By Brian Sealey
There are many great castles in Japan, and while Shiroishi castle can’t match up to the scale of some of Japan's most famous feudal keeps, it has enough history, charm, and extras to make it well worth the trip when passing through Miyagi prefecture.
The history of the castle stretches back to the 1200s. While it changed hands and was rebuilt over the years, it is most famous for housing the Katakura family, one of main retainers under the Date clan (most famous for Date Masamune, the one-eyed samurai who wore the iconic crescent moon helmet). Long ago, the castle grounds used to include lodging and magisterial facilities for the Katakura family, as well as a modest palace for members of the Date family when they visited. While those buildings are gone, a map provides context for what used to exist and the grounds have been converted into a park that is great for events or just enjoying some leisure time with your travel mates. The main keep has been reconstructed to allow visitors a chance to get a feel for the centuries old structure and to get a great view of the city from the top of the castle.
One of the best features of Shiroishi castle is the level of detail to which it has been maintained. The tiling is gorgeous, the walls have been rebuilt and preserved, and the fortifications retain all of the defensive features. As you make the walk up to the castle, you can see the strategy that went into designing this feudal fortress—I would NOT want to storm that castle, army in tow or not.
The other great thing about Shiroishi castle is that there are a number of extra draws for visitors. There is a traditional samurai home to explore only ten minutes away by foot. There is a immersive 3-D theater used to retell the history of the warring states period, especially from the vantage point of the Date clan and its retainers. There is also a souvenir shop, restaurant, and exhibition hall.
Entrance to the main castle and to the 3-D theater each cost 400 yen. Entrance to the museum is free.
Shiroishi castle is located in Shiroishi city, Miyagi Prefecture. It is accessible by bus from Shiroishizao station on the Tohoku Shinkansen line. You can also transfer to local trains to Shiroishi station, and it is about a ten minute walk from there. If driving, it is about a ten minute drive from the Shiroishi interchange on the Tohoku Expressway.
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