Oita castle town
Kitsuki is a small town located on the Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita Prefecture, northeast of Kyushu. The town has maintained its architectural medieval heritage with its castle and traditional districts, which can be discovered through a pleasant promenade across its streets and along the coast.
Kitsuki retains feudal charm from the Edo period (1603 - 1868). Its irregularity is expressed in the "sandwich" of its main streets, where traditional merchants are situated between two samurai districts; this is a unique characteristic not found in any other city-castle 🏯 of the archipelago.
The city center can be easily discovered by walking, and distances between the diverse sites are reasonable. Called "the small Kyoto of Kyushu," Kitsuki is known in the region to be the ideal destination to wander around in kimono 👘 and shoot photos in a retro atmosphere (visitors can rent kimono at Warakuan).
The main attraction in exploring the city happens at the crossing of Suya-no-saka and Shioya-no-saka’s slopes where the main street serves the commercial area. From these two paths, we reach the former residential areas of Japanese warriors: the main North neighborhood and the southern Manimi-dai next to the Teramachi temple district. Several traditional residences (bukeyashiki) are open to the public. It might not be necessary to see them all, as their architecture and disposal are quite repetitive, but we advise stopping at one or two:
- Hitotsumatsu Residence has beautiful interiors. Built by Sadayoshi Hitotsumatsu, member of the National Japanese Parliament and first honor citizen of Kitsuki in 1929, it was given to the city in 1957. Nested on a hill and very pleasant to live in, we enjoy broad tatami rooms to sit and enjoy the bay and castle’s views. In one of the rooms, a koto (Japanese harp) and simple musical sheet are available for the musically inclined.
- The Nomi family’s residence, in the center of the northern samurai district, has a peaceful ambiance. Visitors discover the contrast of colors between the dim indoors and the glowing luxurious green around it. Entrance is free, and the house is also a tea house.
In the extreme eastern section, Kitsuki Castle concludes the visit. It originally dates from 1394 and was built by the Kitsuki clan on the Daiyama plateau between the Yasaka and Koyama Rivers in front of Inland Sea. Destroyed by a storm in 1608, only the dungeon, now a museum, was reconstructed in 1970; it is now the smallest castle in Japan.
In the medieval heart of Kitsuki, we can truly experience the feudal era of Japan. Everything is designed for the promenade to be pleasant and easy; only rainy ☔️ weather might spoil the discovery. Mostly visited on weekends, the town is quiet during the week and can be planned as a day excursion from Beppu, Oita or Fukuoka.