gold shachihoko are called kinshachi (kin = gold).
An animal from folklore with the head of a tiger and
the body of a carp, they were thought to be able to
cause rain, and were used to protect against fire.


Okayama Castle Tsukimi Yagura 0313
1500 x 1129 (496 KB)

The Tsukimi Yagura is an original (1620) Sumi Yagura (corner storehouse and watchtower)
and is designated an Important Cultural Property. Tsukimi Yagura means Moon Viewing Turret.
The tsukimi yagura wasn’t used (only) for viewing the moon... the upper story was used as a meeting
place for military conferences, to monitor and document arrivals at the gate, and for higher-angle
support for the soldiers in the first story in case of an attack on the gate or the walls below.


Okayama Castle 0310
1346 x 897 (645 KB)

The castle was destroyed in 1945, and was rebuilt in
concrete as a museum in 1966, except for a few of the
original Yagura which survived the WW II bombing and
are now designated as Important Cultural Properties.


Okayama Castle 0354
1500 x 994 (375 KB)

The castle is across the river from Korakuen
Garden, one of the three best gardens in Japan.
Korakuen Garden was created by the 4th Ikeda
Daimyo in 1700 (after 14 years construction).


Okayama Castle 0322
1500 x 1070 (405 KB)

The reconstructed concrete tenshu (main tower), peeking out under the sakura.

Okayama Castle was one of the great castles of the Edo period, but like many others
it was considered archaic and unnecessary by the Meiji period Ministry of War, which was
concerned with westernizing itself, so the moats were filled in and the city overgrew the grounds.
Allied bombers completed the destruction in 1945, and the castle was rebuilt as a museum in 1966.


Okayama Castle 0334
1440 x 960 (418 KB)

The unique shape gives each angle its own character.


Okayama Castle 0323c
1500 x 1000 (386 KB)

A detail crop of the top section of the castle.


Okayama Castle 0327
1500 x 1065 (546 KB)

The requisite low-angle shot, using the vegetation to define a path to the front door.
Note the lady at the far left... she inadvertently provided scale for us in this image.


Okayama Castle 0333
1500 x 1065 (389 KB)

The castle was originally built in the Azuchi-Momoyama style, and was intended to imitate
Oda Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle, which was a groundbreaking departure in castle design of its time.
In 1996, the Shachihoko and certain roof tiles were gilded as part of the 400th anniversary (see detail below).


Okayama Shachihoko 0338
1077 x 1388 (404 KB)

South shachihoko, with the castle
grounds seen in the background.

Shachihoko are tiger-headed carp, an animal
from folklore thought to be able to cause rain to
fall, and thus they were able to prevent fires.


Okayama Shachihoko 0337
1077 x 1346 (333 KB)

North shachihoko with the Asahi River,
the Moon-Viewing Bridge (Tsukimi-kyo)
and Korakuen Garden in the background.

Shachihoko were used as roof ornaments on castles,
gates, samurai homes and temples. The male is placed
on the right and the female on the left of the roof ridge.


Okayama Castle Armor 0340
816 x 1232 (287 KB)


Okayama Daimyo 0348
1260 x 788 (188 KB)

Representation of the Ikeda Daimyo inside the
castle. There are three displays in the castle that
change every few months, but there are generally
displays of swords, armor, and other Edo period
items displayed, such as the palanquin below.

To the left is an early Edo period armor display.
A description of the components can be seen
by clicking the text link below leading to the
description of the armor at Himeji Castle.

Click here to see the Samurai Armor
display in the Himeji Castle section


Okayama Castle Palanquin 0342
1468 x 955 (346 KB)

Oshinobi-Kago (palanquin for carrying the daimyo incognito)
similar to the sedan chairs of Europe, Jiao of China, etc.


Okayama Tachi 0345
1616 x 766 (279 KB)

Ikeda Mitsumasa (Okayama daimyo, 1616-1682) established a Toshogu Shrine in 1644,
enshrining Tokugawa Ieyasu (see the pages on Nikko Toshogu Shrine for information on the
most famous of the Toshogu shrines). He donated this superb ceremonial Tachi, a slightly
longer sword than a Katana, of earlier design, worn hanging edge down from the belt.

The Tachi was designed to be used primarily from horseback, and they are often more
curved than a Katana and longer to improve the cutting ability when used from above.
They were easily drawn when on horseback, but somewhat awkward when used on
the ground due to the greater length and additional curvature. For this reason, a
warrior who carried a Tachi would often carry an Uchigatana as a companion
blade. The Uchigatana was meant to be worn edge up in the belt rather than
slung below it, and was shorter and less curved, making it easier to draw
and cut in one stroke, easier to use indoors or in close quarters, and
as the curve was nearer the sword point rather than nearer the hilt,
the sword naturally came out of the sheath ready to strike. These
advantages made the Uchigatana more and more popular to
the warrior, and by the mid-14th C. the Tachi became more
out of favor. The Uchigatana then evolved into the Katana.


Okayama Castle Akazunomon 0351
1500 x 1065 (655 KB)

Akazunomon (Never-opened Gate) was not used except for special visitors
when the feudal lord Ikeda ruled the castle. It led from the feudal government office
to the Honden (Ikeda’s mansion) via a 61-step stone staircase (from the top of which
this photo was taken). Instead, the roofed passage from the office’s other end was used.

Note that the gate is built below the level of the castle grounds. Like a number of gates at
Himeji, in case of attack the gate could be backfilled with stones and dirt to prevent entry.


Okayama Castle Akazunomon detail 0353
1359 x 900 (536 KB)

Detail of the exterior of the defensive corridor over the Akazunomon.

The Akazunomon was destroyed in the bombing. This is a reconstruction.


Okayama Castle 0370
1500 x 844 (397 KB)

Okayama Castle erupting from a sea of Mountain Sakura.

This difficult shot into the sun was taken from Korakuen Park (see the Scenery section).


Okayama Castle 0373wp
1600 x 1200 (481 KB)

Note the small kara hafu (arched gable) above the first level roof.
Because of the shape of the foundation due to the shape of the hillside,
the first level was built with a small angled projection (seen below the gable).
The plan view of the first level resembles a very shallow pentagon (five sides).
The next level of the castle was built straight and normal, leaving the lower
angle exposed. The kara hafu was placed above it to use the space.

As a parting gift for you, I am providing this image without the watermark,
(using web-compression rather than portfolio-compression) so you can use it as
 wallpaper if you like. Shooting a black castle directly into the sun was quite a large
challenge (the sun was high in the sky, as you can see, but still...). I hope you like it.


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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Castles are in the following Gallery (Direct Link) —

Photoshelter Castles of Japan Collection


Return to the Castles of Japan Index page


Return to the Master Index on the Japan Select page.