Tsuruga Castle, the Japanese castle that Resisted Attacks for a Whole Month

One thing I enjoy doing while traveling through Japan is to visit its dozens of castles. Although quite a few are modern replicas, they are beautiful to look at, have interesting exhibitions inside, and offer great views from the top. This is especially true for Tsuruga castle in Fukushima prefecture which I recently visited. If you are interested in castles and Japanese history, make sure to add it to your Japan travel itinerary.


The Symbol of Aizu-Wakamatsu City since 1384

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Tsuruga Castle, originally built in 1384, towers over Aizu-Wakamatsu city, in the heart of Fukushima Prefecture. Officially, it is called Wakamatsu Castle. When it was first built, it was more of a mansion than a castle. Later, a seven-layered main tower was added, and it was surrounded by grand black-coloured walls. During the Edo era, the Aizu domain, centered on the castle, was a strong ally of the Tokugawa shogunate. 

 During the 1868 Boshin War, Aizu forces inside the castle, made up of samurai loyal to the Shogun, withstood a month-long siege by the newly formed Meiji government. The government troops are said to have struggled tremendously. Hence it became known as the impregnable castle. The exhibition inside the castle tower (including some English explanations) has lots of details on this important period of Japanese history.

 In 1874, the main tower was demolished – it had been badly damaged during the recent battle. A photo displayed in the castle tower exhibition shows that it was in a really bad state of repair. The current tower is a 1965 reconstruction, made from concrete. Don’t let this turn you off from visiting though – the castle tower is extremely photogenic, and the views of the surrounding area from the 5th floor observatory are fantastic. On a clear day, one can see Mt Bandai and Mt Ide.

View from the top observatory

Stone Walls that Withstood the Great Earthquake 400 Years Ago

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The stone walls of Tsuruga Castle are known for having layers built during different time periods. The oldest are the stone walls of the main tower, which are made with stones in their natural form, and piled up on top of one another. They have gentle slopes with a wide base. After you enter the first floor of the tower, look to your right for a closer look at the wall – just don’t be surprised by the samurai standing in the shadows next to the wall!

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About four hundred years ago, this region experienced a magnitude 6.9 earthquake (intensity 6+ on the Japanese seismic intensity scale). 20,000 homes were destroyed, but these stone walls stood firm. Although it may look like the stones were just randomly piled up, one cannot but be be amazed by such castle building skills! On the approach to the castle tower, you can admire the outer castle walls and surrounding moat. There is also an interesting staircase, apparently leading to nowhere, called “Mushabashiri”, a combination of the words for “samurai” and “running”. It enabled the samurai to quickly access the top of the walls when defending the castle against an attack.

The mushabashiri staircase

Enjoy Japanese Green Tea in the Rinkaku Teahouse

The entrance fee to the castle is 510 yen and includes entry to the Rinkaku teahouse located on the castle grounds (for entry to the castle only, it’s 410 yen). After going up and down the castle tower, you’ll exit through a souvenir shop. At the back, there is an additional short section along a wing of the castle with some audio-visual displays. It’s not essential, so visit if you aren’t pressed for time You’ll need to take your shoes off and carry them with you in a plastic bag.

The iced matcha sweets set for two

After exiting, head for the teahouse Rinkaku a couple of minutes away on foot, where you can make a quick tour of the beautiful Japanese garden surrounding the teahouse in its center. For 500 yen per person you can enjoy some Japanese green tea with a Japanese-style sweet. You can choose between hot or cold. It’s quite a relaxing experience – just make sure to eat something sweet first, before drinking the bitter Japanese green tea!

Free costume experience on weekends till the end of November

Read more about sightseeing spots in Aizu on the Tadaima Japan website:

 Time travel to the old postal town of “Ouchi-juku.” The best way to experience Japan’s older atmosphere!

Read more about Tsuruga and other Japanese castles on the Japanese Castle Explorer website.

 For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:

 ”Tsuruga Castle”, the Impregnable Castle That Withstood Enemy Attacks for One Month

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AUTHOR

David

David

Writer / Translator

I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years although it feels shorter because I am constantly discovering new things and new places. Sometimes it can be hard to get the full Japanese experience because of cultural differences and linguistic barriers. For that reason, I want to share what I have learned in order to enhance your experience in Japan. Having said that, figuring out stuff on your own can also be fun. In any case, I hope you can find here whatever you need in order to make your stay a success.