Travel

A Spring Festival at Yamato Koriyama Castle in Nara

Nara is known for its park with wild deer and the great Buddha statue of Todaiji Temple. There are, however, quite a few other nice sights to check out while there. One of them is Yamato Koriyama Castle which I want to introduce today.

Visited: April 1st 2013

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

Access to Koriyama Castle

Koriyama Castle (郡山城) is located in Yamatokoriyama City, Nara Prefecture (map).

The nearest station (~ 5-10 mins walk to the castle) is “Kintetsukoriyama“. From Kyoto it’ll take about 45 mins, from Nara less than 20.

You could also walk from JR Koriyama Station, but that will take about 25 minutes.

 

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

 

Annual Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle

There’s a castle festival (大和郡山お城まつり) every year from around the end of March to early April. When I went in 2013, it was already the 53rd festival, so it has quite a long tradition.

 

You can feel the great atmosphere in this short video of the 54th festival in 2014.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

Spring is by far the BEST time to visit. There are food stands everywhere and the castle grounds have hundreds of cherry blossom trees.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

 

History of Koriyama Castle

Koriyama Castle’s origins date back to 1162.

In 1580 Tsutsui Junkei – with the help of Oda Nobunaga – made it into a stronger fortification and built what became Koriyama Castle.

Toyotomi Hidenaga became the lord of Koriyama Castle shortly after that (1585). He added several improvements to the structure. As there weren’t enough stones for the castle wall, he used stones from nearby temples (gravestones, garden stones, Buddhist images etc.). Hidenaga also brought the markets from Nara to Yamato to turn it into a major and modern city.

 

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

In 1595, Mashita Nagamori became lord of the castle, but he left after losing the Battle of Sekigahara. Mizuno Katsuhige moved into the castle as ordered by Ieyasu (1615). He reconstructed the fortress. In 1724, Koriyama Castle had yet another lord, Yanagisawa Yoshisato. The Yanagisawa family took care of the castle until the Meiji Restoration.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

The castle building was completely destroyed then. The stone walls and moat remained. Gates, keeps and houses on the castle grounds were reconstructed in the late 20th century.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

The castle grounds have been turned into a public park that has been chosen as one of the “100 Best Hanami Spots in Japan“.

This was just a rough overview. You can read more about Yamato Koriyama Castle’s history here.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

 

What’s There To See?

The castle park is quite spacious and during cherry blossom season it’s a pleasure to walk along the castle moat. You’ll get a great view of the moat and the extensive castle walls, all surrounded by beautiful pink sakura.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

Photo on the left: Once the petals fall, they’ll flow around in the moat. A good chance for some beautiful photos!

Photo on the right: The Yanagisawa Shrine stands on the castle grounds. It’s dedicated to the Yanagisawa clan who took care of Koriyama Castle for decades.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

As mentioned earlier, stones from nearby temples were used to build the castle walls. Even jizo statues were implemented.

Nowadays you can see “Sakasajizo“, a jizo put into the castle wall upside down. It’s probably too small to see it on the (right) photo, but I don’t want to spoil the fun. Go and explore it yourself! ;)

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

A very pleasant park. It’s great for just taking a walk or relaxing.

If you want to go to a less touristy area, this is what you should visit.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

During the castle festival they’ll light up the lanterns.

Spring Festival at Koriyama Castle in Nara

The cherry blossoms are also illuminated during the matsuri, usually from 18:00-21:00.

 

Yamato Koriyama Castle – Worth a Visit?

If you like castles, then this goes without saying. But I also recommend it as a side trip from Nara or Kyoto, especially when you want to get away from the crowds. Even during the castle festival it wasn’t packed with people. I spent a very pleasant evening there after leaving the much busier Nara Park.

Obviously cherry blossom season is the best time to explore this castle, but I’m sure it’s quite nice all year round.

On top of it, it’s free of charge, so what’s not to love?

 

Tourist Information:
Opening Hours:
always open
Holidays:
none
Entrance fee:
free
Time required:
30-50 mins
Contact:
(+81)0743-52-2010
Access:
The nearest train station is KintetsuKoriyama (5-10 mins walk) or JR Koriyama Station (~ 25 mins walk). You can get there e.g. from Nara or Kyoto.
Please note: Prices as well as opening hours / holidays are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

9 Comments

  • Majestic pics again and the Cherry Blossoms are always beautiful to see. Really enjoyed seeing all the stonework and layout of the buildings and the grounds. I wonder if any of the “Yea no Sakura” drama was filmed at this site? One of the prettiest castles I’ve seen on your site! :D

    • I usually know where all the dramas I’ve watched have been shot, but I’ve never heard of this one.
      Glad you liked the photos. I’m sure you’d enjoy a visit to this castle! ^__^

      • Jasmine,

        You would really like this drama: “Yae no Sakura”. It was on Japanese TV last year and it was spectacular: several of the main characters in this story are women and the MC is a Joan of Arc type female that broke all the molds for Japanese women. I think this Drama really explains some of the turmoil of the change from the Shogunate to the Meiji government as told from a Japanese prospective and primarily from a woman’s viewpoint. I Highly recommend this:

        http://www.gooddrama.net/japanese-drama/yae-no-sakura

        There are 50 episodes, so you might be tempted not to start watching it, but I think it would be a shame if you didn’t watch this. It was highly rated for the first half of the series, but fell in the ratings when they got to the part when the Aizu clan was defeated… I think it was because the foreigners supplying guns to the Meiji side (that beat the shogun forces) made the audience mad and many people lost interest (IMHO). The girl that plays the main character: Ayase Haruka was fantastic. She has been in many Drama and Comedy series and movies and can change her look so much that it is startling. I particularly liked her in “Hotaru no Ikari” and “Jin”. She plays Comedy, Drama and Romance parts equally well, I think you will like her, so please give it a try!!

        • No need to introduce Haruka-chan to me. Of course, I know her. ;)
          I’m not too much into taiga dramas and I also don’t have time to watch ANY dramas at the moment. 50 episodes? Not in this life. ;)
          But thanks a lot for the recommendation. It certainly sounds like something I’d enjoy. Maybe in the distant future I’ll have time to watch it. :D

  • Looks like a great spot to see the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and a nice day trip from either Nara or Kyoto. The Kansai area sure does have so many great places to visit. You are lucky to live there.

  • Nice photos! Cherry blossom is always a magical moment in Japan which inspire joy and sadness (when all the petals fall). I especially like your photos of the petals falling on the water. Wish I could be there, watching them swirl around with the wind.