Iwakuni Castle

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Iwakuni1.jpg

History

Iwakuni-jo was built by Kikkawa Hiroie in 1608. Just a few years later in 1615 the castle was torn down to comply with the Tokugawa law of "one castle per province." The current reconstruction was placed a little bit closer to the front edge of the mountain so it could be more easily seen from below and to give visitors a better view of the valley from the castle.


Visit Notes

Iwakuni Castle can be easily visited on a day trip from Hiroshima or combined with a trip to Miyajima. The main keep is not actually in the original location. It was rebuilt here to be better seen from the bridge area. There is also a good amount of stonework around the castle at the top of the mountain. I will document it one day when I make another trip down there. The Nagayamon Gate of the Kagawa Residence near the bridge at the foot of the mountain is an original samurai home gate. It is a prefectural historical building and a must-see site in Iwakuni.


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Castle Profile
English Name Iwakuni Castle
Japanese Name 岩国城
Founder Kikkawa Hiroie
Year Founded 1608
Castle Type Mountaintop
Castle Condition Reconstructed main keep
Designations Top 100 Castles
Historical Period Edo Period
Main Keep Structure 4 levels, 4 stories
Year Reconstructed 1962 (concrete)
Features main keep, gates, stone walls, castle town
Visitor Information
Access Iwakuni Station (San'yo Honsen), 20 minutes by bus to the Kintaikyo Bridge, 10 minute walk to the ropeway to the top
Visitor Information 9:00-16:45 , 1140 yen including ropeway
Time Required 120 mins including Kintaikyo Bridge
Website https://www.iwakuni-kanko.com/kikko/shiro/
Location Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Coordinates 34° 10' 30.72" N, 132° 10' 27.19" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 1999
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 1996, 1998, 2019
Admin Visits February 1996, August 1998, February 17, 2019
Nearby Samurai Homes
3.28
(32 votes)
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ARTShogun

6 months ago
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Added pictures and locations for Kitanomaru, Ninomaru, Honmaru Ishigaki, Tenshudai, Karabori, &c.
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ARTShogun

6 months ago
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Added Kyokan area photos with some locations of key features. Added samurai residence location.
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ARTShogun

9 months ago
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Iwakunijō (岩国城) – 27/12/2020

This incredible site blew me away. I had anticipated seeing, of course, the reconstructed castle tower, which has a rare form and is well and all, as well as the famous Kintaikyō bridge, but these proved to be the least interesting things for me.

First of all I crossed the bridge. It is a reconstruction and the wooden joinery is very impressive, but the ishigaki platforms which support the wooden superstructure are held in place with concrete, which I’m pretty sure they didn’t have in the Edo Period! Plus it costs 310 yen to cross the bridge! So I was getting this feeling of a tourist trap and was not particularly happy. But things got increasingly better from there…

One leaves the bridge to find a nice park area and a small cluster of restaurants and souvenir stores, which are designed with some consideration of a conducive aesthetic. This is fine. I would later dine here, trying Iwakuni Sushi and deep-fried puffer fish. For now I quickly struck to the right where there are many preserved historical structures.

The historical structures include a nagayamon (gate-rowhouse) and other gates from historical residences. There are many museums here too, including one especially about the Kikkawa Clan which should appeal to samurai armour enthusiasts, though I simply didn’t have the time to visit any. There are also temples and shrines.

For us castle fans, however, the main feature here is the castle’s kyokan. Kyokan describes a residential area at the foot of a castle-mount. The kyokan at Iwakuni was occupied up until the Meiji Period, and its defences are well preserved. We can see moats (mizubori, though one outer segment has been drained), dorui (earthen ramparts), and ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), including yaguradai (turret platforms). One yaguradai, which was built to support a three-tier tower, now has a comely temple structure atop. This area is a beautiful park with a shrine venerating the old castle lords, and, I gather, would look enchanting in spring because many cherry trees surround it. And so this is a major feature of Iwakunijō and not to be missed.

Next I took the aerial gondola (the best name of any vehicle?) up to the castle mount. This is where one must be vigilant. There is a sign which says to take the wide path to the left, and not the mountain path to the right. One is duty-bound to ignore this advice and take the right. This is the righteous path of the true castle enthusiast. It brings one directly to the wonderful ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts). I was amazed to find so much stalwart ramparts here bracing the mountainside. And then, having gone the proper path, there is a yet more secretive path, completely hidden from the main trail, as the sort of path one can only see once one has struck upon it directly, but never before. This mysterious, forest-shaded route is the gateway to much more ishigaki. I can’t believe this isn’t sign-posted. Indeed, it’s like they don’t want people to know about it! Yet there’s so much in terms of ruins here. Anyway, the path eventually works its way around to one of the outer baileys, and once I left it and turned back I could see it no more. It was as if I had merely dreamt the whole thing.

There are yet more treasures. Next we come to a huge, nay, humungous karabori (dry moat). Iwakunijō was built in the Edo Period but incorporates elements of Sengoku Period mountaintop castles into its design, making for a unique and fascinating castlescape. Still yet to come are the reconstructed donjon, which is nice, though now probably needs a lick of paint, or, dare I say, a wooden rebuilding? And the real tenshudai (platform for donjon), located behind it. This tenshudai is beauty manifest in hewn and piled stone.

Other features include extra integral baileys and many smaller, outer baileys. Around these, particularly on the far side of the castle, are scattered stone blocks. These were presumably once fine ramparts, but were pulled down when the castle was abandoned centuries ago. There is a deep well in a pocket bailey. If one goes beyond here there is extensive terracing with demolished ramparts and old ceramic tiles littering the place.

