Translated by Jasmine Nishino
A freelance nomad (lost) translator and nerd at heart.
Tsurugajo is a castle located in Wakamatsu city, Fukushima. In this article, we would like to introduce you to the castle with red roofing that not only managed to survive the disastrous 2011 earthquake but also numerous historical civil wars.
Tsurugajo is a castle located in Wakamatsu city, Fukushima in the Tohoku region of Japan. It is also known as the Aizu Wakamatsujo or the Wakamatsujo from its location. After many reconstructions since the fourteenth century, the castle came to a completion around the seventeenth century.
After its completion, it managed to survive the Tohoku earthquake in 1611 and the Boshin War that broke out from 1868-1869. The Boshin War was a battle between the emperor who wished to make a new world and the forces of the Edo shogunate who wished to keep the samurai world. Tsurugajo managed to survive the attacks of the shogunate and was then referred as the indestructible castle.
Time passed and the castle was torn down during the Meiji Restoration (*1) but was then rebuilt to its original state from the seventeenth century after 1965. The tenshu (*2) with its red roofing became its highlight and the castle along with the surrounding areas has become the nation's historical spot.
In this article, we would like to feature Tsurugajo, its highlights and access methods.
*1 Meiji Restoration: after the Edo shogunate was defeated, the revolutions that occurred until the birth of the Meiji government.
*2 Tenshu: the highest castle tower built in the castle grounds. Also known as the symbol of the castle.
Tsurugajo is open from 8:30-17:00 every day. Entry is until 16:30 and is open all year.
Entry fee is 410 yen for adults, 150 yen for elementary and middle school students.
Joint tickets that also includes entry to the castle and the cultural asset, the Chashitsu Rinkaku (tea ceremony space) is 510 yen for adults in high school and above. Entry to the Chashitsu Rinkaku is free for students in elementary and middle school.
In order to get to Tsurugajo from Tokyo, get on the Yamabiko shinkansen from Tokyo Station bound for Sendai and get off at Kunsan Station. At Kunsan Station, get on the Limited Express Banetsu West Line bound for Aizu Wakamatsu and get off at Aizu Wakamatsu Station. It takes approximately three hours including transfers and waiting time. For an unreserved seat, it costs 8760 yen one way. From Aizu Wakamatsu Station, take the city loop bus, Haikara-san, and get off at the Tsurugajo Iriguchi stop. The bus costs 210 yen and from the bus stop to the castle it is about a five minute walk.
The tenshu of Tsurugajo is five stories high. The red roofing against the white walls makes this castle very distinctive. The red roofing was made using a glaze on the surface before baking. It was specially made in order to bear the harsh winters of Fukushima.
The inside is a local museum and displays of documents recording the history of the castle and Fukushima can be seen here all year round.
On the castle grounds, you can see performances with Japanese drums and children carrying a mikoshi or portable shrine. During this time, you can also enjoy the wonderful scenery at night when the castle and cherry blossoms are illuminated.
Around the end of September, in the surrounding areas of Tsurugajo, you can see a parade of local dancers performing with flutes and drums called the Aizu Bandai Yama Odori. The main highlight is the Aizu Bandai Gyoretsu where nearly 500 people parade around wearing outfits from the Edo period. It is an impressing sight to see crowds of people parading out of Tsurugajo to the city.