9 Days of Rustic Kyushu, Day 1 (Part 3): Karatsu Castle

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Karatsu (唐津市)
Once we were done at Dazaifu, we moved out of Fukuoka to Karatsu in Saga Prefecture. Historically, Karatsu served as an important trading between Japan, China and Korea.

Day 1: Fukuoka Airport --> Kawachi Fuji Garden --> Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine --> Karatsu Castle (唐津城) --> Ryokan
The drive from Dazaifu to Karatsu was not particularly long and by late afternoon, we had arrived at our next destination, Karatsu Castle (唐津城). Unfortunately, I probably over-estimated ourselves. By the time we arrived, we were feeling pretty tired. I was also developing a headache on top of feeling feverish. In fact, by then, I was so out of it, I actually forget to change the aperture on my camera when taking photo. It's fortunate the pictures didn't turn out too terribly.

Needless to say, we didn't explore very much of Karatsu Castle.

This was the view of Karatsu Castle that greeted us when we parked. The carpark is just across the road, opposite from the castle. The castle is easily accessible by an underpass.

Karatsu Castle was built in 1608 and is also known as Maizuru Castle or the Dancing Crane Castle. The castle itself was said to resemble the head of a crane, while the pine groves at either side were the extended wings of the crane.

Unfortunately, there was also quite some bit of constuction going on when we visited. Hence, I couldn't really appreciate the dancing crane resemblence.

Karatsu Castle is a hilltop castle, which is probably why it's visible from afar. Once you're out of the underpass, you have the option of getting to the castle grounds via this long flight of uneven stairs. The stairs are to your right as you walk along the path.
Fortunately, if you're daunted by the flight of stairs like my mom (she has knee problems), fret not. There's actually a lift nearby that brings you to the castle as well. Based on travel blogs' and Trip Advisor reviews, this lift doesn't seem to be particularly well-known., so here's some directions to get to the lift:
Continue on the route to the left. You should be following along the perimeter walls of the school pictured below with the flight of stairs to your right.


If I don't recall wrongly, there's an abundance of pine trees along the path. Eventually you'll get to a small, white building with pretty flowers (in picture above). That'll be where the lift is.

I took a photo of the price indicated for taking the lift. It's free for seniors (70 years and above) and for young children who are not yet of schooling age. However, for primary and secondary students, it would cost 50 yen each, while adults pay 100 yen each to take the lift. Prices are one-way only, which means you'll have to pay to get down the same way.

As Karatsu Castle is built right next to Karatsu Bay, you'd get wonderful views of the ocean. There are benches all over the castle grounds where you could sit and enjoy the sea breeze and views. Don't get too caught up though, because the view at the top of the 5-storey castle is even better! Plus, like I mentioned earlier, the castle is under-going some construction, so the grounds itself isn't exactly all that pretty now.


These are the panoramic shots I took from the top of the castle. Yeah. I'm kicking myself for forgetting to change the aperture on the camera. But still, you should be able to tell how pretty the cityscape is from the top of the castle.

Take note though, you'll have to take the stairs all the way to the top. The museum is built within the first 4 storeys though before you get to the 5th (which is the viewing platform). I thought this was a great way to break up the tedium of climbing 5 flights of stairs for some.

The museum (obviously) focused on Karatsu Castle and its history. There were several artefacts, models and even weapons displayed. We were however, too tired to properly appreciate it. Instead, it was quick glimpses and we quickly moved on.

There is also a wisteria trellis within the castle grounds (bottom left of my photo above). Apparently, the castle is pretty famous as a cherry blossom and wisteria viewing ground when they bloom in spring.


What did strike me though were the numerous tori gates that surrounded the castle. Each of these tori gates also appeared to have stacks of stones that appeared to be deliberately piled on them. When asked about the significance, our guide explained that the stones were stacked there as forms of prayer wishes.


Karatsu Castle is one of the smallest castle I've visited. If you were to visit, it should not take you very long to tour the place. I estimate anywhere between 45 minutes (if you're very fast) to 2 hours (for those who'll enjoy taking their time with the museum).

My mom was very eager to get to our ryokan but our driver made us stop for an additional spot that was not on our itinerary: Nijino Matsubara (虹の松原). I have to say, it was the first time I met with the homeless in Japan. Apparently, some of them would park themselves within the vicinnity of the Nijino Matsubara as it was a quiet place.

The Nijino Matsubara is a 360 year-old pine forest. It is also known as the Black Pine Forest of 1 Million Trees.

I don't know if it was because she was tired and eager to get on to our ryokan, but my mom didn't like the place and found it creepy. Within minutes of stepping into the grand forest, she wanted to leave. Perhaps as a result of her complaints, I found myself visualizing stalkers and beasts. Even in the photo below, I could see it as part of a Japanese horror show; you know, like some ghost swinging away?

Needless to say, we didn't get to explore the place very much. Given my mom's insistence, we were off to our ryokan very shortly.

Tourist Information

Karatsu Castle
Website: http://www.karatsu-bunka.or.jp/shiro.html
Address: 8-1 Higashijonai, Karatsu 847-0016, Saga Prefecture
Local Address: 〒847-0016東城内8番1号
DID: +81 955-72-5697
Admission fees:
Adults (15 yrs and up) 410 Yen
Children (4 and up to 14 yrs) 200 Yen
20% Discount for a Group of 20 or more
Operating Hours: 9 am to 5 pm. Closed from 29 to 31 December.
Nijino Matsubara
Address: Hamatamacho, Karatsu 849-5131, Saga Prefecture
Local Address: 〒849-5131浜玉町
Admission fees: Free

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