“Welcome to the real Japan,” was the greeting from our guide Satoshi-san as we departed the train station in Sasebo. Serving as a People-To-People ambassador to the southern island of Kyushu during the summer months, he certainly knows of what he speaks.
After a short drive, we crossed what looked like a miniature Golden Gate Bridge and arrived onto Hirado Island. “Get ready to leave civilization behind for a much slower, nicer, and relaxed way of life.” A nice reprieve from the fast-paced vibe of Tokyo, I thought. And not a bad alternative when traveling with children.
“Want to see where I grew up?” Satoshi asked the boys. He pointed to a castle in the distance. “Yeah!!” they shouted.
The first Hirado Castle was built on top of a small mountain overlooking Hirado Bay in 1599. “My ancestors were samurai worriers and this is where they lived.” As we toured its grounds, Satoshi went on to explain how the Matsura Clan occupied this castle during a period of national isolation when Japan was ruled by Shoguns.
The boys enthusiastically bounced from exhibit to exhibit, including original swords, suits of armor, and grave sites of some of the royalty who lived there. Not surprising given how young boys love anything to so with samurais and ninjas.
The panoramic views from atop of the donjon on a clear day are also not to be missed. Admission is very reasonable and open all year. Just beware that there are lots of stairs to navigate, in case you’re using a stroller.