Finally some time to post!
So in January I stumbled across a deal that was too good to resist and off we went one morning to Fukuoka, on the northern tip of Kyushu. The city itself was great fun, but my main focus was a few hours to the south– Kumamoto castle!
Sadly Kumamoto doesn’t put me any nearer to completing my tour of the 12 original castles, but it is a stunning reconstruction with several original pieces spread around the labyrinthine grounds. Although Matsumoto still takes the cake as my favorite keep, the layout at Kumamoto was the best we’ve seen for conveying the sprawl of a castle compound.
Steep, craggy walls snake in and out, covered with turrets and covered walkways where defenders could shoot down at attackers from all angles. At its peak, there would have been almost 50 turrets along with fortified gates and walls.
Marching in on foot would not have been a tempting proposition. (Sadly, much of the castle compound appears to have burnt down at one point when the defenders lit the city on fire to halt an invading army and the wind had other ideas.)
The gorgeous turret just above here is on one of the outer corners. The walls were entirely dry-wall, so climbing is a constant risk– for attackers and tourists alike. (Despite very stern signs to stay off.)
The castle was originally begun in the 1400s with several rounds of expansion. One of the builders had endured a particularly bitter siege while in Korea, so he insisted that nut and fruit trees be planted in the castle gardens just in case.
The keep itself was beautiful from the outside, but not very memorable on the inside, I’m afraid. Nearby they are rebuilding the honmaru palace, with glistening reception rooms, and series of parallel passageways to separate light, rank, and (one assumes also to keep the drafts out.)
The best part of the castle, however, was waiting for us on the way out. This 5 story turret was one of the first to be rebuilt, using traditional methods and the original blueprint. A friendly little guide who’d seen us wandering in and out of other turrets on the far side of the compound that morning gave us a detailed little tour. The turret was complete with a protective owl carved in one of the beams and a not-so-secret passageway under the floorboards that connected the building with the covered walls nearby so that soldiers could run back and forth with supplies and not be shot at.
It was a fantastic castle! Well worth the whole trip down to Fukuoka. But of course, no trip would be complete without ramen! Not just any ramen, Kyushu’s famous pork-broth ramen. Mmmmm…. more to follow on that!