Organized Panel Session
Castles are some of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations and most prominent historical sites. Located at the centers of major cities, castle sites now host parks, museums, and original and reconstructed historic buildings, providing the public with an accessible link to the premodern past. While castles tend to celebrate the earlier past of local warlords and brave samurai, they are also witnesses to Japan’s modern history. This paper looks at castles as both sites of public history and memory landscapes that have been shaped and acted upon by a wide range of actors over the past 150 years. As military fortifications, castles became symbols of Japan’s supposed martial spirit in the imperial period, and many were even transformed into modern military bases. After 1945, many castles were physically and symbolically demilitarized for the new democratic Japan. This process was not always thorough, however, and this paper examines a range of artifacts found in castles today that reflect their complex past. These include former military facilities, government buildings, war memorials, shrines, and cultural and educational facilities. Although the modern military past is rarely mentioned in castles today, the visitor to almost any castle in Japan is surrounded by its relics.