The Meiji Restoration, which restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868, precipitated an intense drive for modernization that resulted in the destruction of many of Japan’s castles, seen as unwelcome reminders of the country’s prolonged state of feudalism. More were destroyed during World War II by targeted American bombing. Barely a dozen originals survive, although a belated nostalgia for past glories has led to the reconstruction of some of those that were demolished. The largest and most visited remaining castle is Himeji, originally constructed in 1333, but extended and remodelled in the early 1600s. The period 1575–1615 was the golden age of castle building, following the successive unification of Japan under Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and the first Tokugawa Shogun. Before then most castles were of wood (or earth); in 1620, the shogun banned further castle building. Takamatsu is one of Japan’s three surviving ‘Sea Castles’. Its lord and defender was forced to commit public ritual suicide on a boat by the warlord Hideyoshi.
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