Tatsuno Castle 龍野城
Founder Akamatsu Murahide
Year 1499
Type Mountaintop
Condition Other Buildings
Alternate Name Asagiri-jo, Keirozan-jo
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Location Tatsuno, Hyogo Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Hontatsuno Station ( Line), 20 min walk
Website Tatsuno City History Sightseeing
Visited October 7, 2012
Visitor Info. open 8:30-17:00, closed Mondays, except holidays where the following day will be closed. Also closed occasionally for preparing special exhibits. | Time Required: 60 mins for the buildings at the base of the mountain; 3hrs if you want to hike through the mountaintop castle remains
Notes I was very surprised at the extensive remains around the mountaintop. It is an easy hike and well worth the time for castle fans. There are many terraced baileys up through the Otemichi to the honmaru. The hiking path may be a bit difficult to find. Look for the wooden box on a post with maps inside. It's around from the back and to the left of the palace near the koraimon gate.. Then you need to open and close the small gate next to the box of maps. You can also ask for directions and a map at the museum. Down the opposite side of the mountain on the way back you can also see the terraced remains of many samurai homes and gardens. It is probably very pretty in the fall for fall colors.
History Tatsuno Castle is actually made up of the mountaintop castle that sits atop Mt. Keirozan and the castle at the base of the mountain. The mountaintop castle was constructed around 500 years ago by Akamatsu Murahide and was controlled by four generations of the Akamatsu. In 1577, the Akamatsu turned over this castle to Hideyoshi who had conquered the Chugoku region. At this point, a new castle was constructed at the base of the mountain as a subordinate castle to Himeji Castle.

Until Wakisaka Yasumasa became lord of the castle in 1672, it changed hands several times leading to the degredation of both the castle and the surrounding castle town. The castle and town were reinvigorated under Wakisaka where his descendents continued to rule over the region until the Meiji Period. The famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi trained at Enkoji Temple and taught his disciples here in Tatsuno. The current Honmaru Palace, gates and yagura are wooden reconstructions.

Situated just 15km from Himeji in the Southwest of the Harima Region, Tatsuno has thrived since old days due its location near the Ibo River and convenient transportation. The town itself is rather small, but as you walk the narrow streets among houses you can see old samurai homes and temples whle enjoying the historic atmosphere. It has also been called the "little Kyoto" of Harima.

