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Okayama Castle: A unique blend of the old and the new

Okayama Castle they say is one of the must see places here in Okayama City, Japan. Well if you have been around cities here a number of them have their own castle. I believe there are about hundreds of them scattered all over Japan. But what then sets this castle apart from the rest of them?

A bit of history

So before I start let me tell you a short history of this castle. Don’t worry I will keep it short – I am no historian after all, I am just a tourist armed with an English Pamphlet handed out by the friendly receptionist at the castle’s reception area.

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Castle Keep also known as donjon. The Okayama castle is six stories tall

The original castle was build in 1597 by a feudal lord named Ukita Naoie. The castle was burnt down during one of the air raids during World War II with only the Tsukimi-yagura Tower (moon viewing turret) in the castle complex left to have survived after the attacks. It was later rebuilt/restored in 1966. The castle is six stories high and due to its black exterior the castle has also earned the name “Crow Castle” (u-jo).

Foundation Stones

Foundation Stones of the Tenshukaku (donjon)

Tsukimi Yaguara - Turret for Moon Viewing

Tsukimi Yagura – Turret for Moon Viewing. Found at the North West Corner of the castle which was build in 1620 and the only surviving original structure in the castle complex.

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Akazunomon

Enough of the history

Arriving at the castle grounds, you will be impressed with the restoration. The castle’s exterior facade is really impressive. It is perched atop a hill next to the Asahi River with its black walls and gilded gold roof trimmings it is really beautiful.

Okayama Castle

Okayama Castle

Once inside the castle, you will be very surprised that the restoration done was kind of limited to its exterior only – I might be wrong on this. The castle’s interiors seems to have been left out in the restoration. It has been built with an elevator  and using re-enforced concrete. But none the less, I am sure there is so much a tourist could enjoy and learn once inside. The castle’s has been converted into a museum and based on the guides written there its best to start your tour from the top most floor. The elevator will take you up to the fourth floor then take the stairs to reach the sixth floor. The top two floors serves as observation deck where one you could enjoy the view of the adjacent Korakuen Garden located across the Asashi River as well as a view of the city of Okayama. And at the fifth floor you could get a closer look of the Golden dolphin (Kin No Shachihoko).

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Golden dolphin (Kin No Shachihoko) – the roof of the castle used to be gilded in gold and was then also known as Golden Crow Castle

Korakoen Garden

A view of the Korakoen Garden from the six floor

While the fourth (Wonders of the castle) and third (The castle’s course of history) floor of the building served as the main museum.  The museum also has a viewing area where tourist could learn about the history of the castle. The second floor is still part of the museum but this time it is more interactive like you could dress like a lord or a princess by wearing the tradition Japanese Kimono for FREE. The first floor served as a souvenir shop. There is also a shop here where you could experience making Bizenyaki – form of pottery making. Then lastly the Basement which now serves as the reception area of the museum and also features the scroll depicting the wars in the old times.

Here are some of the pictures taken in the museum.

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The sixth Floor

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The fourth floor

Pine Tree

Reception at the Basement

Stairs leading to the sixth floor

Viewing area at the Basement

The Seven Stories Regarding U-jo

Daimyo’s palanquin – traditional Japanese transportation

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Reception area where one can try wearing a Kimono

Omiyage shop

Bizenyaki

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Old salt house located at the basement of the castle

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The Resting Room

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Inside the resting room – so don’t misunderstood the term resting ok?

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Ladies Room near the reception area – the irony of having an updated version of the castle and yet still contain the traditional washiki toilets but don’t worry there is one western cubicle.

 

So how did I find the castle?

The castle was really a unique blend of the old and the new reflecting how Japan as a country together with its people has and is still very successful in keeping their heritage alive together with the fast evolving world.

For more information please visit the official web page of the Okayama Castle – don’t worry if you don’t have any Japanese language skills  there is an English page for us tourist with little or no Japanese language skills. And if your really interested to see how the interiors exactly looked before it was burnt I found this site. I also found this very nice virtual tour of the castles reception area.

 

■ Access Information ■
Admission hours: 8:00 to 17:30
(Last admission to castle is 17:00)
2-3-1 Marunouti, Kita-ku, Okayama City, Okayama
Tel: 086-225-2096
http://www.okayama-kanko.net/ujo/english/index.html/(Eng)

 

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