"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things

that you didn't do than by the ones you did.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

 — Mark Twain





An Encyclopedia of Japanese Castles

By William de Lange

Japanese castles cast a spell on all those who set their eyes on them. They are the product of a people whose history is steeped in blood and drama, yet whose hands produced works of breathtaking refinement.

This groundbreaking encyclopedia is the first work in the English language to offer a comprehensive overview of the history, architecture, and various functional aspects of Japanese castles.  It references a total 370 of castles, giving unprecedented in-depth information on all Japan’s remaining original castles, 101 of the country’s reconstructions, and 68 of its major ruins. Comprised of five parts, it covers all the aspects of Japan’s rich castle culture.

It covers their long and fascinating history: from the earliest fortifications during the late sixth century, the rise of mountain strongholds during the Kamakura period, the veritable explosion of castles during the Warring States period, the vast Tokugawa citadels of the early Edo period, the incredibly destructive years of the early Meiji period, the dramatic years of Word War II, and the post-war decades of revival and reconstruction.

It covers their various functional aspects: the epic construction projects involving thousands of laborers and specialists; the emerging castle town, the laws that regulated a castle’s garrison and its town’s populace. It deals with the various methods of siege warfare and the many other dangers facing a medieval castle. And it revisits what it was like to enter a magnificent stronghold like Edo castle when it was at the height of its glory.

It covers the countless design features: the selection of their location, the layouts and formats of their defensive areas. It describes in detail the numerous types of keeps, turrets, gates, bridges, and many other structures. And it goes into the highly complicated terminology of their architectural details.

Its most impressive feature, however, is the 400-page long, one-by-one in-depth biography of each castle and ruin of note: their origin, their often dramatic history, the layout of their grounds, the architectural features of their buildings, their sad demise, and, in many cases, their remarkable recovery.

Further context and background information is given in an appendix with detailed maps, comprehensive lists of Japan’s castles at various time periods, those abolished during the Meiji period, and those in the top 100—all rounded off with an extensive 350-term glossary and an 1800-entry index.

For anyone with a serious interest in Japanese castles, this 600-page, full-color tome with 700 images and maps is the ultimate go-to reference.


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