Maruoka Castle(丸岡城, Maruoka-jō) is one of the best-known sightseeing spots in Fukui. Every year about 120,000 people go there. The castle tower there is one of only 12 remaining in Japan, and it’s so precious that it’s been designated as an important cultural property.
(The 12 towers referred to here are ones that were built in the Edo period (1603–1868) or earlier and that still exist. There are a lot of other castle towers in Japan, but they’re mostly restored ones.)
In addition to its tower, Maruoka Castle is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms, and in spring the two of these together make a marvelous sight.
The castle was built between 1624 and 1644 by Shibata Katsutoyo, who was a nephew of Shibata Katsuie (the person who laid the foundations for the city of Fukui).
There are three highlights at Maruoka Castle that are great for sightseers:
- The old wooden castle tower
- A well that has an interesting legend
- The beautiful cherry blossoms
The 400-year-old tower is a three-story one with two roofs. It’s about 12 meters tall, making it one of the smallest of the 12 existing castle towers. However, it has a strong presence. If you pay an entrance charge you can go inside it.
The castle tower is made of wood, a type of construction that’s unique to Japan. Castles in other countries are mostly made of stone, but Japanese castles (except for their stone walls) are made of wood.
Be sure to notice the stone walls beneath the tower. They’re made of natural stone, and this shows that the castle is an old one.
When you go into the tower on the first floor you notice a lot of square holes in the walls. Through these holes, warriors of the castle used to use guns as well as bows and arrows to repel enemies.
There’s a room on the first floor that’s called the stone-dropping room. There’s a hole in the floor through which warriors dropped stones to repel invaders.
Inside the castle tower there are some very steep steps. They’re so steep that you need to use a rope to climb up and down them.
About 6,000 stone tiles were used on the roof of the tower. This is a feature that’s unique to Maruoka Castle. Stone tiles were used because they don’t crack in cold weather. Some of the tiles are made of shakudani stone, which is a special product of Fukui. If you look carefully you can see the stone tiles through the windows.
From the top floor you can see the Sea of Japan. It’s an enjoyable sight that makes you feel as if you’re a lord.
To the left of the castle tower (50 meters away) there’s a well that has the following cool legend associated with it:
It’s said that whenever Maruoka Castle was attacked by enemies, a big snake appeared from the well and rescued the castle by covering it with mist or fog. Because of this legend the castle is called “the castle in the mist.” When you see the well, try to remember this legend.
There are about 400 cherry blossom trees around Maruoka Castle, and in spring the blossoms surround the structure. They’re so beautiful that the castle has been designated as one of Japan’s 100 best spots for viewing cherry blossoms.
(The cherry blossoms bloom for only about two weeks. Be sure to check the forecasts for the blossoms and the weather before coming to the castle. Usually, you can enjoy seeing the cherry blossom trees around Maruoka Castle the best from early April to mid-April.)
Don’t you think Maruoka Castle looks beautiful surrounded by cherry blossoms?
Again, the castle has one of only 12 existing castle towers in Japan, and luckily you can go inside it. Don’t miss the chance to experience this tower that was built about 400 years ago.
Maruoka Castle Information
Open: 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (last admission at 4:30)
Closed: No closed days
Admission: Adults: 450 yen, Children (6–15 years old): 150 yen
There are several parking lots
Access: The castle is a 60-minute bus ride from JR Fukui Station. (Get off at Maruoka-Jo (丸岡城), and from there it’s a quick walk to the castle.)
Alternatively you can take a 50-minute walk from JR Maruoka Station. (However, taking a taxi from the station is preferable.)