Japanese Castles: Iwakuni Castle, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Iwakuni Castle 岩国城
Perched on top of the 200 meter high Shiroyama, with a natural moat of the Nishiki River on three sides and overlooking the town of Iwakuni, with views out to the Inland Sea, Iwakuni Castle is a concrete reconstruction built in 1962 that has outlasted the original castle many times over.
Constructed over seven years from 1601 to 1608, the completed castle only stood for 7 years until it was dismantled under the Ikkoku Ichijo ("One province, one castle") Edict of 1615, in favor of Hagi Castle, on the opposite Japan Sea coast.
Iwakuni Castle was built by Kikkawa Hiroie, a retainer of the powerful Mori Clan. After the destruction of the castle, the Kikkawa's ruled the Iwakuni region from the district at the base of the mountain now known as Kikko Park.
Access to this administrative area was over bridges across the river and the third Kikkawa lord solved the problem of the bridges being continual washed away by the river by building the Kintaikyo Bridge (Brocade Sash Bridge).
The keep on top of the mountain was reconstructed out of concrete in 1962, and while being faithful to the original design, it was rebuilt closer to the edge of the mountaintop so that it could be seen from the town below and therefore be more picturesque.
The stone base of the original castle was also restored at its original location some 30 meters behind the new reconstruction. The inside of the keep is not particularly good, though there are some swords and armour on display, and the top floor is the observation deck with great views over the surrounding countryside and town. For displays of armour, weapons, and other historical samurai artifacts the Iwakuni Art Museum located next to the rope-way station at the base of the mountain is a much better option.
It is possible to climb up to the castle on foot via several steep trails, the main one starting from the shrine in Kikko Park, but most people will want to take the rope-way From the rope-way station on the top there are two paths leading to the castle a few hundred meters away.
The whole top of the mountain is a nature preserve, so it is possible to spend some time walking there instead of heading straight back down to the town.
Open 9am to 4.45pm everyday, closed for the last 2 weeks of December.
Entrance: 260 yen
Rope-way: 550 yen round trip
Combination ticket for Kintaikyo Bridge, round trip on the rope-way, and castle entry: 940 yen
3 Yokoyama, Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi 741 0081
Tel: 0827 41 1477
Kintaikyo Bridge is accessible by bus from both JR Iwakuni Station and Shin Iwakuni Station on the Shinkansen line.
Hotel Accommodation in Iwakuni
There are a number of western and Japanese-style accommodations in Iwakuni. The AZ Hotel (formerly the Kamenoi Hotel Yamaguchi Iwakuni) is a three-star establishment with free in-room WiFi. Opposite Kintai Bridge is the excellent Iwakuni Kokusai Kanko Hotel with indoor and outdoor hot spring baths.
Iwakuni Access - Getting to Iwakuni
Iwakuni is about 35-40 minutes away from Hiroshima on the JR Sanyo main line.
There are almost only local trains between Iwakuni and Yamaguchi (2 hours).
Shinkansen trains use Shin-Iwakuni Station, while other trains stop at Iwakuni Station. Each station is about 5km from the Kintai Bridge.
There are numerous buses from Iwakuni Station to the Kintai Bridge (15-20min). You can buy a return ticket that includes the entrance to the bridge.
Tourism Promotion Office of Iwakuni City
Tel: 0827 41 1477
Fax: 0827 41 2750
Iwakuni City Tourism Association
Tel: 0827 41 2037
JR Iwakuni Train Station Tourist Information Office
Tel: 0827 21 6050