Old Castle Town and Soba Paradise: Izushi City
The castle explorer in me loves visiting Japanese castles. So, I went to Izushi Castle in Hyogo Prefecture.
The castle is not the only attraction worth checking out in Izushi City.
Today I want to introduce the old castle town with some of its sightseeing spots.
Access to Izushi City
Izushi City (出石市) is located in Hyogo Prefecture (map). It’s not too far from Asago City where you can see the famous Takeda Castle a.k.a. “Castle in the Sky”.
Izushi doesn’t have a train station, so you can access it by car or bus. Take a Zentan Bus (全但バス) from JR Toyooka Station – which is about 2.5 h from Kyoto or 3 h from Osaka. It is not too far from “Fukuchiyama” or “Amanohashidate“, so you might want to visit those sights as well.
All attractions featured in this blog post can be easily reached on foot. You can find a Japanese map for further orentation here.
The Clock Tower
The Shinkoro (辰鼓楼), a wooden clock tower, is the symbol of Izushi City.
The tower was built in 1871 and still works today.
Every full hour is announced by the sound of a taiko (drum).
It’s a beautiful scenery, especially in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
There’s a restaurant right next to the tower from where you can enjoy a nice view.
The Sakagura (酒蔵) is an old sake cellar, not too far from the clock tower.
The clay wall changes its color slightly depending on the season.
You can buy local sake there called “Sasazuru” (楽々鶴).
Temples in Izushi City
In Izushi City you’ll run into a few temples. They were extremely beautiful with the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
In the photo above you see “本高寺”. I think it’s read as “Motodaka Temple“.
Beautifully trimmed trees and statues will also cross your way.
The outer building of Kenshoji Temple (見性寺) looks like it could be part of a castle. Worth checking out if you have time. It’s a bit further out from the city center, but you can walk there in about 10 minutes.
As you can see there are quite a few temples to explore. Nothing major, but still interesting and offering nice photo opportunities.
Izushi City Historical Museum
The Izushi Shiriokan (史料館) is an old Japanese building dating back to 1876.
It’s open daily from 9:30 to 17:00 (last entry: 16:30), apart from Tuesdays. It’s closed from December 28 to January 4. There’s a small entrance fee of 200 yen.
Inside you’ll find various items such as old electronic devices and paper umbrellas.
The museum also has a nice small garden. In the photo above you see a traditional “Go” table.
For those of you who don’t know, “Go” is a traditional board game, coming traditionally from China. It’s similar to chess.
They had a nice collection of Edo period dolls.
I also found some impressive “Hina Matsuri” doll stands.
There were some wooden doors with impressive paintings on it. Personally I like those a lot!
In the photo above you see a typical “Tokonoma” (床の間) which is a recessed space within a Japanese-style room. Usually you’ll find calligraphy, ikebana (a creative arrangement of flowers or bonsai trees), wallscrolls and other pretty things in there. It’s the “sense of beauty” you often discover in Japan. The items are displayed so that guests can appreciate their beauty.
On the right painting you can see Mt. Ariko (有子山) and the former castle of Izushi City on the mountaintop. There are only ruins now as the lord moved further down and built Izushi Castle instead.
Izushi City is famous for soba (buckwheat noodles). There are many smaller restaurants where you can enjoy “Izushi Soba” (出石そば).
“Izushi soba has three distinctions that are key to its special flavor and consistency: grinding the buckwheat in a special way, kneading it to a certain thickness, and cooking them in a way to prevent them from becoming too soft. The soba should have a simple flavor and a slightly chewy texture. It is served cold, on small plates with a cup of cold broth and several optional ingredients to strengthen the broth flavor, such as grated daikon radish, wasabi, potato paste, chopped green onion, and a raw egg.” (Source: Wikipedia)
The Eirakukan (永楽館) is a theater that opened its doors in 1912.
Several traditional Japanese performances could be enjoyed such as kabuki (歌舞伎), shinpa drama (新派劇) or yose (寄席, traditional Japanese story-telling).
Even nowadays there are performances – and they’re usually open to the public.
You can find manhole covers and fire hydrants (消火栓) with beautiful pictures related to the city.
The one above says “Castle Town Izushi” and features the clock tower and colorful maple leaves. I suppose it’s also a great spot for “autumn foliage viewing”.
Some Nearby Attractions:
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Events in Feb/Mar 2017:
- Feb 3: Setsubun (nationwide)
- Feb 3-12: Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi
- Feb 6-12: Sapporo Snow Festival
- Feb 7-12: Asahikawa Winter Festival
- Feb 15-16: Yokote Kamakura Festival
- Feb 17-19: Tokamachi Snow Festival
- Feb 18: Naked Festival at Saidai-ji
- Mar 1-3: Awashima Jinja Grand Festival
- Mar 1-14 : Omizutori (Nara)
- Mar 3: Hina Nagashi Matsuri (Wakayama)
- Mar 11-12: Sagicho Matsuri (Shiga)
- Mar 12: Takaosan Hiwatari Matsuri