The city of Aizuwakamatsu in northern Fukushima prefecture holds a unique place in Japanese history for its role in the feudal era and the Boshin War, a civil war that ended the feudal system in Japan. To see where it all happened, learn some history at the museum, and take in magnificent views, visit Tsurugajo, Aizuwakamatsu’s special red-roofed castle.
A Museum inside Tsurugajo Castle
Inside the castle is a museum about the history of the building and the surrounding area. A lot of castle museums can be rather dry, but this one manages to stay interesting. Upon entering, you can see the foundation of the structure and how the bottom floor was used as a storehouse. The next few floors give an overview of the complicated history of the castle, with a useful timeline to help you see the constant changing of power from the construction of the castle in 1384 until it’s destruction during the Boshin War in 1868. Supporting this history are maps, documents, and some wickedly cool samurai helmets. Restrain yourself from snapping pictures, however, as photography is prohibited on the first and second floors.
As you move upward through the floors, the focus of the exhibit shifts to on the Byakkotai, the infamous White Tigers, a group of teenaged samurai who committed seppuku together during the Boshin War and are regarded as martyrs. However, the fourth floor of the museum shows life after war and destruction, and displays photographs and brief biographies of notable Aizu locals who survived the war and went on to do great things within Japan and abroad.
The museum gives great context for the town, but the piece de resistance is the view from the fifth floor. From the top, you can see the entire town laid out before you and the hills that border it. We recommend visiting in the late afternoon, when the golden hour light gives this view an extra dose of magic. Also be sure to note the red roof tiles, a unique feature for Japanese castles.
The Castle Park and Rinkaku Teahouse
Tsurugajo castle is situated on a vast castle park, and the grounds are pleasant to stroll. If you can, try to go in autumn, to view the castle surrounded by changing maple leaves, or in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. While the castle is a reconstruction, the stone walls fortifying the castle and ringing the moat are original.
Also at the castle park is the Rinkaku teahouse, where the lords held tea ceremonies in the feudal days. This historic teahouse can be visited with a combo ticket to the castle. Matcha tea is available for an extra charge.
To get to Tsurugajo Castle, take the Haikara-san tourist bus from Aizuwakamastu Station to stop H16. Admission to the castle only is ¥410, and for ¥520 you can also visit the Rinkaku teahouse. Also available is a discounted combo ticket that allows access to the castle, tea room, and Oyakuen garden attractions.
Name: Tsurugajo Castle
Address: 1-1 Otemachi, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima
Open: 8:30-17:00 (last admission 16:30)
Post by Japan Journeys.