Marugame Castle Walking Tour
Welcome to Marugame City! This is the second biggest city in Kagawa Prefecture after Takamatsu City, which is the capital. Its strategic location along the Seto Inland Sea made it a vital player in maritime trade.
Today we are visiting Marugame Castle, built by Ikoma Chikamasa, the Lord of Sanuki, in 1587 (about 400 years ago). It was constructed to protect the shogunate from intruders and keep watch over the area. In 1615, the Tokugawa Regime ordered the castle to be torn down due to an ordinance that only allowed for “one fief, one castle.” But it was never actually demolished. The people wanted to protect the castle, so they instead planted many lush trees to hide the structure. By 1641, the castle was “rebuilt” and was again recognized by the government. Marugame Castle is special in that it is one of the only twelve original castles that exists today. I was wondering how the Marugame Castle could have been demolished yet still existed as one of 12 surviving original castle towers. Now we know the truth!
It was a beautiful autumn day when I met Kawanishi-san who has graciously agreed to take me around the area. He works for the City Hall. We stood in awe at the main gate called Yaguramon that leads up to the castle grounds. It is an interesting wooden structure surrounded by huge stones. Upon entering, he showed me that behind the gate were stone steps that led up to small windows. Some windows were rectangular where, in ancient times, arrows were deployed while others were triangular which were for shooting guns. We then arrived at the second gate known as Kōraimon 高麗門 which served as the next defense against intruders.
Marugame Castle has three main keeps: Honmaru, Ninomaru, and Sannomaru. The Japan Castle Foundation lists Marugame Castle as one of the top 100 castles in Japan and its wooden keep has been recognized as a national treasure.
As we enter the grounds, we come across an open area, which was usually where they hold various activities such as singing or e-sports events. But because of the current pandemic, most events have been cancelled or postponed. Here you can hire a comedian rickshaw for ￥1,000 to take you around the castle for 20 mins. His name is Ohki Kamemaru who can take you around and entertain you with his funny stories (in Japanese only though!).
What impressed me were the stone walls that were arranged in layers of four. They are 60 meters high in total and are known as that highest stone wall construction in all of Japan. In fact, the stone walls, known as Ougi no Kōbai 扇の勾配, are cast in a distinctive curved angle known as a “Fan Slope.” The structure has a distinctive aesthetic that visitors will surely appreciate. Pictured here is a stone wall that is 22m in height.
To get to the castle keeps, we had to walk on a steep road known as Mikaeri slope. Be ready because it can be a real work-out. I even joked that visitors may need oxygen tanks to help them breathe. Of course, the facility offers walking sticks to those who need more support. Walking takes a bit of effort but it is also pleasurable because the sides of the slope are lined with lush greenery and beautiful autumn leaves. We even saw Tsubaki or Camellia flower trees.
Kawanishi-san shared that these slopes are popular with student athletes to get their exercise. When he was a student he used to come here. He even had a schoolmate who used to workout here and now plays in the NBA. Wow!
As we walked farther, we caught a glimpse of Sanuki Fuji. Sanuki is an old name of this prefecture. It is a mountain that shares the shape and likeness of Mount Fuji, thus the name. It is 422 meters tall and has a perfect cone shape. Sanuki Fuji is a sacred mountain and is home to a temple dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine. Another fun fact is that this mountain is sometimes called Omusubi Yama which is another word for Onigiri, the popular triangular Japanese rice ball snack.
Upon reaching the Yagura tower observation deck. We enjoyed the breathtaking views of the city and the Seto Inland Sea. We also caught a glimpse of the Seto Ohashi. This bridge is a series of double deck bridges linking Okayama and Kagawa prefectures to five small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. It boasts a length covering 13.1 kilometers (8.1 mi) and is recognized as the world’s longest suspension bridge with two tiers for cars and trains.
Kawanishi-san also showed me a well which was surprising considering the high altitude where we were at. It was 1.8 meters in diameter and 65 meters deep. I took a peek inside and saw a metal wire mesh. One can actually fetch water here with a bucket.
Finally, after a long walk, we reached the small central tower. This is referred to as a Tenshu, which is the highest part of a Japanese castle. In the olden days, it was a vital structure and also served as a symbol of samurai power. It was very striking in its bright white color, but I was informed by Kanishi-san that during World War II, it was actually painted black to hide it from enemies so it would not be an easy target.
We went in the castle tower. Here you will find a few memorabilia such as samurai helmets, swords and armors as well as photographs of the other 11 castles in existence. By the entrance, I also noticed beautifully crafted wooden Japanese fans called Uchiwa. In fact, Marugame is famous for its large production of traditional Japanese paper fans.
The tower has three levels and you need to climb up steep wooden steps to get to the highest level. The main highlight was the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside as well as the sea when you reach the top. We took a peek through tiny wooden windows.
After that exhilarating experience, we then entered a tourist information center building where you can see how the Uchiwa fans were made. Fan making started as far back as the Edo period and were often given as Omiyage or souvenirs. It is made from a single piece of bamboo that is covered in paper and comes in flat or round shapes. They are light and comfortable to use especially during the summer months.
We dropped by the souvenir shop and saw various memorabilia. The shop also highlighted characters depicting the honetsukidori or bone-in chicken, which is a famous Marugame local cuisine. If you get a chance, I highly recommend you try this signature dish.
The photo below is the backside of the Marugame castle. There was an accident two years ago and some stones were dislodged. It is still under construction to get it back to its original form.
Check out my walking buddy! He’s happy walking in the Marugame park 🙂
Marugame is a vibrant up and coming city that is worth a visit. It has a lot to offer in both historical sites and modern tourist attractions. Thanks for joining the tour. Follow us on Facebook and join Japan Online Tour to know where we are off to next!
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Marugame Castle 丸亀城
|The entrance to Marugame Castle is about a 15 minute walk south of Marugame Station. Several buses also operate between the station and Marugamejo-mae bus stop in front of the castle (5 minutes, 200 yen, multiple buses per hour).|
9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00) / Open daily
¥200 for entering the castle tower. The Marugame Castle Park is free.
|Location and Contact No.||Ichibancho, Marugame 763-0025 Kagawa Prefecture|
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