Tsuruga Castle (鶴ヶ城), also known as Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle (会津若松城 ) is a popular sightseeing location in Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. Most people visit to see the impressive reconstructed castle and learn about the area's rich samurai history. However, it is worth remembering that the castle grounds are also famous for their cherry blossoms in spring and colorful leaves in autumn. Since the castle grounds, minus the castle keep, is admission free and open 24 hours a day, locals will tell you that early morning just after sunrise is the best time to beat the crowds.
Last time I visited Tsuruga Castle was 7 years ago, and it was also in autumn. That day was wet and rainy, and I had no good photo taking device. This time there was no rain, but it was much colder. However, this happened to be a blessing in disguise. As you can imagine, few people wake up early, and even fewer when the weather is cold. It just so happened that my outing was on a foggy day.
The Tsuruga Castle grounds are actually quite spacious. You can easily spend an hour or leisurely exploring the courtyard, inner walls, outer walls, and retaining moats. Due to the thick fog, first the bright colors of leaves appeared in my vision, followed by the more camouflaged stone wall remains. Something about the ancient stone remains, the transitioning seasons, and the mysterious fog made it feel like time had stood still for a few brief moments. The experience was extraordinary.
My foggy autumn morning experience had me think more about the charms of sightseeing places and when the “best time to visit” really is. The trees on the castle grounds can be pink, white, green or bare depending the season. The weather could be sunny, cloudy, rainy or foggy. And let's not forget time of day! Day and nighttime visits affect lighting, but also how many visitors are jockeying for photos of their own. Each scenario can have its own attraction I imagine.
Try visiting an old favorite location in Japan by changing one of the above scenarios to see if you can find a new attraction in something you thought you knew so well. You may be happily surprised.
Board the local Aizu Loop Sightseeing Bus as Aizuwakamatsu Station and depart at "Tsurugajo Kitaguchi" bus stop (about 20 minutes). From there it is a 5 minute walk.
Alternatively, walk 35 minutes walk from Aizuwakamatsu Station to the castle site.