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Some of Japan’s Ancient Castles Are Opening for Overnight Stays

By Sarah Buder

Jan 29, 2020

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The restored 14th-century Ozu Castle in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture will welcome overnight guests for 30 days each year starting this spring.

Courtesy of Setouchi Tourism Authority

The restored 14th-century Ozu Castle in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture will welcome overnight guests for 30 days each year starting this spring.

The two feudal fortresses offering lodging experiences appear on the Japanese Castle Foundation’s list of “Top 100 Castles” in the country.

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Japan’s unique accommodations range from ryokan (traditional inns) to modern capsule hotels, and soon some of the country’s centuries-old castles will join the list. This year, two carefully restored castles in southwestern Japan will open their doors to overnighters who are willing to fork over a hefty sum to live like daimyo (feudal lords) for a night. 

Starting this spring, Ozu Castle in Ehime Prefecture, located about five hours by car from Osaka, will host overnight guests in its four-story tenshu (core tower), which was originally built in the 14th century and was restored in 2004 using 350-year-old Kiso Japanese cedar and other timber from Japan. The picturesque structure sits on a hill above the Hijikawa River in Ozu, a well-preserved town that dates back to the Edo period (1603–1867) and is known as the “Little Kyoto” of its region. The overnight program will be offered for just 30 days each year and includes a traditional gun-salute welcome, dance performance, and gourmet Japanese meal in addition to the castle stay. Ozu Castle is currently taking online reservations and is expected to open to travelers as soon as April 24—that is, to those who can spend a cool 1 million yen (US$9,168) per couple to stay the night.

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Shortly after, the 16th-century Hirado Castle in Nagasaki Prefecture will offer a similar arrangement, although official dates and rates have yet to be announced. This hilltop castle was once home to the Matsura clan, who ruled over the Hirado domain during the Edo period. The original fortress was destroyed during the Meiji period (1868–1912), but a reconstructed five-story keep now stands on the grounds near two renovated shrines and a few walking trails that overlook Hirado Strait. A unique lodging option is expected to open in the castle this July, which travelers can book through Stay Japan, a website operated by Hyakusenrenma, Japan’s Airbnb-like platform. 

Ozu Castle and Hirado Castle both appear on the Japanese Castle Foundation’s list of “Top 100 Castles” in the country. They’ll be the first feudal fortresses in Japan to offer stays of this sort, but if travelers are willing to pay the tall asking price to spend the night, something tells us that they won’t be the last.

>>Next: Temples, Tipping, and Train Rides: A Guide to Japan for First-Timers

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