About the Fukuoka Castle Ruins
Location of the Fukuoka Castle Ruins
The ruins of the Fukuoka Castle is located in the district of Chuo in the Fukuoka Prefecture of Japan. It is located on the top of a large hill known as Fukusaki which is located in the centremost region of Fukuoka. At the time, this was a strategic location for a fort where the elevation serves as an advantage.
What makes the castle location even more special is that it is surrounded by the Naka river on its east side which served as a natural moat. Then a mudflat is located on the west side of the castle grounds which also acts as a natural moat. These moats serve as additional protection against clan enemies.
History of Splendor
During the earlier times, it was only the royal family that had the privilege of living in a palace or a castle, while all other nobles and court members live in villas and mansions. However, the rise of the feudal period of Japan has sparked up the construction of hundreds of castles all over the country. This allowed powerful families and clans to invade, conquer, and own properties. Well, not only own properties but build complexes like castle grounds and more.
The Fukuoka Castle is one of these complexes which were built during the Feudal period of Japan. Its construction began in the early 16th century and it was built on an area of about 47,000 square meters. The construction was headed and directed by a man named Kuroda Nagamasa. This land used to be where the Najima Castle once stood. The problem, on the other hand, is that it was considered too small to serve such a powerful clan. And so, the castle was taken apart, the stone walls dismantled and the entire area was developed to become a castle town.
It took a total of six years to make and a huge amount of engineering work has been done. It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in all of Fukuoka primarily due to the fact that it is a great place to see the Sakura blooms during the spring and the fading autumnal colors during the fall.
Architecture and Components
The Honmaru - This is a wall (or a kuruwa) that surrounds the part of the castle which is known to be the heart of the entire castle grounds. It is located in the innermost area of the entire complex and is usually the place of residence of the head of the clan. The entire main keep has a total of 56 chambers, a Buddha room, and meeting rooms known as Iken-kai.
What makes this part of the castle special is the fact that it is home to a number of Shinto shrines. These include the Niyakuichioji shrine, which was dedicated to the gods of war. It was also home to the Suikyo-Gongen shrine which was built to honor the founder of the castle, Kuroda Yoshitaka.
The Ninomaru – This is a wall, or kuruwa, that provides additional fortification to the Honmaru. There are actually no residences in this area and it only houses the hitching post stable and a few towers. It pretty much serves as a layer of defense for the Honmaru.
The Sannomaru – This is known to be the inner castle which is surrounded by a continuous moat all around. The Sannomaru of the Fukuoka Castle is described to be one of the most elaborate in all of Japan almost equal to the splendor of the Osaka and Nagoya castle.
Most of the inner castle serves as residential quarters. There are treasure houses, workshops, gardens, horseriding grounds, apartment complexes, and more located in the inner castle. It is pretty much where the majority of the officials resided.
Outer Castle – Since the entire Fukuoka Castle complex serves as a town, there are also residential areas of warriors, commoners, and merchants. These residences are located in the outer castle of the complex. There are usually training grounds, samurai dwellings, marketplace, and temples in this part of the castle. What is special about this is that there are still moats surrounding this part of the castle providing protection for the peasants and commoners living in the castle grounds.
Just like a great majority of clan castles in Japan, the Fukuoka castle has met its end in the late 1800s when the Meiji Restoration began, marking a full halt to the feudal period of Japan. The castle was completely abandoned where its residents flee or were captured during the battles. As a means of fully eradicating the evidence of power the shogunate had over the country, most of these clan castles are decommissioned, or worst they are destroyed or demolished.
What is sad about these decommissioning of castles in the early Meiji Restoration period was the fact that majority of these castles were well-kept and thoroughly preserved through the centuries. It might have experienced a few natural calamities or suffered from a fire, but the resident clans and families are sure to renovate it to its former glory.
As soon as the new power sat in its place, the castles suffered an unwanted fate. Slowly, the castle was dismantled starting with the main keep. Often times, the stones are used to build temples or new palaces. Then all that will be left are ruins of the main castle, a few towers, and a few gates.
This was the common fate of clan castles during the late 1800s. It might have been a miscalculated move for the Meiji government at the time as they did not see the value of these castles to the future generations and all that is left now are castle ruins. It was in the late 1950s when the entire castle grounds was declared a historic site and no further damage shall be done to it.
The Remnants of the Fukuoka Castle
Out of the 47 towers which were built in the entire castle complex, only seven was able to survive the massive demolition that occurred during the Meiji Restoration. Among these is the Hanami Yagura, which is the tower located in the south portion of the inner castle. This is known as the Cherry Blossom viewing tower. Another tower which survived was the Shiomi Yagura or the Sea-water viewing tower. This is located in the north area of the inner castle. The Kinen Yagura, or prayer tower, also survived the ordeal and it is located on the northeast side of the honmaru. The clock tower, or Inosuke Yagura, also remains quite well-preserved.