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  • ART    December 29, 2016 at 08:40 PM
    Breaking news: i can report that the little box with maps inside is now metal not wood. I visited the 武家屋敷資料館 samurai house information center. It is itself a nice house and you can go in for free and take pictures. I walked past the samurai home remains and found a garden with tea houses. There is a big traditional house on site. It looks shut up but a sign says you can go in but to remember to shut it properly when you leave so cats don't go in. It says that. I went inside and it was gloomy but nice in that cosy aesthetic japan does so well. There is running water and I found a cupboard with futons. You could probably sleep there. Not recommending it, just an observation.
  • Malcolm Fairman    April 20, 2015 at 09:30 PM
    Maybe the most friendly town in Japan. Everyone said hello and asked where I was from and I got the impression I was the only tourist in town. When an old lady told me the vending machine was broken, she then took me into her one table café and gave me free tea. She refused any money so I ended up buying a can for later just to ensure she got something out of the deal. There is loads to see. The castle, the mountain side behind where the ruins, or what is left of them remain of the original castle. Samurai houses and lovely old style shops and 'one shot' bars. Warehouses and commercial building from a bygone age. Some of the signs are lovely too. The beauty of it all is it is not commercial in any way, simply no one seems to go there. I was the only gaijin and I suspect the only tourist. The lady at the tourist office at the station could not have been more helpful. Plus they have a Japanese guide booklet and an English one. Get both, they have different pictures in, it's helpful. I was there for five hours, had I got there earlier I could have happily spend the entire day exploring the little town. Worth a day in anyone's book. And a lovely friendly place as well.
  • RaymondW on My Page    October 14, 2012 at 09:33 PM
    I went to this castle with some fellow castle fans recently. Scott’s recommendation about heading up the mountain (Mt. Keirou) behind the reconstructed Tatsuno Castle palace to see Old Tatsuno Castle is spot on. There are plenty of baileys to be seen. Some of them still have very clearly delineated earthen walls surrounding the bailey, particularly a couple of baileys located below the Ninomaru on the eastern side of the castle. A few of baileys still have sections of its stone walls mostly intact, but most of the bailey’s stone walls have long since disintegrated and rolled the hillside as a result of neglect since the it was decommissioned in 1871. On the western side of the castle, there are some wells to be seen, more stone wall ruins, and some clearly terraced baileys that had at one point in time had samurai homes built on them. I missed going up to the Old Tatsuno Castle on Mt Keirou back in 2009 and am glad that I did it on a re-visit last weekend. I second the recommendation on taking the trail up to see the old castle ruin. It has a lot more ruins to be seen compared to other yamajiros (mountaintop castles) that I have been to. If you take in Tatsuno Castle Ruin, the museum, and Old Tatsuno Castle Ruin up on Mt. Keirou, give yourself a good three hours to enjoy them once you are at Tatsuno Castle Ruin.
  • Eric    May 28, 2011 at 07:31 PM
    Thanks. It sounds like I should plan a whole day for Tatsuno.
  • Scott    May 26, 2011 at 11:20 PM
    You are welcome. Just wanted to mention that the Kino Jo castle i mentioned is different to the Kino Jo in Okayama that you have listed on your site. Tatsuno actually has about 4 castles. Kino Jo is located quite close to keiro Jo (Tatsuno Jo). It is a muromachi period castle. Akamatsu actually fled and took refuge here when Hideyoshis troops sieged Tatsuno Jo. There was quite a sizable community ( village) attached to this castle on the mountain top. Not much remains of the castle except for the usual terraces, some walls and a massive stone gate that's fallen down in the forest. There has been some archeological work done here, but just the usual; mapping, some relic collections but no full scale digging. You can see some relics from the castle, including a model of the entire complex, and a casting of the stone gate at Shingu cultural center. Small, but well worth the visit. About 10 min by car from Tatsuno castle.
  • Eric    May 24, 2011 at 11:30 PM
    Great! Thanks for the tips. I had heard about this before but did not have so much detail. I'll certainly take the path to the top.
  • Scott    May 24, 2011 at 11:23 AM
    If you have time and want to experience a little more of tatsunos castle and samurai heritage, go to the cultural center attached to the reconstructed castle. Ask for a copy of the walking guide to the hilltop ruins (a4 sheet). The path starts behind the reconstructed castle and winds itself up through a maple valley, eventually leading to the top of mt keirozan. While walking the picturesque maple valley path, take a look at the numerous stone ruins on your right. These ruins Ark the spots of old edo period samurai houses and muromachi period buildings connected the original castle. On your right you can see various terraced fields, now covered in forest. These fields were once the private gardens of samurai who lived in the exclusive samurai area surrounding the castle. When you reach the end of the path you will see a toro (stone lantern) and a T intersection. The left branch continues up a different mountain range. This range contains the remains of another, lesser known castle called Kino Jo. There are also the remains of buildings, a small village and an ancient shrine. You should plan a good half day for walking that left branch path. Take the right branch to get to the top of mt keirozan and the original castle ruins. ( just to the bottom right of the stone lantern, you will see a large flat area. This was once the main guard house for he castle. All visitors, including samurai were ordered to stop here and surrender weapons before going onthe the castle and meeting the resident lord. You can still see a deep stone walled well and the outline of the foundations). Continue up the right path until you get to the top. A number of stone walls, stone staircase, moats, a special type of and culturally protected bamboo used for arrows can still be seen growing there and various terraces of the original castle can still be seen. Follow the arrows down the front of the mountain to finish the circular walk. You will end up at roughly where you stated from. The entire walk, if done non stop and an average level of fitness should take no more than 30 to 40 min. Of course, with everything to see you could drag it out quite nicely. This walk is virtually unknown by tourists and is devoid of people on any given day. I highly recommend giving it a go.
  • Raymond    August 09, 2009 at 09:01 PM
    Tatsuno Castle is about a 20-minute walk from JR Hon-Tatsuno Station, which is 20 minutes by local train from Himeji. There is a train every half an hour or so to and from Hon-Tatsuno Station. I was not expecting much at this castle, but I was pleasantly surprised. Apparently everything is reconstructed including a tamon gate, a corner turret, and the honmaru palace. The palace is very nicely decorated with some walls painted in gold and sliding doors painted with a dragon flying over water and land. The best thing about visiting smaller castles like Tatsuno is the lack of tourists. I was in the small honmaru palace with only a couple of other tourists. Unlike other bigger and more popular castles, I could take my time and thoroughly enjoy strolling though the place without the feeling of having to move on because there are people behind me. Entry is free, but the castle is closed on Mondays. The sleepy old town around the castle is also quite quaint with some period buildings and temples. There are plenty of cherry trees here, so in early spring, it is probably a great place to combine some cherry-blossom viewing and a castle visit.
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Tatsuno, Hyogo Pref.
Tatsuno Castle views
Yaguramon gate
Yaguramon/Uzumimon Gate stone walls
yaguramon/uzumimonn koraimon
Koraimon clay walls and slope from the castle
corner yagura Honmaru palace
honmaru palace honmaru palace
Otemichi Ninomaru bailey
bailey stone wall remains
bailey honmaru bailey
stone wall remains of the honmaru Stone pathway
bailey Bailey around the honmaru
stone stairs remains of samurai residences
stone wall around the residential area residential area path
terraced gardens stone wall
map the castle is on top this mountain