I truly enjoy visiting Japanese castles. Sometimes the castles are given various distinctions, such as Important Cultural Asset, Special Historic Site, and National Treasure. Does this mean that one castle is better than another?
I have also read that three castles in Japan claim to be the oldest. How can this be? Doesn't a historical record exist that can provide some definitive dates? This can be very confusing to me, the ordinary American tourist.
In June my daughter and I visited Maruoka Castle in Fukui Prefecture. It is said to have the oldest donjon (tenshu) in Japan. What I really liked about Maruoka Castle were the many stairs leading to the entrance; then inside, I liked climbing the steep ladder, even though I am not particularly agile.
These features made me feel that my experience was more authentic, as the samurai may have hoisted themselves upward too. In addition, it's just a lot more fun than taking an escalator such as in Osaka Castle. I tried to imagine living in Maruoka Castle, but the guide explained that the lord and his family had lived in the manor below. Maruoka Castle was used for defensive purposes.
Before we left the castle grounds we bought ice cream cones, of course. This time it was rice-flavored and topped with a sprinkle of salt. So good!
I think when it comes to visiting castles it depends on your point of view. Maruoka Castle was small but I liked and appreciated it as it was, whether or not it had an official designation. It is enriching to see all kinds of castles. You never know what awaits!
Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan