Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Visit Charming Kitsuki In Oita, The Town With Japan's Smallest Castle!
Known as Kyushu region's "little Kyoto", Kitsuki city in Oita prefecture is a historic castle town where you can enjoy the cultural neighborhood that still remains from the Edo period.
Written by MATCHA-PR
Only thirty minutes from Oita Airport by car, Kitsuki city facing the Beppu Bay is known to be the castle town with Japan's smallest castle - Kitsuki Castle. With many historical neighborhoods still remaining, Kitsuki city has been promoting themselves as "a town to walk around in traditional Japanese outfits".
This time, we will introduce you to the wonderful charm and attractions of Kitsuki while wearing a yukata (light summer kimono).
Wear Traditional Japanese Outfits while Touring the Historical Castle Town
If you would like to get the most out of your time in the castle town of Kitsuki, exploring the town in traditional Japanese clothes such as a kimono or yukata is recommended. Stop by Rental Kimono Warakuan to casually wear Japanese outfits while touring around. You can visit empty-handed and select from approximately 250 styles of kimonos and get dressed-up by professional dressers.
Part of the fun is going through the many styles of kimonos and yukatas with your friends and family. With so many to choose from, if you happen to get confused, the staff will gladly give you suggestions or advice! Kimono dress-up and rental is best done if reserved in advance three days prior online through their website (Japanese).
Walk Around Kitsuki in Japanese Clothes
For those who dress up in a kimono or yukata and explore the town, some of the admission fees to samurai houses or tourist attractions become free or you can get discounts at certain restaurants. These two ladies in the photo also enjoyed strolling through the city in their kimono.
When venturing into the castle town area of Kitsuki city, it would be best to use the handy audioguide system available in English, Chinese, Korean or Japanese for more information.
The Symbol of Castle Town Kitsuki - Suya no Saka
In Kitsuki, many samurai lived on the elevated grounds of the northern and southern parts of the castle town. In the lower parts, merchants lived and ran their businesses. The unique structure of the town is frequently referred as the sandwiched castle town.
Out of the many hill streets, this Suya no Saka ("Hill of the Vinegar Shops") was considered to be the symbol of Kitsuki. Like the name suggests, in the past there were shops here that sold vinegar. With a picturesque view, it is well known as a great photo spot for visitors to Kitsuki and as a filming spot for historic dramas.
Ohara Residence: the Massive House with an Elegant Japanese Garden
After walking past a long path aligned with a clay wall and many samurai houses from the Edo period, a place that is highly recommended for you to stop by is the Ohara residence.
The Ohara residence used to be the house of an elite samurai and it still remains today. Here, you will be able to witness the lifestyle of a samurai through the historical thatched roof house and the elegant Japanese garden.
This is the where people bathed, but as you can see, there is no tub. Water was scarce at that time and people washed their body without heating water in a tub.
Inside the house, you will be able to take photos with a real Japanese sword. Why not strike a pose in front of the camera as if you were a samurai for memorable photos of your trip?
Tai Chazuke, A Dish That Made the Feudal Lord Happy
Looking for good local food in Kitsuki? Why not taste the flavors of the Edo Period like the feudal lord of that time? Here atWakaeya, you will be able to taste dishes that the feudal lord loved, which have been passed down since 1698.
The most popular dish at Wakaeya is the "Ureshino", which is a tai chazuke (red snapper over rice covered in tea). The name is derived from the time when the feudal lord was ill and expressed his happiness being able to eat the dish while saying "ureshii noo" (うれしいのぉ "I am happy!").
Tai chazuke is a dish where slices of red snapper covered in a sesame sauce are placed on a bed of rice then covered with tea. The warm tea makes the red snapper more tender and brings out the flavor of the sesame. You will surely be able to say "ureshii noo" like the feudal lord when taking a bite out of this delicious dish!
Japan's Smallest Castle - Kitsuki Castle
Despite being called the smallest castle in Japan, Kitsuki castle is on top of a hilltop where you can see a magnificent view of the castle town and the sea from the castle tower.
The castle tower was constructed in 1970 and it is used as a museum to display many important artifacts and documents.
There are many real samurai helmets and you can even wear one yourself! Why not transform into a brave samurai warlord? You will surely be surprised when you experience the weight of a real armor here!
Take a Break at a Tea Ceremony
If you feel tired while exploring Kitsuki, why not take a break with a cup of delicious matcha green tea and some tasty Japanese sweets? A great place to stop by is a historic Japanese tea shop, Ocha Dokoro Tomaya.
The shop is constructed in the traditional Japanese techniques where the wood is fitted together in such a way that nails are not necessary. Surprisingly, this shop has been standing for over 280 years! You will be able to see rare teapots and utensils that have been around since the Edo period inside the store.
At Tomaya, not only do they sell tea, but if you order the matcha green tea set at the cafe area, you will be able to experience a simple tea ceremony on the spot.
Relax with a bowl of matcha green tea prepared by yourself, along with some store original rakugan (Japanese sugar confectionery) and you will surely be recharged.
Traditional Entertainment at Kitsuki Shuurakuan
While enjoying your time in Kitsuki, a must-go place is the Kitsuki Shuurakuan. The former sake cellar has been reformed and is now used as a tourist communication center.
Here, you will be able to witness a traditional theatrical play that has been passed down for generations among the people of Kitsuki. Shows are on every day and it is only performed in Japanese. However, there are plenty of songs and dances, just like in a musical, so you will likely be able to enjoy it despite the language barrier.
The most distinctive feature of the Shuurakuan is how the audience and actors get very close. You will see the actors perform right before your eyes, so you won't miss a thing! If you turn your camera to them, they may even strike a pose just for you.
Time flies by when having fun. The amazing theatrical performance will surely make you lose track of time easily.
Once the show ends and you are about to leave, the actors will come out to bid you farewell. This is also a great opportunity to ask them to take pictures with you!
Indulge in the Flavors of the Sea at Hyugaya
After spending a full day of fun in Kitsuki, why not spend a night at Hyugaya? Hyugaya is a traditional Japanese inn that is popular not only among tourists but also among the locals as well.
Known for their fresh fish, it is a historical inn that has been operating for over 100 years. The stonefish sashimi is a highly recommended dish that has a nice fresh texture with a light taste.
The inn only has eight rooms, but this is a wonderful place for visitors to taste the flavors of local specialties in a relaxing atmosphere. You may also visit to eat without staying the night. Another reason for their popularity is their convenient pickup and drop-off service from Oita Airport or surrounding areas within a 30-minute radius.
Visit the Historic and Cultural City of Kitsuki in Oita
Among the traditional shops and buildings, you will be able to see the history thriving throughout the castle town of Kitsuki. It is easily accessible from Ogura Station and Oita Airport, so why not slip back in time to stroll around the streets of the Edo Period in a kimono on your next visit?