Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Exploring Aizu -Tsurugajo Castle - Aizu Wakamatsu

My last post about Aizumura made me realise that I have not written much about our travels in the Fukushima Prefecture. So I have decided to continue with a series of posts on the Fukushima region. 
My introduction to Aizu Wakamatsu town was partly due to the fact that it was the lone entry representing Fukushima prefecture in the Lonely Planet- Japan edition that I had purchased before moving to Japan. Fukushima has a lot to offer and definitely its tourism potential has been highly underrated. After the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Nuclear crisis, I see a far lesser chance of this fact changing any day soon.

Aizu Wakamatsu is said to be the oldest city in Fukushima Prefecture dating back to 1000 years ago. The old castle town earned popularity due to the tragic role it played during the Boshin War of 1868. The Boshin Civil War resulted in large scale deaths and the worst tragedy was the mass suicide committed by the Byakkotai . They were a group of 20 teenage Samurai boys who were assigned the task of guarding the Inawashiro pass. While returning to the castle, they saw white smoke rising from the direction where the Castle stood and they assumed that the Castle had fallen to the enemy. Preferring death over capture by the enemy, they attempted mass suicide, 19 died with just 1 survivor. A memorial for these brave warriors is located on the Imoriyama hill.  

Aizu’s most prominent destination, the Tsuruga-jo Castle was built in 1384. 

It has changed many hands since its construction and had been destroyed during the Boshin Civil War. It was one of the last strongholds of the samurai’s loyal to the Shogunate.The current castle was reconstructed in concrete in 1960 and the last renovation was completed in 2010-11.

When we visited the castle, a young man in Samurai costume stood at the entrance of the castle.

Walking further, we reached the Castle grounds, which unfortunately do not classify as a garden in the real sense. It is just a wide expanse of well tended lawns.

Tsuruga-jo is a five storeyed castle. 

On the first floor, there are displays of  some history of the castle town and a collection of armor and weapons. Other floors have local crafts, information about the building of the castle,life in old days and the history of the Boshin War.

There is a nice observatory on the fifth floor where you can get an excellent view of the surrounding city and Mt. Bandai. 

The castle's exit takes you through the gift shop and further ahead to a long connecting passage with another tower that has displays on life in the castle and it's defenses.
Within the castle grounds is the Rinkaku Tea House, which was used by the feudal lords to hold tea ceremonies. Today for a small fee, visitors can walk around and experience a tea ceremony. Tea and snacks are also sold here. 

The Tsurugajo Park surrounds the castle. The well tended lawns and cherry trees make it a particularly attractive sight during the Sakura season in Spring, when it is flocked by visitors. 

The surrounding moat and stone walls, previously serving a security purpose, today remain a reminder of the glorious past of the castle.

Opening Hours: 8:30-17:00.

Open : 365 days a year

Admission fees:  400 yen (Castle only): 500 yen (Castle and Teahouse)
Address: 1-1, Oitemachi, Aizu Wakamatsu City, Fukushima Ken, Japan 965-0873

Phone: 0242-27-4005

Website: http://www.tsurugajo.com/e/turugajo.html (English) 

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