Tokushima Castle: Samurai Palace Ruins

During my recent research trip to Japan, I visited Tokushima Castle Park, an island of green in the center of the prefectural capital Tokushima City and the former site of Tokushima Castle.

The park, and the castle’s former location, are easy to spot from nearby Mt. Bizan. The castle used to sit atop the large green hill at the center of the city:


Visitors can access the site of Tokushima Castle in several ways. I opted to ascend by the modern stairs on the north side of the hill:

Stairs to Tokushima Castle

And descended from the castle using the old, switchbacking trail that was the original approach to Tokushima Castle:


(Note the lack of handrails.) The old approach consists of a sloping path that doubles back on itself all the way up the side of the hill, making the approach to the castle easier for samurai to defend.

Tokushima Castle was built in 1585 by Hachisuka Iemasa, a samurai lord and the first daimyo of Tokushima Han. A statue of him still stands in the park, near the stairs that lead up to the castle site:


At the top of the hill, a plaque relates the history of the castle, topped by a portrait of the castle as it existed during the 16th century:  


Sadly, the castle itself no longer exists, but visitors can walk around the flattened top of the mountain where the castle once stood:

Site of Tokushima Castle

And view sections of the original fortifications, which remain largely intact:

Tokushima Castle Foundations (uncropped)

Though lichens and other plants are starting to gain a foothold in several places.

Growth on Tokushima Castle Foundations

Looking south from the top of the hill, visitors can see Mt. Bizan (the hill rising up on the right side of the frame):


Foliage blocks much of the southern view, but it’s possible to catch a glimpse of Tokushima City, and the harbor beyond, through the trees:


Tokushima Castle Museum, near the base of the hill on the northern side, has exhibits chronicling the castle’s history, from its construction in the 1580s until its dismantling during the Meiji Era. The site was also bombed during World War II, but the castle had already been removed.

Despite the lack of a castle, the views from the top of the castle hill are lovely, and visitors can also see a row of fortification markers:


and a shrine where the castle keep once stood:


I visited during the morning hours, when the temperature was cool and the birds were singing. I’m glad the Japan Writers’ Conference was held in Tokushima last year, and that the walk from my hotel to the conference location led through the castle park. Otherwise, I might have missed this piece of Japanese history – and the experience of walking up a switchbacking trail that samurai guarded centuries ago.