Yamaguchi's historical masterpiece protected by an unlikely hero.
Iwakuni Castle is located in Yamaguchi Prefecture. To get to the castle site, you can either hike or take the ropeway from the base of the mountain (200-meter-high Shiroyama). Once at the top you have a splendid view of the town of Iwakuni. You’ll be able to see the entire city stretching out into the tranquil inland sea of Japan. Inside the castle you will find three floors of historical artifacts from Iwakuni’s past, swords, samurai armor and art work.
Originally constructed in 1601 by the Daimyo (fuedal lord) Kikkawa Hiroie, the castle was supposed to cement his power across the region. For years, the daimyo used his castle to rule over Iwakuni, instructing his subjects to construct elaborate grounds around the mountain it sits atop.
Once the ruling Shogunate found out about the castle’s construction they ordered its destruction fearing it would take power away from Hiroshima castle. The castle was partially deconstructed and became the Daimyo’s private residence until the 1960’s when it was refurbished and turned into a museum. The grounds later became Kikko park, and are now open to the public. The park is wonderful, filled with statues, water features and gorgeous pathways that lead to a sombre yet beautiful cemetery.
There are two museums next to the ropeway station in the old castle grounds. One, The Iwakuni Art Museum, focuses on showing Iwakuni-based artists and how the area has developed through history.
The other museum focuses on the fabled white snakes of the area. It is said that white snakes would come into locals’ houses, eat all of the rats and pests then give good luck to the occupants. These snakes are an albino form of the common Japanese rat-snake, and for some reason, albinos are very common in the area. Inside the museum there is a display case full of white snakes, as well as various interactive displays and games that tell the history of the area.
Love Japan’s castles? Go see more!