Japan Castle Explorer: A Passion For History Shared Online

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Japanese-Castle-ExplorerHere at Penn Olson we spend a lot of time writing about start-ups struggling to bring in revenue, or attract venture capital. But it’s important that we don’t overlook the fact that creativity doesn’t hinge on a pre-requisite business plan. It only requires that you produce.

I’ve been an admirer of Daniel O’Grady’s work for a long time. He’s a great example of someone who has taken a personal passion and has channelled it into an absolutely beautiful digital creation. His Japan Castle Explorer website is an extensive catalogue of Japan’s many ancient castles, presented in a logical manner that’s easy to browse.

I asked Daniel (who is originally from Australia) how this all got started, and he explained that his interest in Japan was sparked at a young age:

I have my parents to thank for getting me into Karate when I was a kid. From there I began to read books relating to not-only Karate but other martial arts, Japan and its history. Perhaps the biggest factor, and one I’d not actually considered until now, is that I’d gotten a job with Nova, a very popular English conversation school at the time. My working-holiday schedule allowed me to regularly travel around Japan.

Japan Castle Explorer shares all the information that Daniel has collected with anyone who wants to learn about castles in Japan. But Daniel explains that for him, this initiative is more than just sharing information with others. It holds immense value for him as well:

To visitors it may simply be a website about Japanese castles, but for me it is much more. Through the website, I’ve learnt how to make websites: How do I design a layout? How do I edit photos? How do I make the site dynamic? How do I make videos? How do I market it? The website provides the challenges but also the tools to arrive at an answer.

Daniel explains that because he doesn’t have any programming background, he had to dive into online tutorials. There was a lot of trail and error, but clearly the end result speaks for itself in the end.


The most remarkable things about Japan Castle Explorer is its map function (see above), which is available in both English and Japanese. Each castle plotted on the map links to a dedicated page where you can read more information. In some cases, Daniel plays virtual tour guide by creating explanatory videos on site. Check out this sample video from Fukuoka castle below.

He notes while he hopes to do more videos, there are many others ways to extend the site. “I’m not going to spoil any surprises,” he says, “suffice to say I’ll be kept busy for quite some time.”

When asked about monetization of the website, Daniel says that this is where he has fallen short, as he is yet to receive any income for his work. He explains “There’s content and there’s traffic, so I know there’s potential. Any biz-devs out there?”

Since Japan is not an English-speaking country, very often it falls short in communicating its attractions and history to foreign tourists. But it’s always good to see individuals like Daniel stepping up to fill the void. It’s an admirable effort deserving of more recognition than we could ever hope to give it on this blog.

Check out Daniel’s site over at japanese-castle-explorer.com, or support the endeavor with a like on the Facebook page.

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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