Japanese Castles: Mito Castle 水戸城
Little now physically remains of Mito Castle in Mito city in Ibaraki Prefecture, though the pleasant area where the castle once stood is redolent of bygone days with several statues and plaques commemorating the historical figures who lived here and the events that took place.
Mito Castle was once ruled by the Mito clan, one of the three main branch families (gosanke) of the Tokugawa regime that dominated Japan during the Edo Period of Japanese history.
History of Mito Castle
The origins of Mito Castle go back to a 13th century fortress. During the Edo Period, the Mito clan, founded by the 11th son of Tokugawa Ieyasu (Tokugawa Yorifusa), controlled the castle.
Due to the proximity of Edo (Tokyo) to Mito along the Mito Kaido highway and the Tokugawa family connections, the Mito clan were staunch supporters of the shogunate.
Mito Castle was badly damaged during the Boshin War (1868-1869) which saw the collapse of the old order. Further destruction took place during the Meiji Period and again during World War II.
Only the Yakuimon Gate, in the grounds of Mito Daisan High School and a few moats have survived from the original structures of Mito Castle. Indeed much of the former area occupied by the castle is now taken up with school buildings, which have kept the atmosphere of the area by building high walls and castle-style gates.
The JR Suigun Line cuts through what was once one of the moats of Mito Castle and the high railway embankments that can be seen are the former earthen walls of the castle, separating the Ninomaru and Honmaru baileys.
The Otemon Gate is being reconstructed and will be ready in 2019.
Opposite Mito Castle is the Kodokan Hall (Tel: 029 231 4725) built in 1841 by Tokugawa Nariaki. The Kodokan was one of the largest domain schools in Japan, where the sons of prominent samurai were educated in Confucian studies, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, music and martial arts.
The Kodokan (弘道館) was a center of anti-foreign sentiment (sonno-joi; "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarian") after the arrival of Commodore Perry's Black Ships in 1853. It unleashed forces that were eventually to lead to the overthrow of the regime it was set up to protect.
Kodokan is surrounded by a white, plastered clay wall and contains over 800 plum trees in its grounds as well as a number of original wooden buildings including the Main Gate, the Main Hall and the Hall of Supreme Good. The last shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa was placed under house arrest here for a time in 1867-1868 after the Tokugawa regime was overthrown.
Mito Castle Access
Mito Castle is an approximately 15 minute walk from Mito Station.
Ibaraki Prefecture 310-0011
Tel: 029 231 4725
Admission is free to the grounds of Mito Castle; there is an entry fee of 200 yen to the Mito City Museum.