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Marugame Castle: The Smallest Keep

What is sightseeing in Japan without a visit to its numerous castles? Once again I embark on a journey to Marugame city of Kagawa prefecture, for a chance to see another one of the twelve original castles of Japan that still has a wooden tenshu (keep)!

Photo by Zafri Zamzuri

Marugame city is the second largest city in Kagawa Prefecture and is renowned for its large production of the Marugame uchiwa, which is the traditional Japanese paper fan. It is located roughly 30 minutes away from Takamatsu via train or bus. The castle is situated exactly at the center of the city, making it easily accessible.

Walking from the JR Marugame station to the castle takes about 10 minutes. An option to rent a bicycle is also available if you feel like exploring. From afar I was already able to see the lush garden as well as a lake that surrounds every Japanese castle from enemies or intruders. There are even pretty swans and hungry tortoises swimming around!

Photo by Zafri Zamzuri

There are two main gates leading to the castle, which is the yaguramon, the first gate and the koraimon, the second gate. These gates were restored in 1670, during the ruling period of the Kyogaku clan. The first gate is also known as the taikomon which means the drum gate because a drum is placed on top of the balcony and is hit as a warning signal. The stone walls surrounding Marugame castle are four tiered, and like most traditional Japanese keeps, the walls are sloped and shaped like a fan. The walls are as high as 20 meters!

Photo by Zafri Zamzuri

The castle has three main keeps. The honmaru, the ninomaru, and the sannomaru. A beautiful view of Marugame city can be seen after reaching the sannomaru.

Photo by Zafri Zamzuri

With a height of only 15 meters, the honmaru of Marugame castle is known to be the smallest castle in Japan. I believe in fits the fact that Kagawa is the smallest prefecture in Japan as well!

However, do not be fooled by its petite structure as this traditional wooden keep houses the Marugame City Museum inside.

Photo by Zafri Zamzuri

The museum is open from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm but closed on Mondays and public holidays. It only cost 200 Yen to enter! An extremely cheap price for a chance to look into Marugame’s historical, archaeological, and ethnological materials. I had visited during the summer, so it was pretty hot, but thankfully they had free uchiwa fans that visitors could borrow while walking around! Steep wooden stairs leading up to the second and third floor made me wonder how women used to wear kimonos and walk up so gracefully.

Photo by Zafri Zamzuri

Before leaving the castle, don’t forget to drop by the souvenir shop and grab yourself an uchiwa. Not only that, you can even make your own uchiwa! Uchiwa making classes are available for visitors who are interested. Now that is what I call really experiencing Japan, don’t you think?

With my pretty uchiwa in hand I have officially conquered yet another one of Japan’s twelve original castles. Which one shall I visit next I wonder?

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