Koriyama Castle (Nara), Panoramic view from the keep's observation platform

Koriyama Castle

Sakura Spot With a View on Nara

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Koriyama Castle is located in Yamato-Koriyama, in the south-west of Nara City in Japan. Embellished by the blooming of 800 cherry trees in the beginning of spring, its historical ruins provide an elevated panoramic view on the area and the surrounding mountains.

Built in 1580 by Tsutsui Junkei (1549 - 1584), a local daimyo serving Oda Nobunaga, Koriyama Castle was overlooking the Yamato province (future Nara prefecture) at the times. Later, it became the residence of Toyotomi Hidenaga (1540 – 1591), Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s younger brother, who expanded the castle to its larger size; the keep was then protected by 3 concentric moats.

The site of Koriyama-jo was abandonned after the Battle of Sekigahara in October 1600 and was later given to Mizuno Katsunari (1564 - 1651) in 1615, who endeavored its rehabilitation. The Matsudaira, Honda, and lastly Yanagisawa clans successively ruled over the domain until the Meiji Restoration (1868 - 1889) and the fall 🍁 of the Tokugawa regime, during which the wooden buildings were completely burnt.

Koriyama Castle (Nara), Yagura turret and Otemon gate during the sakura season

Park with blooming cherry trees

Nowadays, Koriyama Castle Park encompasses the core of the former feudal site, surrounded by the authentic inner moats and defensive stone walls. These historical ruins are particularly popular at the beginning of spring for the sakura 🌸 blossom viewing. There are indeed about 800 cherry trees of diverse varieties, including the classic somei yoshino, growing alongside the fortifications and displaying a wonderful scenery during their blooming period. They earned Koriyama-jo to be officially enlisted in Japan’s top 100 of cherry blossoms spots (日本さくら名所100選) since 1990.

Each year between late March and early April, a spring festival called Yamatokoriyama Oshiro Matsuri is held at the castle. During about 15 days, the blooming of cherry trees is celebrated with several animations, such as:

  • Evenings illuminated by a nice light-up, for a discovery of the park at nightfall;
  • A traditional historical parade (Jidai Gyoretsu) by volunteers dressed in period costumes, followed by the parade of children disguised as white foxes (Byakko Togyo), the guardian deity of the castle;
  • The kingyo goldfish fair, a local specialty. The area has been renowned for a long time for ornamental fish farming, allowed by a naturally swampy and nutrient-rich land.

Koriyama Castle (Nara), Castle park's grounds during Yamatokoriyama Oshiro Matsuri festival 2

Historical fortifications and reconstructed buildings

From the original castle only remain the inner moats and the fortification walls. The later partially date back from the times of Toyotomi Hidenaga, who used an original solution to complete the walls. Due to a shortage of cut stones, the lord decided to use salvaged stones, that had already been used in temples building or Buddhist cemeteries. Therefore, some wall sections, in the nozura-zumi architectural style, that is to say very sturdy and made with miscellaneously shaped stones, include a few stones engraved with inscriptions or various deity's silhouettes.

A long restoration program started at the end of the 20th century, and is aiming at reconstructing several historical buildings of the castle:

  • Yagura turrets and Otemon gate have been restored in the 1980’s;
  • The base of the keep, that used to be off limits, was reconstructed in March 2017 and is now an observation platform over Nara’s area and its mountains; and,
  • The new Japanese bridge Gokuraku, crossing the moats, was achieved in 2021.

Note that Koriyama-jo is also in the Continued Top 100 Japanese Castles 🏯 (続日本100名城) since 2017.

Koriyama Castle (Nara), Gokuraku-bashi bridge and cherry blossoms

Accessible by JR train 🚅 from Osaka or Nara, the castle is a good, typically Japanese site, without too many tourists, to enjoy the blooming of sakura in the Kansai area. Not far from there, Yakushi-ji and Toshodai-ji, 2 prominent temples of Japan’s Classical period are both located within walking distance.

⬇️ Further down this page, discover our visit guide in Koriyama Castle and around.
By Kanpai Updated on March 22, 2024 Château de Koriyama