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Karatsu Castle filled with history, scenic views and anime

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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

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

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

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

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The best part of that castle, which isn’t apparent from the photos, is its seaside location. Its located on one of the rare relatively unspoilt stretches of coastline in Japan and the view from the top of sandy beaches stretching for as far as the eye can see, right next to the blue ocean and forested mountains, is extremely impressive. Its an easy day trip from Fukuoka.

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