Ibaraki Prefecture’s castle towns may have lost their castle keeps to conflict and modernization, but that doesn’t stop the cities from preserving the precious remaining gates and reconstructing parts of the castle sites. Some of these spots are easily accessible while getting to others may be an adventure.
The prefectural capital was the Mito clan stronghold in the Edo Period. Scattered around the area between Mito Station’s north side and the Naka River are a number of gates and buildings that survived the Meiji Restoration and wartime bombing. Mito citizens rallied to fund the reconstruction of the Otemon Gate and Ninomaru Kakuto fortification completed in the summer of 2021. You might catch the scent of new wood when you visit. The castle grounds have modern schools with many traditional architectural details paying homage to the Kodokan samurai school nearby.
From the Joso Line, you can see the towering keep of Toyoda Castle in Joso City. This seven-story keep completed in 1992 is in fact the city’s cultural exchange center housing local history exhibitions, performance halls, and a library. From the 7th floor visitors can see Mount Fuji and Tokyo Skytree in the distance. Toyoda Castle-Regional Exchange Center is a 10-minute walk from Ishige Station on the Joso Line.
Tsuchiura's Turtle Castle
On your walk around Tsuchiura City you may notice the remnants of the moat system that protected Kijo, Turtle Castle. The floating castle in the midst of an elaborate moat system was pulled down in the Meiji Restoration but retains the oldest remaining yaguramon turret gate in the Kanto region. The higashiyagura was reconstructed in the 1990s using age-old design and modern technology. Stop by the kura storehouses on your way to the castle for a glimpse of the castle town. Tsuchiura Station is a 20-minute walk from Tsuchiura Station on the Joban Line.
Bando City’s Sakasai Castle is a rare example of a reconstructed Warring States castle. The castle was lost in the 1500s when the Hojo Clan swept across the Kanto region. In the 1990s after archaeological excavations, some of the fortifications were restored and a wooden castle keep and watchtower were reconstructed. The site also has two historical structures relocated from elsewhere - the original gate from nearby Sekiyado Castle and a thatched roof Kannondo temple. The castle site is wooded and has moats and bridges shaded by pine trees making it a nice place to stroll. Sakasai Castle is a 20-minute drive from Michi no Eki Sakai road station.
Hitachi Yamagata Castle
A picturesque mock castle with a panoramic view is Hitachi Yamagata Castle in Hitachiomiya City. The castle isn't authentic but inside the building houses an exhibition of historical artifacts. Hitachi Yamagata Castle is a 20-minute walk from Yamagatajuku Station on the Suigun Line.