Japanese Castles: Kokura Castle 小倉城
Kokura Castle, the only castle left standing in Fukuoka Prefecture, was first built in 1602 by Hosokawa Tadaoki and completed six years later. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1837, with parts of it rebuilt by 1839.
Kokura Castle, now located in Kokura city in Kitakyushu, was damaged again in the violent times leading up to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, this time in fighting between the pro-imperial forces of the Choshu clan and the Tokugawa-allied Kokura clan in 1865.
Kokura Castle's donjon (keep) was rebuilt in 1959 and the castle buildings completely restored in 1991. The original castle looked quite different to its modern reconstruction, with the design and details of the main keep being originally of a much simpler style. The design was changed to make the reconstruction more visually appealing.
The most famous resident of Kokura castle was the renowned swordsman Miyamoto Musashi who moved here in 1634 as a guest of Ogasawara Tadazane. In the grounds of the castle is a memorial at the spot where he lived. The Niten Ichi-ryu, the school of swordsmanship based on his style of two swords was based in Kokura.
The pleasant grounds of Kokura Castle are known for their beautiful cherry trees in season and contain the Edo-period Shirasu lighthouse, a wooden structure that stood on the Kyushu coast, Kokura Castle Japanese Garden, and the Matsumoto Seicho Memorial Museum (Tel: 093 582 2761) dedicated to the life and works of the native Kitakyushu mystery writer. Matsumoto's thrillers available in English translation include Inspector Imanishi Investigates and The Voice.
Kokura Castle's keep has the unusual feature that the fifth story of the castle is larger than the fourth. The castle contains a small museum.
Overshadowing the castle is the large Riverwalk Kitakyushu, a shopping and entertainment complex with a multiplex cinema, a food court, the Kitakyushu Performing Arts Center (Tel: 093 562 2655) and a branch of the main Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art (Tel: 093 882 7777). The Riverwalk Kitakyushu design was undertaken by the same Jon Jerde-led architectural team who built the similar multi-use Canal City in Fukuoka.
Access - getting to Kokura Castle
From JR Nishi- Kokura Station, the grounds of the castle are a 5-minute walk. Alternatively walk 10 minutes from JR Kokura Station. A 700 yen ticket allows entrance to the castle, gardens and Matsumoto Seicho Museum.