Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

From Castle to Palace: Samurai Architecture

Japan’s warlords, or daimyo, built fortresses during the constant civil warfare from 1300 to 1600. 

The daimyo governed their domains from castles designed primarily for military defense. The castles were typically situated on high ground in strategic locations such as ports and crossroads, and they often incorporated elements of the landscape in their defensive plans. They were constructed mainly of wood, although they involved more stone construction than did other Japanese buildings.

In addition to their military function, castles served as daimyos’ residences and their centers of governance. Such castles were designed to withstand lengthy sieges. Fortifications were often made up of maze-like stone walls and numerous gates to deter invaders, with strong, tall central towers as well as garrisons. Dry food was stocked in large basement storerooms. Sprawling complexes set between buildings and fortified walls included fields, vegetable gardens, and orchards. Most castles contained a large number of wells, ensuring a supply of fresh water.