Marugame Castle 丸亀城
Founder Ikoma Chikamasa
Year 1597
Type Hilltop
Condition Original
Alternate Name Kameyama-jo, Horai-jo
Structure 3 levels, 3 stories
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, Important Cultural Properties
Historical Artifacts Important Cultural Properties:
tenshu, Ote Ichinomon, Ote Ninomon
Location Marugame, Kagawa Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Marugame Sta. (Yosan Line), 10 minute walk
Website Marugame Sightseeing - Marugame Castle
Visited February 28, 2016
Visitor Info. Main Keep open 9:00-16:30; 200yen | Time Required: 150 mins
Notes This is an amazing castle. I spent much more time here than I had anticipated. I don't think I've seen any book or website that really does justice to the size of this castle nor the magnificent stone walls. One of the great things about Marugame Castle is how close you can get to all of the walls. If you think about the big Edo Period castles like Edo, Osaka, Nagoya, etc their great stone walls are across a moat so you can't physically get right up next to most of them to be really awed by their scale. The main keep at the top is the smallest in Japan, but when you have such a commanding view from the only mountain in sight, you don't need a big keep.

Ikoma Chikamasa, the lord of the Sanuki area originally ruled from Takamatsu Castle. While there, he built and moved to Marugame Castle placing his son in charge of Takamatsu Castle. Marugame Castle was decomissioned as part of the one castle per country law in 1615.

Marugame Castle was resurrected in 1641 when Yamazaki Ieharu was granted the small fief of Western Sanuki. He rebuilt the castle into what we see today and developed the surrounding castle town of Marugame.

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  • ART    November 06, 2016 at 01:24 PM
    To create Marugame Castle an entire hill was encased in towering ishigaki (stone wall) and ringed by a moat. With scant room for large tree to grow, these resplendent walls rise in tiers above the surrounding town like some tremendous ziggurat. Marugamejō contains an original tenshukaku (main keep) which has stood undaunted by the centuries, unperturbed by the crawl of history, maintaining its hegemony over its old domain, and with lordly mien surveying generation after genderation of the town, taking within its purview samurai and salaryman alike. Needless to say I was quite impressed with this castle. There is a quaint story that Marugamejō’s stonewalls were built by a master ishigaki designer called Hasaka Juzaburō. Juzaburō was known to work only in his loincloth throughout the entire day. The Lord of the castle when he looked upon Juzaburō’s work marvelled and proclaimed “Juzaburō, these walls are the most impressive I’ve ever seen, they are most certainly impossible to climb!” But Juzaburō smiled and said “Actually, my lord, I built these walls and I know how to climb them.” So saying he proved it by scrambling up a section of the stone wall. The Lord was surprised and fear flitted across his brow. Not long after Juzaburō was asked by his lord to descend the 65 meter well in the Ninomaru bailey for research purposes. Juzaburō went down as ordered to inspect the well, but after he had descended the lord ordered stones hurled down the well, killing Juzaburō. The castellan had been worried that Juzaburō could betray the secret of scaling Marugamejō’s ishigaki to the enemy and bring ruin to the castle. There is another legend, this one a ghost story, concerning the well in the Sannomaru bailey, which descends 56 meters. It is said that during the construction of the castle terrible rains prevented work from progressing. One rainy night whilst the workers were sheltering, a man came by with a cart shouting “Tofu! Tofu for sale!” The builders kidnapped him and shut him up behind a wall at the bottom of the well as a sacrifice in the hopes that the rain would abate and they could proceed with construction. Or perhaps they were just sick of Tofu. Either way, it is told that on rainy nights one can here the muffled moan of an old vendor calling “Tofu, Tofu…” as though it were coming from beneath the castle… Features: - the original Tenshukaku, one of 12 left in Japan (there were about 56 left after the Meiji Restoration and maybe 20 or so – I haven’t worked it out yet – left before the Pacific War). Marugame’s tenshukaku was built in 1660. - all major types of ishigaki constructed are evident at the castle: nozura-zumi, uchikomi-hagi and kirikomi-hagi. - Ōteichinomon and Ōteninomon (first and secondary main gate) form a masugata defensive courtyard (or “kill pit” as I affectionately call them). - Genkansaki go’mon , Bansho (guards’ house) and Nagaya (long house), forming what’s left of the go’den (palace for the lord).
