Nihonmatsu Castle, also known as Kasumiga-jo, is located in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. The ruins and gardens have been converted into a hilly park, perfect to explore at your own pace.
Across Japan there are fully reconstructed castles such as Kumamoto Castle and also simple ruins such Morioka Castle. In my opinion, Nihonmatsu Castle is the best of both worlds. While the castle park may be overshadowed by the prefecture's fully reconstructed Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle there are far less crowds here. History nerds will still be impressed with the many stone walls littering the hilly park. At the same time greenery, gardens, and waterfalls make the strenuous walk up to the top more peaceful.
You are allowed to and even encouraged to go right up to centuries old stone remains to touch and examine them. Markings and scratches left behind hint where parts of an old gates would have been. Also, walls have crumbled and been weathered over the years, so you can truly feel the passing of time here. The deep green grass, leaves, and even lily pads floating in the garden pond provide an excellent contrast to the dull but powerful gray of stones.
Nihonmatsu City is also famous for its many sweet shops since a former samurai ruler is said to have a sweet tooth. Why not bring some local sweets to the castle park? There are plenty of benches and open spaces to lay down a picnic blanket. If you summit all the way to the keep, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the entire city. Indulging in my private sweets party felt extra special here. I recommend Pâtisserie Reconnaissance (パティスリー ルコネサンス), just a 7-minute drive from the castle. They have a cafe corner also if the weather isn't suitable for dining outside.
Read more about the history of Nihonmatsu Castle here.
20 minute walk from Nihonmatsu Station on the JR Tohoku Main Line