Karatsu Castle 唐津城
Karatsu Castle, situated on a small hill above Karatsu Bay in Saga prefecture in Kyushu seems to rise out of the sea.
Karatsu Castle's construction began in 1602 using materials from nearby Nagoya Castle (not to be confused with Nagoya Castle in Aichi Prefecture on Honshu), which was a base for Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea and was dismantled with the onset of the Tokugawa regime.
Winged by curving stretches of beach, Karatsu Castle was popularly known as Maizuru-jo ("Dancing Crane Castle").
The building of Karatsu Castle was first undertaken by Terasawa Hirotaka, a former vassal of Hideyoshi's who sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu at the decisive Battle of Sekigahara. However in 1637, in part due to his failure to crush the Shimabara Rebellion (1637-38), the castle passed to the Okubo clan.
Karatsu Castle was later to be under the control of the Matsudaira, Doi, Mizuno and Ogasawara clans through the Edo Period (1600-1868). After the Meiji Restoration of 1868 the castle keep was pulled down leaving only the stone walls and foundations as part of Maizuru Park, which opened in 1877.
The present five-story Karatsu Castle is a ferro-concrete structure built in the style of the original 17th century castle in 1966. The yagura (towers) were built at the same time with the Tatsumi yagura added later, in 1990.
Karatsu Castle hosts period exhibits of samurai arms and armor including swords, pikes and firearms, local ceramics (Karatsu-yaki), documents and original roof tiles from the castle. There are excellent views of the expansive Matsuura Bay and Karatsu town from the top floor.
The grounds of Karatsu Castle are known for their beautiful azalea, cherry and wisteria blossoms in season.
Tel: 0955 72 5697
Admission: 400 yen
Karatsu Castle Access
Karatsu Castle can be reached by a short elevator ride (100 yen) from the bottom of the hill or up the stone steps. Admission to the castle proper is 400 yen. Karatsu town itself is about one hour by train from Hakata Station in Fukuoka First ride the Kuko Line of Fukuoka Subway to Meinohama and change to the Chikuhi Line. From Saga take the Karatsu Line. Exit Karatsu Station, turn right, then turn left and walk along the bank of the Matsuura River towards the sea. You will see the castle to your right.
If coming by car, Karatsu Castle is just off National Highway 216. There is a large pay car park in front of the castle. A visit to Karatsu could be combined with seeing nearby Hirado Castle.
Karatsu Kunchi Festival
Karatsu is well-known for its colorful Karatsu Kunchi Festival held annually from November 2-4. Huge, decorated floats are hauled through the streets by participants in Edo Period garb to the accompaniment of drums and flutes. On the second day of the festival the floats, known as hikiyama are taken to Nishinohama Beach, within view of Karatsu Castle. When not in use the floats can be seen at the Hikiyama Festival Float Exhibition Hall, notice the distinctive designs of the floats which include samurai helmets, a dragon, a fish and a Red Lion (aka-jishi).
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