  • Gary    July 21, 2015 at 09:52 AM
    Impressed with the keep and the walls leading up to the castle. Really good start to our castle tour of Shikoku.
  • Graham    January 22, 2015 at 05:07 AM
    Definitely worth visiting and just to add to the comments about access I would say it is no more than a brisk 5 minute walk from the station. The situation was a whole is very picturesque; the view over the Inland Sea and alluvial plain stunning. There is a wonderful huge beam in the gatehouse and the udon of course is superb. The geometry of the walls have been the subject of a TV documentary as they are rather unusual.
  • Graham    January 22, 2015 at 05:05 AM
    Definitely worth visiting and just to add to the comments about access I would say it is no more than a brisk 5 minute walk from the station. The situation was a whole is very picturesque; the view over the Inland Sea and alluvial plain stunning. There is a wonderful huge beam in the gatehouse and the udon of course is superb.
  • phibbyfan    April 07, 2014 at 04:14 PM
    The access information is incorrect. It's near Marugame Station. Paul Bunyan may be able to walk from Kagawa Station to Marugame Castle in 10 minutes, but that'd take many days for most people!
  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    April 04, 2014 at 11:00 PM
    The legs got a work out climbing up to this castle and then working my way around.
  • rebolforces    April 09, 2013 at 07:56 PM
    Access via JR Marugame station
  • Eric    August 22, 2012 at 06:50 PM
    Kazuo, it's very cool that he could do that work. I spoke with one of the workmen at Himeji this spring. It's sad to think that some of these skills and craftsmanship are disappearing.
  • Kazuo    August 19, 2012 at 10:14 PM
    As I was a kid at the time, I have a quite vague recollection and I am afraid my father might not do repairing the Tenshukaku donjon, but other tower or something else.
  • Kazuo    August 19, 2012 at 10:41 AM
    Eric A long time ago, the three stories tower of Marugame was repaired by my father. <g> He was a master of carpenter at that small work. He joined briefly the Showa-no-daishuri of Himeji Castle when he was truly young, before.
  • furinkazan on My Page    April 14, 2012 at 04:46 PM
    Did 2 castles today. This one and Kawanoejo. This castle is easy to access from the JR-Marugame-station. I walked around the outer bailey before entering. It's a vast terrain. When i passed the Ote Ichinomon gate i went to the information desk. I got a little leaflet and a double coupon. 1 coupon halves the price of the entrance to the tenshu (200yen->100yen) The other gives 30% off the entrance to Nakazu Banshoen(=garden) (1000yen->700yen). The way up to the tenshu is very steep. The sakura in the ninomaru were loosing their petals. There were still alot with flowers. This gave a nice pink blanket. The tenshu is very small, containing some artifacts. The museum in the outer bailey is free to go. It has not alot to show, but some of the kabuto i saw were really unusual. For ishigaki-lovers, this is a place to go, these are really impressive.
  • bryanbaier on My Page    February 13, 2012 at 10:12 PM
    The tower is very small and has few artifacts but the rock walls and the view are awesome.
  • Gerry    May 21, 2009 at 03:48 PM
    I had had lived in Marugame for 11 years of my life. A boy from Hawaii. I lived on a small island named Honjima, which was 35 mins. away by ferry in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea. I visited the castle many times and from Honjima Island you could see the castle in the distance. The climb up to the honmaru was so steep just walking up took all my energy. I think if anyone attacked the castle? The location the castle was built is the best location to control the entire area, Land and Sea. Any ship passing through the inland sea would have been seen and Shiwako Is. Pirates would have raided any ship which did not belong to the controling Lord or Shogun which the Pirates had a treaty with. The channel facing the castle is the narrowest in the entire Seto Inland Sea and the base of the Pirates was on the Island I lived on. The name Hon (main) Jima (Island). The time I spent in Marugame was the best and I visit every 2 or 3 years. It is my second home.
