This paper examines the process by which castles were “rediscovered” in the early twentieth century and transformed into key symbols of the nation. Castles were some of the favorite motifs for foreign visitors to Japan, and the early twentieth century saw castle imagery increasingly used in overseas exhibitions to project a martial and masculine version of Japan to an international audience. Within Japan, castles became focal points of regional pride, and popular narratives typically drew links between modern cities and prominent premodern warriors connected with the local castle. The utility of castles as physical symbols of an idealized martial past was appreciated by the military, which used them as both sites and subjects of its own exhibitions. From the turn of the twentieth century to the end of the Second World War, castles contributed both symbolically and physically to the militarization of Japanese society and Japan’s international image.
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