Hiroshima: Keep of noted Japanese castle reopens on 400th anniversary

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Many people are seen at Fukuyama Castle on Aug. 28. in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture.

FUKUYAMA, Hiroshima — The keep of Fukuyama Castle in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, has been newly opened as a museum to celebrate the bastion’s 400th anniversary. Visitors to Fukuyama Castle Museum can enjoy viewing exhibits that feature cutting-edge digital technology.

According to the Fukuyama city government, the castle was completed on Aug. 28, 1622, based on a completion report sent on that date to the Tokugawa shogunate by the first lord of the domain, Mizuno Katsunari (1564-1651).

Katsunari was a cousin of shogunate founder, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), and was noted for his military success during the Summer Siege of Osaka in 1615, in which Ieyasu destroyed the last of the formerly ruling Toyotomi family.

The keep was razed in 1945 during a U.S. air raid, and the present castle was rebuilt in 1966 with reinforced concrete. Since 2020, the municipality has been working on a large-scale project to renovate the fortress in time for its milestone 400th “birthday.”

On the anniversary day, the city was in a festive mood. About 400 people attended a commemorative ceremony held in the plaza in front of the castle tower. The gates opened to the sound of a single gunshot and locals and tourists entered the grounds en masse.

Many people gazed with interest at the protective iron plates on the north face of the keep. Drawing on his experience in attacking Osaka Castle, Katsunari had installed such plates because the castle’s north side was not well defended. Fukuyama Castle is said to have been the only castle in Japan to have such protection.

This iron-plate armor was not reproduced as part of the castle’s 1966 reconstruction, but it had been added this time around to more closely approximate the way the castle would have looked when first built.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The ironclad northern wall of the keep

The keep, which was transformed into a museum at a cost of about ¥500 million, features attractions that incorporate the latest digital technology. Games related to Katsunari’s military success proved a popular hit on opening day.

Large screens have also been installed to introduce the history of the castle and people associated with Fukuyama. A top-floor vantage point that offers a commanding view of the city also was popular among visitors.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People enjoy the view from the top floor of Fukuyama Castle’s keep.

“The museum is nice, and the exhibits are worth seeing,” said a 51-year-old man from the city. “I hope many people will come.”

How to get there

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Fukuyama Castle sits in front of JR Fukuyama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen line, a five-minute walk from the station’s north exit. Fukuyama Castle Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but closed on Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday). General admission is ¥500, and free for high school students and younger. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, reservations are currently required, in principle. Bookings can be made through the website (https://fukuyamajo.jp/en/ ).

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