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Photo By: iStock/ leodaphne
Region
Kyushu
Island
Kyushu
Largest City
Saga
Population
876,664

Karatsu Castle

One of the most iconic features of Saga’s picturesque coastal city

By Jake Yoder

Sitting high above the bay is Karatsu Castle, one of Karatsu City’s most iconic features. The castle, rebuilt in 1966, welcomes tourists and locals alike to Saga Prefecture’s picturesque coastal city.  This castle is also called the “Dancing Crane Castle” or “Maizuru” due to how the castle is shaped to resemble a crane (tsuru) stretching out its wings.

Home to an abundance of seasonal flowers, the castle remains to be a photo spot favorite during cherry blossom and wisteria season.

Castle History

Karatsu Castle

Photo by: PIXTA/ J6HQL The castle was rebuilt in 1966.

The original Karatsu Castle was built by Terasawa Hirotaka, a retainer of samurai and feudal lord Totoyomi Hideyoshi. Hirotaka had originally begun construction on a castle near the northernmost part of Karatsu in 1592, about 16 km from the present-day Karatsu Castle. However, after gaining control of most of the greater Karatsu area around 1600, he stopped construction of his original castle and began construction on Karatsu Castle in 1602, which finished in 1608. The Hirakata clan’s control of Karatsu would be relatively short-lived, as Hirokata’s son committed suicide without an heir in 1647.

Control of Karatsu Castle and Karatsu would frequently transfer hands over the next 200 years. In the late 1800s, the Japanese feudal system was slowly abolished, with Karatsu formally becoming part of modern-day Saga Prefecture in 1871. The original Karatsu Castle was demolished shortly afterward, with Maizuru Park being established in its place in 1877. However, in order to boost local tourism, the castle was rebuilt in 1966.

The Castle Today

Karatsu Castle

Photo by: PIXTA/ Y.BLUE The land surrounding Karatsu Castle is known for its azalea, wisteria and cherry blossoms

The five-story structure acts mainly as a museum, showcasing the history of Karatsu and Karatsu Castle and featuring samurai armor, artwork and other artifacts from the Edo period. One of Karatsu Castle’s main attractions is the 360-degree lookout located on the fifth floor. One side of the tower provides a stunning view of Karatsu Bay, with the other overlooking downtown Karatsu City. Whether you are a tourist or a local, the view is sure to take your breath away.

The bottom floor of the castle is home to a gift shop featuring items related to Karatsu and Saga as a whole. Additionally, Karatsu was the inspiration for a location featured in the 2016 ice skating anime Yuri on Ice, so you might be able to see a few characters from the series scattered throughout the castle.

Maizuru Park and the land surrounding Karatsu Castle are known for their azalea, wisteria and cherry blossoms, lining the grounds with beautiful flowers when in season.

Karatsu Castle is only a few kilometers away from downtown Karatsu, making it a must-visit for those visiting for the yearly Karatsu Kunchi Festival, held each year in early November.

How To Get There

Address

By train

From Hakata station in Fukuoka, board the Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line until Chikuzen-Maebaru station. Here, transfer to the JR Chikuhi Line and exit at Karatsu station. From here, walk 15 minutes to Karatsu Castle.

From Saga station, board the JR Karatsu Line and exit at Karatsu Station. From here, walk 15 minutes to Karasu Castle.

By bus

From Tenjin station in Fukuoka, board a highway bus towards Hodou Pier in Karatsu and exit after eight stops at Hoto Sanbashi. Then, walk five minutes to Karatsu Castle.

From Saga station, board the Showa bus and ride for about two hours, exiting at Chiyoda Town. Then, walk 10 minutes to Karatsu Castle.

By car

From Fukuoka, take Route 204 via Hamadama Toll Road for about an hour. From Saga, take Route 203 for about an hour. There is parking across the road from Karatsu Castle which costs ¥100 for less than one hour, ¥300 for 1-2 hours and ¥400 for more than 2 hours.

Where To Stay

Mizuno Ryokan (Karatsu)
  • 4-50 Higashijonai, Karatsu-shi, Saga, 847-0016 Japan
  • ¥60,500 - ¥80,300
  • 4.67/5 (94 reviews)
  • 0.4 km
Karatsu Seaside Hotel
  • 4-182 Higashikaratsu, Karatsu-shi, Saga, 847-0017 Japan
  • ¥24,530 - ¥102,300
  • 4.49/5 (1,606 reviews)
  • 1.1 km
Hotel Karae
  • 1783 Kyomachi, Karatsu-shi, Saga, 847-0045 Japan
  • ¥6,400 - ¥49,140
  • 4.2/5 (101 reviews)
  • 1.2 km
Ryokan Uohan
  • 1669-55 Hamatamamachi Hamasaki, Karatsu-shi, Saga, 849-5131 Japan
  • ¥16,500 - ¥26,400
  • 4.22/5 (227 reviews)
  • 5.4 km

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