Castle Number… Wait, How Many Have I Been To?

Early 2017

We’re going to Marugame Castle! What castle number is that now… That’s our 6th Japanese castle. Wow. Well, each one is unique in its own particular way.

Marugame is in Kagawa, the next prefecture over from Ehime. Driving to Marugame took about an hour, luckily we had brought some things to do! Marugame is a city and has a population of around 110,550 people.

It’s not the capital of Kagawa though. By the time we got there, it was around lunchtime, so we went to have lunch at an udon restaurant. Even better though, because it was in Kagawa, and Kagawa is famous for udon!

I had a bowl of Udon with Tonkatsu, which is like fried pork cutlets covered in breadcrumbs. Japanese battered things have a very light batter, so it was more pork than batter. Heck, thank goodness for that. Otherwise, I would’ve been none too well.

After lunch, we drove over to Marugame castle. The main Citadel, the tower of the castle complex, is one of the smallest in Japan. But, it makes up for that by having some of the tallest stone walls in Japan. They’re six metres high! Six!

Also, what is even more special about this castle is that: Most castles are built on a hill. But Marugame castle isn’t built on a mountain. The site they made it on was flat. The hill is artificial. Imagine how long it must’ve taken them to built the thing.

We started walking up the very steep incline to the top. At the second topmost bank, there was a pleasant surprise waiting for us. Some early cherry blossoms in full bloom. They were beautiful!

When we finally reached the top, I could finally understand why they decide to build the castle here. You could see for miles around, in all directions and out onto the bay. A perfect vantage point to watch out for enemies approaching.

After a few moments spent admiring the view, we decided to go inside. There were 3 stories, and it was quite lovely to see inside. But, apart from a few differences, it looks quite similar to the other castles we have been to. Here are some facts about Marugame Castle.

Marugame Castle is also known as Kameyama Castle and Horai Castle.
In 1869, a fire destroyed many of the buildings.

This was followed by more destruction when the Imperial Government destroyed much of what remained in 1870. (The Meiji government did some foolish things.) Why would you get rid of your heritage?

The buildings that remained were restored in 1950. Thank goodness, otherwise, it would’ve been lost.

After we came back out, we walked down to a restored Japanese traditional house that had been turned into a Kimono Museum. So, we went to have a look. The kimonos were so beautiful and intricate! There were mainly small ones, only some were big enough for people to wear.

(Perhaps these were kimonos for dwarves) Interestingly, for a traditional Japanese wedding, the guests would wear black kimonos with a few colourful designs on them. How boring! Aren’t marriages meant to be a bright and happy occasion?

The women running the place were stunned to see foreigners there. They said that usually, no foreigners visit the place. Wow, that’s interesting! After that, (and a few photos) we got in the car to go to…

No, not home. Zentsuji Temple. It is an absolutely massive temple complex. Just as well we came when we did because we only had an hour till closing time. The temple complex included a few huge Buddhist halls, a museum, some bell towers, and a 5 story pagoda.

Last but not least, two large Camphor Trees! One of which was over 1000 years old.

(If you’ve ever seen My Neighbour Totoro, you know what these trees look like.)

It was so old, it had been around since the founder of the temple was a young child. Its trunk was absolutely huge. The pagoda was destroyed by a fire many years ago and restored.

It’s incredible, but it’s nothing more than a symbol of Buddhism. Strange how some buildings have no purpose. I guess it’s the aesthetic that is important, not the purpose.

There was also a war memorial, dedicated to the soldiers of WW2. The place was amazing, quite simple, but beautiful. Simplicity is a big part of Buddhism. I wanted to explore a little more, but since it was almost closing time, we had to go. Shame.

Simplicity and not using grandiose and flashy means to impress. It seems a value ingrained in Japanese society. They might be on to something.

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