Translated by Greg
See Impressive Stone Walls At Marugame Castle, Kagawa
Written by Yaspon
Marugame Castle, located in the Shikoku region's Kagawa prefecture, is known for its impressive stone walls. Today we tell you about the castle's four highlights, and also give information on castle events and access here from Japan's main cities.
Marugame Castle is located in Kagawa prefecture's Marugame city, in the Shikoku region. Kazumasa Ikoma, son of the daimyo of Sanuki province (today's Kagawa prefecture), Chikamasa Ikoma, began renovations on the castle in 1597 (*1).
At the start of the Edo period, work on Marugame Castle came to a standstill. But thirty years later, the feudal lord Ieharu Yamazaki took charge of the castle and began to rebuild it.
A famous castle known for its impressive rock walls, Marugame Castle is currently on the Japan Castle Foundation's list of the top 100 castles in Japan. In addition, the castle's wooden keep has been designated as a national treasure.
*1: Marugame Castle was originally constructed in 1587. Since then it has been renovated on numerous occasions, beginning initially in 1597.
The Top Four Highlights of Marugame Castle
1. The Tallest Stone Wall in Japan!
Marugame Castle, also sometimes called the rock castle, is known for its impressive stone walls. Rocks are laid down in layers of four, and the wall reaches a height of some sixty metres, making it Japan's tallest for this particular kind of wall construction (*2).
*2: This is the highest stone wall that utilizes a construction method in which stones are laid in layers of four. The tallest stone wall in Japan regardless of construction method can be found at Osaka Castle.
2. A Wooden Keep: Unusual Among Castles in Japan
A tenshu, or castle keep, refers to the fortified tower that comprises the tallest part of a Japanese castle. It's an important part of a castle and also serves as its symbol. When visitors to Japan think of a Japanese castle, it's probably the castle keep that stands out most in their mind.
In Japan, Marugame Castle is one of only twelve remaining castles that have a keep constructed from wood. Completed in 1660, Marugame Castle's wooden keep is the oldest in the Shikoku region.
3. Follow a Steep Path to Get to the Castle Keep
To get to the top of a slightly elevated mountain where the castle keep is located, visitors follow a walking path along a steep slope. This is called a mikaeri slope (photo above). In the Japanese language, mikaeri means to turn and look back behind you. So as the name suggests, when visitors are walking up this steep slope, they often instinctively want to turn and look back behind themselves.
Both sides of this sloped pathway are surrounded by lush greenery, and in the summertime, sunlight filtering through the leaves of the trees creates a comfortable and peaceful atmosphere. Getting to the top requires a bit of effort, but we do recommend it as a walking course.
4. Enjoy the Panorama from the Former Moon Viewing Tower
The View of Sanuki Fuji (Mt. Iino) from the ruins of the Tsukimi Yagura.
In the castle's southeast corner there are the ruins of the Tsukimi-yagura (*3), the former site of a moon viewing tower. As you can see in the photo, the tower no longer remains, but the panoramic view is still impressive. In addition to beautiful Mount Iino, also known as Sanuki Fuji, Marugame city and the surrounding nature spreads out majestically down below.
*3 Yagura: this was essentially a guard tower set atop a stone wall usually in the corner of the castle or in some other strategic location. They were used for different purposes such as storing weapons and food, for keeping a watch on the castle gates, and in this case, for enjoying moon viewing.
Events at Marugame Castle
At Marugame Castle, events like the ones listed below are held annually. Also, 2017 marks the 420th anniversary of the castle. To commemorate this, the Marugame Castle 420th Anniversary Festa is being held on September 24th.
**Dates and events below are for 2017. Depending on the year, events are sometimes held earlier or later, and the events themselves are also subject to change.
Sakura Cherry Blossom Festival
Marugame Oshiro Festival
Suzukaze Cool Breeze Festa
Noryo Summer Evening Festa
Marugame Castle 420th Anniversary Festa
Middle of October-Early November
Chrysanthemum Flower Show
Happy Halloween Event
December 1-February 4
Stone Wall Light Up Event
New Year's Festa
Valentine's Day Event
Hime Princess Festa
Marugame Castle Tourist Information and Souvenir Shop
After you pass through the castle's main gate, you'll see the tourist information center and souvenir shop at the base of the mikaeri slope, the pathway that leads to the castle keep. Here they'll introduce you to shops selling Kagawa prefecture's famous sanuki udon, Marugame's favorite local cuisine, honetsukidori, or bone-in chicken, and also give you information on other sightseeing spots.
Uchiwa Fan Workshop (Bamboo)
Traditional uchiwa fans made from bamboo are on sale here, including animal-themed fans and other unique versions. Visitors can also have a hands-on experience making their own fan.
Available dates and times: Every Sunday from 9 am to noon, March until December. To reserve for other times please call directly.
Location: In front of the Marugame Castle Tourist Information Center.
Guides will give you a one hour tour of the local sightseeing spots.
Acess to Marugame Castle from Major Cities
Marugame Castle is just 10 minutes on foot from JR Marugame Station. For those coming to see the castle from outside Kagawa prefecture, just remember that your final destination is JR Marugame Station.
Now we'll give you access information to the castle from Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka, and also list required travel times and transportation fees.
There are direct flights to Takamatsu Airport from both Haneda and Narita Airports. In either case, the travel time is about one hour and 15 minutes up to an hour and 30 minutes. If you're taking a low-cost carrier, airfare will be in the range of 5000-10,000 yen. However, if you choose JAL (Japan Airlines) or ANA (All Nippon Airways), it will be more expensive at 15,000-20,000 yen.
From Takamatsu Airport, a limousine bus will whisk you away to Marugame Castle. It will take about one hour and 15 minutes and will cost you 1200 yen.
For starters, at Tokyo Station hop on board a shinkansen (bullet train) headed for Okayama Station (about three hours). Next, transfer to the Seto Ohashi Line and go to Marugame Station (about forty-five minutes). Including transfer time, the trip takes a total of four hours and the one-way fare comes to 17,030 Yen (non-reserved seating).
At Osaka Station board a shinkansen headed for Okayama Station (about forty-five minutes). At Okayama Station transfer to the Seto Ohashi Line and go to Marugame Station (about forty-five minutes). Total travel time including transfer time, is about one hour and fifty minutes, and the one-way fare comes to 6620 Yen (non-reserved seating).
At Hakata Station in Fukuoka city, get on board a shinkansen going to Okayama Station (one hour and forty-five minutes). Next, transfer to the Seto Ohashi Line and go to Marugame Station (about forty-five minutes). Transfer time included, it takes two hours and forty-five minutes to get to Marugame Station from Hakata Station, and the one-way fare is 12,830 yen (non-reserved seating).
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** Travel times and transportation fees are based on information listed in the various official home pages. This information is current as of the time of this writing, March 2017. Please note that this information is subject to change.