  • Raymond    January 14, 2009 at 04:26 PM
    I went and visited this castle over the New Year break. This is a very impressive castle. Although there isn’t much left except for the tenshu (keep) and the main gate, the walls more than make up for it. The whole top two-thirds or so of the hill is encased in stone walls. In a way, from a distance, it sort of looks like one of those Mayan pyramids in Mexico. At the foot of the wall to the sannomaru (third bailey), you get the impression that they are even higher than the western honmaru (main bailey) walls at Iga-Ueno Castle, but in reality, they are 5 metres shorter, at only 23 metres tall. If you love castles with lots of stone walls and concentric layers and layers of defences including a flooded moat, this is one Japanese castle that you should visit. Based on the sheer number and the height of some of the walls, this is probably one of the most outstanding castles that I have visited in Japan, rating it above other small original castles like Maruoka and Bitchu-Matsuyama. A fellow castle enthusiast and I spent over 4 hours just walking around the place. It is easily accessible by train and is about 15 minutes on foot from the JR Marugame Station. Using local trains and a JR Seishun-18 ticket, it takes around 4 hours one-way from Kyoto or an hour from Okayama.
  • MM    March 17, 2008 at 02:59 AM
    This castle has very steep and high walls. As for its buildings, not many survive, though it does have an original Tenshu. Not one of the best to visit, though it is worth going to if you're in the area.
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Marugame, Kagawa Pref.
Marugame Castle views
Main Keep Main keep, Ote Ichinomon, Ote Ninomon
Main keep and Uchibori moat Main keep and stone walls
Main keep and stone walls Stone walls and main keep
Main keep and stone walls Stone walls and main keep
Ninomaru Karamete Ote Ninomon and Ichinomon masugata style gate
Ote Ninomon Gate Ote Ninomon Gate
Ote Ninomon Gate Ote Ninomon
Walls of the masugata gate embankment and stone wall of the moat
Ote Ichinomon Gate masugata gate
Inside the Ote Ichinomon Gate Stone wall of the Sannomaru
Stone wall of the Sannomaru Sannomaru Stone walls
Sannomaru Stone walls Ninomaru Stone Walls
View from the Sannnomaru Bailey Stone walls of the Ninomaru and Sannomaru
Ninomaru stone walls Sannomaru stone walls
Ninomaru Bailey Ote Entrance Ninomaru Bailey Ote Entrance
Ninomaru stone walls Ninomaru Karamete Entrance
Main Keep Main Keep
Inside the main keep Inside the main keep
View from the main keep Inside the main keep
Honmaru stone walls Ninomaru entrance
Ninomaru Tatsumi Yagura foundation Ninomaru Tatsumi Yagura foundation
Ninomaru stone walls Ninomaru stone walls
Karameteguchi (rear entrance) Sannomaru Stone Walls
Sannomaru Stone Walls Ninomaru Stone walls
Ninomaru Stone walls Obikuruwa Bailey and Sannomaru stone walls
Ninomaru Karameteguchi (rear entrance) Sannomaru Stone walls
Ninomaru, Sannomaru stone walls Sannomaru stone walls
Sannomaru Karameteguchi Sannomaru stone walls
Sannomaru Karameteguchi Sannomaru stone walls
Obikuruwa and Sannomaru Stone Walls Sannomaru stone walls
Sannomaru stone walls Sannomaru stone walls
Sannomaru stone walls Sannomaru stone walls
Obikuruwa and Sannomaru stone walls Sannomaru stone walls
Sannomaru stone walls Nozurazumi stone wall
Nozurazaumi tone walls Uchibori moat (inner moat)
Lord's palace front gate Nagaya of the guard house
Lord's palace gate Walls of the palace grounds
Uchibori Moat Main keep and stone walls