Maruoka Castle, Fukui Prefecture. Photo by baku13. CC BY-SA 2.1 JP.
Castles, Chubu

Maruoka Castle

Maruoka Castle is a small (3-story) Japanese castle located in Maruoka, just north of Fukui City in Fukui Prefecture. It is an old castle and one of only 12 original castles to survive the battles occurring around the Meiji Restoration (1868) and the wars of the following century. This makes Maruoka Castle part of a very important group of original castles in Japan. The castle is designated an important cultural property.

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Maruoka Castle’s 3-story main keep is built in the original hirayama-style, and constructed entirely of wood, located on a stone base. It is possible for visitors to enter the main keep against a small entrance fee. The original wooden interior is impressive, and gives a unique sense of how ancient Japanese castles originally looked and felt. Few other castles in Japan can offer such an experience (one example is the much larger Matsumoto Castle). To enjoy the view from the top floor of the castle, one must climb some very steep stairs.

Maruoka Castle Today

Today the main keep is the only remaining part of the castle, which used to include several other structures, including gates, ramparts and a moat. A small part of the moat continues to exist in the shape of a canal, but there are currently (2019) plans to reclaim the moats.

The castle grounds are converted into a park with a large number of Cherry trees and a museum displaying artifacts related to the castle, including weapons and armor. During spring the park is one of the most popular cherry blossom (sakura) viewing places in the area.

The nick name of Maruoka Castle is Kasumi-ga-jō meaning the “fog castle” or the “mist castle”. Many Japanese castles have nick names. Maruoka Castle gained it’s nickname name from a legend. The legend says that whenever enemies attempt to attack the castle, a thick fog falls around it and it disappears from the attackers view.

History of Maruoka Castle

Maruoka Castle dates back to 1576 when it’s construction was completed by Shibata Katsutoyo, the (adopted) son of one of Oda Nobunaga’s high ranking generals. It is evident that, like many other castles, Maruoka Castle has it’s root in the Sengoku period, a time of great internal conflict and civil war in Japan. The castle has been through a large number of Daimyos (warlords) during it’s time – no less than 17 of them.

Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868 many castles in Japan were destroyed or re-purposed for military storage etc. Maruoka Castle however remained on the hands of the descendants of it’s last ruler – the Arima Clan. In 1901 the Arima family donated the castle to the town, and it was since converted to a park.

In 1948 a major earthquake hit the Fukui area and the main keep of the castle was destroyed. Luckily the materials were in decent shape, and less than 10 years later, in 1955, the castle was rebuilt using mainly the castle’s original materials. The respectful reuse of the original materials is one of the reasons why Maruoka Castle can still be considered an original castle.

It has been claimed that the main keep of Maruoka Castle is the oldest original castle keep in Japan. This title, however, has been claimed by a couple of other castles too, so in 2019 an investigation was commissioned, to determine the actual age of Maruoka Castle’s current main keep.

Maruoka Castle 1910. Public Domain. Source: wi
Maruoka Castle 1910. Public Domain. Source: Fukui Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

Planning your visit

Hours 8:30 – 17:00 (last admission 16:30), all days
Entrance fee¥450 adults.
¥150 for elementary and highschool students.
WebsiteMaruoka Kanko website
AccommodationHotel Fujita Fukui☆☆☆☆, Dormy Inn Fukui ☆☆☆, Kawajin Ryokan ☆☆.
Find More Hotels in Fukui.

Cover photo by baku13. CC BY-SA 2.1 JP.

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