How to Say Castle in Japanese: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’ve ever been fascinated by the majestic and historically significant structures known as castles, you might be curious about how to say “castle” in Japanese. Whether you’re planning a trip to Japan, studying the Japanese language or simply have an interest in different cultures, this guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how to express this term in both formal and informal ways. We will also touch upon regional variations, although they are not commonly used. In this article, you’ll find numerous tips and examples to help you learn and remember the Japanese word for “castle.”

Formal Ways to Say Castle in Japanese

In formal situations or when using polite language, the word “castle” in Japanese is typically expressed as “shiro,” written in kanji as “城.” This term is syntactically flexible and can be used in various situations, contexts, or sentences. Here are a few examples:


  • Osaka-jo: This is how you say “Osaka Castle” in Japanese, one of Japan’s most famous castles located in the Osaka prefecture.
  • Himeji-jo: Referring to “Himeji Castle,” a UNESCO World Heritage site and another iconic castle in Japan.
  • Shiro-gaoka: This term translates to “Castle Hill” and can be used to describe places or neighborhoods named after castles.

Informal Ways to Say Castle in Japanese

In informal conversations or when using casual language among friends, you can opt for an alternative term for “castle” in Japanese. The word “jo” (城) is commonly used in this context. Note that “jo” alone doesn’t carry the same level of politeness as “shiro,” but it is widely understood and acceptable in casual settings. Here are some examples:


  • Matsumoto-jo: This refers to “Matsumoto Castle,” known for its striking black exterior and one of Japan’s premier historic castles.
  • Edo-jo: Edo Castle was once the largest castle in the world and is now the site of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
  • Chiba-jo: An alternative way to say “Chiba Castle,” which played a significant historical role.

Regional Variations on How to Say Castle in Japanese

While “shiro” (城) and “jo” (城) are the most common and widely used terms to express “castle” in Japanese, regional variations exist. These variations might have slightly different nuances, but they are not frequently used in general communication. Nevertheless, if you come across these terms, it’s good to be aware of them for a deeper understanding of Japanese culture. Here are a few examples:


  • Yamashiro: This term is often used to refer to castles in the Kyoto area, which was historically known as Yamashiro province. It can also mean “mountain castle.” An example is “Nijo-jo,” meaning “Nijo Castle” located in Kyoto.
  • Hirayama: Refers to a castle built on flatland. While not commonly used, it can provide insight into the geography and architectural characteristics of certain castles. One example of a Hirayama castle is “Uwajima-jo,” a castle located in Ehime Prefecture.

TIP: When visiting Japan, pay attention to the local names and the suffixes used for castle names. It can provide valuable insights into the historical context and geography of the region.

Overall, knowing both the formal and informal ways to say “castle” in Japanese will help you navigate various contexts and situations. However, keep in mind that the formal “shiro” is more appropriate for polite or official settings, while the informal “jo” is commonly used in casual conversations among friends. Additionally, it’s always interesting to familiarize yourself with regional variations to deepen your understanding of Japanese castles and their rich history.


In conclusion, the Japanese word for “castle” can be expressed as “shiro” (城) in formal situations or when using polite language. For informal or casual conversations, “jo” (城) is commonly used. While regional variations exist, they are not widely used and may have specific historical or geographical connotations. Remember that “shiro” and “jo” are both acceptable ways to refer to a castle, but understanding the appropriate context will help you communicate effectively and respectfully in Japanese.

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