Travel

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.

Visited: April 4th 2013

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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.

 

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

Every full hour is announced by the sound of a taiko (drum).

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

It’s a beautiful scenery, especially in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

There’s a restaurant right next to the tower from where you can enjoy a nice view.

 

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

Sake Cellar

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).

 

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

In the photo above you see “本高寺”. I think it’s read as “Motodaka Temple“.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

Beautifully trimmed trees and statues will also cross your way.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

As you can see there are quite a few temples to explore. Nothing major, but still interesting and offering nice photo opportunities.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

 

 

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.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

Inside you’ll find various items such as old electronic devices and paper umbrellas.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

They had a nice collection of Edo period dolls.

I also found some impressive “Hina Matsuri” doll stands.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

There were some wooden doors with impressive paintings on it. Personally I like those a lot!

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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.

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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 in Hyogo Prefecture Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

Izushi Soba

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)

 

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

Eiraku Building

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.

 

Izushi City in Hyogo Prefecture

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:

10 Comments

  • Great photos!! So the whole city is one big attraction, nice. It seems like Izushi city is in a great position to capitalize on the doubling of tourism dollars that Japan is set to target!

    I wonder if you’ve been to Burghausen Castle in Germany?? Does Japan have a castle as big as that one (supposed to be the largest in Europe)?? I was just curious about the scale comparison between Japanese castle structures as compared to similar ones built in Europe during the middle ages.

    Don’t rectangular manhole covers fall in… hmmmmm! :happy: Maybe they’re hinged?!

    • I’m a bit ashamed to say that, but I haven’t explored my home country at all.
      The only castle I’ve visited in Germany is the famous “Neuschwanstein”.
      German castles can be huge. The main buildings are often bigger than Japanese castle towers, but the whole castle ground including walls and moats is probably bigger in Japan.
      Of course, it depends on the castle. There are bigger and smaller castles in Japan as well as in Germany.

  • Wow, it looks so beautiful on your pictures with all the cherry blossoms everywhere. Wonderful photos. And it seems like a quiet town, definitely worth a visit to see something different than the big cities.
    And the manhole cover is really beautiful. There are so many little details to discover there, I think it’s great..

    Btw. about japanese chess, isn’t that Shogi? I think Go is the game where you have to place a lot of white or black stones on the table. Dunno if I am right. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Hikaru no Go. :)

    • It’s a quiet, but beautiful little town. Less tourists, but certainly worth a visit in autumn and spring.

      I used to play Go, but I never was any good. I’m not a chess player, though. There’s not really any Western game you can compare “Go” to.
      I just picked “chess” because you also have 2 players (black and white) and it’s a strategic game where you have to think a lot. *g*
      And you can kick the other player’s “figures / stones” out of the game.

  • Yes, very beautiful photos and you capture the feel and essence of this amazing castle town well. I almost feel like I’m right there with you. Certainly looks like Izushi City has a lot to offer the tourist. Definitely on my list of places to visit in Hyogo.

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