Well, it would take me a long time to describe everything, but there is a mighty lot to see at Iwakunijō, and I can say without any prejudice of the recent that this was one of my favourite castle visits of 2020.
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ARTShogun

17 months ago
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"On the way to Miyajima we stopped by Iwakuni Castle to see the Kintaikyo Bridge but we didn't have enough time to go to the top of the mountain to see the mock keep there and get to Miyajima before the tide came in."

That must've been torture for you > <
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EricShogun

17 months ago
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oh brother...
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DiegoDeManilaAshigaru

46 months ago
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Visited 16 Nov 2016. The bridge was fantastic of course. As for the castle, I wasn't expecting much based on what little I knew beforehand - concrete tenshu, not even erected on the original site, etc. - but the view from the top completely won me over. Best castle-top views I've had since Inuyama, and a worthy rival to Takeda (in terms of the view, not the castle in and of itself). I agree with Kris: take both paths (one up and one down, your choice which to walk on first), there's something to recommend each of them. Didn't have time for the nearby museums, but as always, I'll use them as an excuse to go back.

https://with...vember-2016/
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ByrdsignalPeasant

79 months ago
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Visited Spring 2009. The castle is relatively easy to get to, just a bus ride from JR Iwakuni or JR Shin-Iwakuni stations. One ticket purchased upon entering the park gets you access to the castle, including the ropeway both ways, the Kintaikyo bridge, and the castle keep itself. While the keep is both repositioned (more photogenic and with better views) and rebuilt, it still looks great. It's also very easy to find the original keep foundation on the grounds. It's definitely worth a look. The keep itself has the usual displays of local and castle history, but the views from the castle and its immediate grounds are stunning. The park at the base of the mountain is pleasant, but any special exhibits, such as the springtime peony garden, are not included on the ticket purchased for the castle. Oddly, one of the things that makes this castle really stand out for me is the number of excellent ice cream parlours in the park, at least two of which are named for rival samurai (Miyamoto Musashi and local boy Sasaki Kojiro). In a very entertaining display of local colour, they do tend to shout at each other and try to steal each others' customers away.
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

92 months ago
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One of the first castles I visited, blown away by its location and then there was the bridge and the remnants of the town below the castle.
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KrisGunshi

112 months ago
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Do go to the Iwakuni Art Museum. Their collection is amazing. I didn`t go to the Kikkawa museum, and I found the assortment in the castle keep rusty, poorly displayed and of limited relevancy, but Iwakuni Art Museum is a privately owned, very well-cared for and well-presented collection of arms, armour, helmets, maps, letters and similar artifacts. There was also an absolutely amazing original Sengoku Era screen depicting the Battle of Kawanakajima – (there is a long story of how it ended up at Iwakuni; the connection being the Kikkawa clan originally served the Aki-Takeda clan). (If you buy the bridge/ropeway/castle combi ticket there is a slight discount for the museum included). The bridge is amazing; the keep is no better or worse than any other Showa era reconstruction; it has been reconstructed away from its original location to provide magnificent views right down to the sea. The grounds themselves were quite disappointing in a way because it seemed like the city doesn`t care about the original castle ruins very much; the area around the Kita-no-maru looks like it is in want of maintenance and sign-posting. At the top of the ropeway there is a sign with two arrows saying in misleading English, `take the left path.` Take both paths – one up and one down - the right path has a lot more stone work on it and is far more atmospheric; the left path is paved and has the ruins of a well. At the bottom near the bridge there is a nice statue of Sasaki Kojiro; his tsubame-gaeshi move was invented after observing swallows flying at the bridge at Iwakuni.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

115 months ago
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Like RaymondW wrote about this castle, it deserves 3 stars because of the site, not for the castle in itself. The castle is nice from the outside but too dull in the inside. Some nice swords indeed, but only one armor. The view from it is very beautifull. You can buy a ticket at the entrance of the Kintaikyo-bridge for 930yen. It gives you access to the bridge, the use of the ropeway in both directions and the castlekeep. You receive a reduction of 100yen for the Kikkawa museum and for the museum of arts. I went to the Kikkawa museum, but there are almost only scrolls to be seen, There was only one armor and one daisho. For the 400yen, you still have to pay, i found it a little too much. The Mekata residence is interesting as is the Kikkojinja. There are also some white snakes for 100yen to see, next to the Mekata residence. I found them interesting.
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BryanbaierPeasant

118 months ago
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Come for Kintaikyo Bridge, come up the mountain to this castle to see the bridge and the river from above
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Frank T.Gunshi

119 months ago
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RaymondW below has done a good write up for Iwakuni, but it easily earns three stars. I give it 3.5 for all its merits.
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RaymondWHatamoto

123 months ago
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This castle exceeded my expectations. I knew that it was a concrete reconstruction with the castle keep moved to a more visible spot. The reconstructed keep is pretty impressive on the outside. Inside could have been done a little better with more wooden paneling to hide the concrete construction, but it is no worse than many other reconstructed castle keeps using modern materials. The museum has a pretty good display of Japanese samurai swords including one gigantic one that was over 1.5 metres! The view, like Gifu Castle, is amazing with the whole panorama of Iwakuni spread out below. Apart from the reconstructed castle keep, there is the base of the original castle keep plus original ishigaki to be seen. Some of these stone walls have fallen seriously into disrepair, and if you make it to the bailey lying just below the Kitanomaru, you will find blocks of stone just randomly lying around. This castle reconstruction and museum is worth a solid 2 stars, but taking into account the view, the castle town below with a samurai residence, some old gates, the famous Kintai Bridge, and a shrine in the former grounds of the palace located at the base of the hill, this is certainly a 3 star site and worth spending a good half day. If you have time, about 3km from JR Kuba Station is Kamei Castle Ruin. There are plenty of ishigaki (stone walls) to be seen here. By train, it is only around 15 minutes from JR Nishi-Iwakuni to JR Kuba.