There are only two gates that survived the demolition of the Fukuoka castle in the late 1800s. One of these would be the Main gate of the honmaru which is located in the north of the honmaru at the time. Nowadays, it has been restored and transferred to the Sofukuji temple but was then returned to its original location for the satisfaction of the declaration of the area as a historical site. The other gate that survived the demolition is quite minor and it is known as the Shomono-hashi gate. Up until today, historians are confused about the original location of this gate.
Remaining Stone walls
Out of all the walls that barricaded and provided fortification in the castle when it was built, only those of the inner castle survived. Most of the stone walls have been destroyed to provide easy access to the main structures inside the complex. Usually, this was also done so that hauling of the items looted inside the castle will be easier.
If the castles are not destroyed, the materials used are usually dismantled before being transferred to another location to be used for a different structure. Sometimes, the entire wall is transferred to provide fortification for another structure like a mansion, a government building, and the like.
Highlights of the Fukuoka Castle
Fukuoka Castle Cherry Blossoms
Even during the earlier times, the castle is a popular hanami festival destination. It is said that majority of these Cherry trees are hundreds of years’ old. At this time of the year, when the Sakura blossoms are at their peak, there are large celebrations held inside the castle ruins. This is known to be the Sakura Festival.
Fukuoka Castle Park
Since the total land area of the castle is quite large, it was essential that the place was re-developed for a special use. The castle grounds are home to courtyards lined with hundred-year-old Cherry trees. There are also gardens which are home to a number local plants. However, the ruins themselves have been re-developed into something else.
For instance, the inner castle has been developed into the Maizuru Park, or the Dancing Crane Park and the Ohori Park. These parks are not just for visitors’ enjoyment of nature. There is a boating lake in Maizaru Park. There are also sports facilities, museums, high courts, and gardens in the area.
Fukuoka Castle Defense
Just like any other Japanese clan castle, the defense system is one of its most impressive features. These kinds of castles are built to resist invasion and are aimed to protect the clan leader at all times. Oftentimes, there are hidden hallways in the main keep. There are also secret posts for soldiers and guards. However, what is most impressive about the Fukuoka castle are the natural moats that surround and protect it. The castle has used a system that uses the natural current of the river to consistently provide running water to the moats of the interior castles.
Fukuoka Castle’s Ancient Festivals
Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival or the Cherry Blossom Festival
There are more than a thousand Cherry trees which line the courtyards and gardens of the Fukuoka castle ruins that produce impressive amounts of blossoms every year. During this time, the entire castle becomes a dreamy and fantasy-like destination for people who love to travel. The flowers are not only enjoyable to look at but the contrast between the light of the petals to the dark of the walls is sure to give an exciting chill down anyone’s spine.
The Fukuoka Castle Cherry Blossom festival is usually held at between the 25th of March and the 9th of April every year. Usually, the main events are held in the Maizuru Park (or the old interior castle. Oftentimes, the events involve different live performances and illumination of historical structures at night. Often as well, traditional shops are set up to sell snacks and other souvenirs.
Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival 2016
The celebration of the Sakura Festival in the year 2016 is quite different than the current year. This is due to the fact that it was not held between the 25th of March and the 9th of April. The celebration of the Sakura Festival changes with the report of the peak of cherry blossoms. They remain in the same period of time but not on the exact days. This is why it was held slightly off the original dates. On top of that, it has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors which is why the 2017 celebration came in more prepared.
Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival 2017
The festival was held between the 25th of March and the 9th of April of this year because this was the time of the year when the sakura blossoms are at its peak. What made the event special was the presence of the special illumination of the Sakuraen Garden and the Otakayashiki Ruins. These are great spots to view the cherry blossoms at night.
Fukuoka Castle Summer Festival
The Fukuoka Castle Summer festival is an impressive summer celebration which is held every year in the second week of August. The historical sites are lit up at night and there is traditional music played on castle grounds. During this celebration, event goers wear their summer kimono. The main highlight of this festival is the fireworks display that commences the event.
Travel tips to Fukuoka Castle
For those who wish to travel to the Fukuoka castle from Tokyo, they can take a two-hour flight or a 6-hour train ride between the Edogawabashi station to the Hakata station. The Fukuoka Prefecture is quite a distance from Tokyo. For those coming in from Kyoto, the distance is slightly shorter but the travel time is only cut by a couple of hours. A person traveling from Kyoto can take a four and a half train ride from the Marutamachi station to the Hakata station. The great thing is that there are hotels quite near the Fukuoka castle for those traveling far distances.