Maruoka Castle: Among the Last 12 Authentic Castle Towers in Japan

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Maruoka Castle: A National Treasure in Fukui Prefecture

Maruoka Castle, located in the small city of Sakai within the Fukui Prefecture, stands as one of only 12 original castle towers (Genzou Tenshu) in Japan that were built before the Edo period. Constructed by Shibata Katsutoyo in 1576 amidst the Sengoku period, this Hirayama-style castle is highly distinguished by its pentagonal-shaped moat and stunning architecture.

Nestled along the highway connecting the Kaga and Echizen provinces, Maruoka Castle is a prominent symbol for the Hokuriku region. In 1934, it was officially recognized as a national treasure and designated an Important Cultural Property in 1950.

The castle’s charm is undeniably amplified during cherry blossom season, when visitors may witness picturesque views of the surrounding landscape.

Rebuilt after Earthquake and Legend Surrounding O-shizu

Unfortunately, the Maruoka Castle tenshu (castle tower) collapsed due to the Great Fukui Earthquake in 1948. However, it was later painstakingly reconstructed using mostly its original materials and reinforced with modern technology throughout seven years.

Among local folklore, there exists a legend surrounding a widow named O-shizu. The story claims that during the castle’s construction, the tower repeatedly collapsed until it was determined that a human sacrifice was needed to appease the gods. O-shizu volunteered for this task with one condition: that her child be adopted and trained by Katsutoyo as a samurai. Although Katsutoyo left before fulfilling this promise, O-shizu’s sacrifice has not been forgotten by locals who erected a tomb in her honor.

Visiting Maruoka Castle: Practical Information and Cherry Blossom Season

Although the castle isn’t particularly large, visitors can enjoy exploring its rich history as they walk through its breathtaking grounds. One notable feature is that photography is allowed within all castle areas.

Visitors can access the panoramic view of Fukui Prefecture from the third floor of the tenshu. To reach the top, one must climb two steep stairs wearing slippers provided to protect the castle’s flooring.

The best time to visit Maruoka Castle is during March and April when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Over 400 Yoshino cherry trees surround the castle during this time, creating a stunning contrast against its majestic architecture. This scene has led to Maruoka Castle being listed among Japan’s top 200 cherry blossom viewing spots.

Visiting hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last entry at 4:30 p.m. Admission fees are ¥450 for adults, ¥150 for elementary and junior high school students, with discounts available for groups, and free entry for children aged seven and below.

To access Maruoka Castle, guests can travel by train to JR Fukui station, take the local Hokuriku Line to Maruoka station, or visit via bus or car. Free parking is available on-site.

Preserving Castles with Rich Cultural Significance

Despite numerous castles that were demolished during Japan’s era of Westernization under the Meiji government in 1873, these original 12 castles remain valuable historical monuments and fascinating tourist destinations.

Maruoka Castle is a testament to preserving Japanese cultural history while captivating visitors with its timeless beauty–a true national treasure worth visiting.

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