Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Fukuchiyama Castle and Why Akechi Mitsuhide was a Good Man

If you are coming to Fukuchiyama City by train, you might notice a castle up on the hill from the train window. Fukuchiyama Castle (福知山城) is a popular destination and a landmark in Northern Kyoto. It was also listed in the Continued Top 100 Japanese Castles (続日本100名城) by the Japanese Castle Foundation (日本城郭協会)!

The castle has a deep connection with Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), a famous warrior. After settling in Tamba Provision (丹波国) in 1579, he reconstructed the Yokoyama Castle (横山城), located in the middle of Fukuchiyama Basin.

Although Akechi Mitsuhide was famously known as a traitor due to the Honnō-ji Incident (本能寺の変), the people of Fukuchiyama actually adored him as a lord who laid down good politics. In the short period of his governance, the castle town was cultivated, bringing prosperity to the land of Fukuchiyama. In addition, he reduced the tax burden on the citizens and created jobs through hydraulic engineering work.

Ⓒ 海の京都DMO

From JR Fukuchiyama Station to Fukuchiyama Castle

Ⓒ 海の京都DMO

As the castle is located on the hill, you would be walking through some really gentle slopes from the station. Passing the turret-like Fukuchiyama Satō Taisei Memorial Museum (佐藤太清記念美術館), the Shōryū Bridge (昇龍橋) that connects to the castle’s car park should be in front of you.

This is one of the best spots in the castle park, which also captures the gorgeous traditional-looking arch bridge.

Tip: Another great photography spot for a full view of Fukuchiyama Castle Park is the Hokimaru Park (伯耆丸公園) close by. If you are walking from the station, you can drop by there first.

Many cherry trees are planted along the promenade that leads to the castle keep, making the castle one of the most popular destinations during the cherry blossom season.

Fukuchiyama Castle and the Recycled Building Materials

In contrast to other castles in Japan, the base of the castle keep of Fukuchiyama Castle was reconstructed by recycling the building materials from other damaged architecture nearby. Many of those stones consist of parts of pagodas, stone lanterns, millstones, or even someone’s gravestone!

The base may look as if it was built sloppily as stones of all different sizes are being stacked together. But it is actually a building technique called Nomendsumi (野面積み), which is strong enough for the castle keep to remain standing in the past 400 years!

Ⓒ 海の京都DMO

Another thing you may want to pay attention to as you look at the base of the castle keep is the shape of the stones. While many places in Japan now have this “find the heart-shaped stone and your romantic wishes will come true” type of urban legend, it is particularly promising at Fukuchiyama Castle. Back in Akechi Mitsuhide’s time, polygamy is common. However, throughout his life, he had only loved his wife, making the heart-shaped stone at “Fukuchi Mountain Castle” even more famous (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Fukuchiyama Castle’s Castle Keep

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

In 1871, Fukuchiyama Castle was abandoned by Meiji Government’s order. Fortunately, the damaged castle keep was later restored in 1986 and was opened to the public as a museum that exhibits materials related to the castle, including documents written by Akechi Mitsuhide and his armor. Historical and cultural assets of Fukuchiyama City were also on public display.

From the observatory area, you should be able to get a wide view of the Fukuchiyama Basin (=゚ω゚)ノ.

As you examine the exterior of the castle keep, see if you can find some gaps at the top of the outer wall!

Most of the castles in Japan have gaps called Ishiotoshi (石落) and Sama (狭間). These are formed as part of the castle’s defense mechanism, where soldiers can drop objects from below to knock down enemies as they try to climb up the castle walls.

The gaps are commonly opened under the roof of the first floor. So to trick the attackers, the Ishiotoshi and Sama are located at the corner of the second floor’s roof as a way to lure the enemy (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Ⓒ 海の京都DMO

In case you were wondering why the small openings on the castle’s white walls vary in shape and size, the triangular holes at Fukuchiyama Castle are for firing the fire guns, while the rectangular holes are for bows and arrows.

If you are feeling a little peckish, head over to Yura no Garden (ゆらのガーデン). Whilst there aren’t many vegetarian menus made available, it is still a great place to source some food, especially desserts! When you get to the garden, you can utilize our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to place an order.

Toyoiwa Well (豊磐の井) and Chōki Shrine (朝暉神社)

On the east side of the castle keep, you should be able to see Japan’s deepest well. The well is as deep as 50 meters and has underground spring water at around the 30 meters mark!

Although it isn’t accessible now, there is an entrance to the secret passageway that leads you all the way to the second quarter (二ノ丸) of Fukuchiyama Castle. This was probably considered the safest spot to hide in during a castle raid (´▽`*).

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Opposite the well, you should be able to see the stone torii gate of Chōki Shrine, which marks the precinct of the castle’s guardian shrine. It enshrines the first lord of the Fukuchiyama Domain, Kutsuki Tanetsuna (朽木 稙綱).

Fukuchiyama Castle’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The castle is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
  • The castle closes from 28th to 31st of December and from 4th to 6th of January
  • The admission fee to enter the castle keep is
    • 330 yen for adults
    • 110 yen for children

To get to Fukuchiyama Castle, take the JR San-In Line (山陰本線) and get off at JR Fukuchiyama Station (福知山駅). There are two ways to get to the castle:

  • Via walk, it takes around 15 minutes
  • By Kyoto Kōtsū Bus’ (京都交通バス) route 10, Machinaka Junkan North Route (まちなか循環路線バス【北ルート】) and get off at Fukuchiyamajō Kōen-mae (福知山城公園前). From there, it is a 4-minute walk
    • HERE is the service’s timetable for buses departing for Fukuchiyama Castle.
    • HERE is the timetable for buses returning to Fukuchiyama Station
    • Please use the bus stop’s Japanese names to read same
  • If you are coming from Toyooka in Hyōgo Prefecture or Amanohashidate (天橋立), you can also take Kyoto Tango Railway’s (京都丹後鉄道) Miyafuku Line (宮福線) and get off at Fukuchiyama Station (福知山駅)
    • HERE is the timetable for train services bound for Fukuchiyama
    • HERE is the timetable for train services returning to Amanohashidate

Fukuchiyama Dance (福知山踊り)

If you have been paying attention to the manholes in Fukuchiyama, you might notice that in addition to the castle, there are also people dancing in front of the castle.

Fukuchiyama Otori or Fukuchiyama Dance is known to be the most complex traditional dance in Japan. Interestingly, the dance has something to do with Akechi Mitsuhide himself!

Apparently, the dance originated during the reconstruction of Fukuchiyama Castle when the workers started singing as they carried building materials for entertainment.

Nowadays, more than a hundred thousand people are learning this complicated dance. It has also been scientifically proven to activate certain parts of the brain!

Ⓒ 海の京都DMO

Fukuchiyama Oshiro Matsuri (福知山お城まつり)

The Fukuchiyama Oshiro Matsuri or Fukuchiyama Castle Festival is generally held on a weekend in mid-April in celebration of the spring season. As part of the two-day festival, more than 500 people at the parade dance the Fukuchiyama Otori throughout the city.

The 2022 Fukuchiyama Oshiro Matsuri was held on the 21st and the 22nd of May. For the 2023 event, you can refer to the official website HERE and translate it to English by Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.

Goryō Shrine (御靈神社)

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Goryō Shrine was originally an Inari Shrine that was known for overlooking the local’s prosperity. However, since Akechi Mitsuhide’s death after the Honnō-ji Incident, Fukuchiyama suffered from several natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding.

Due to this, people started to believe that the disasters were a curse of Akechi Mitsuhide. In 1705, more than 100 years after the incident, Akechi Mitsuhide was enshrined here in Goryō Shrine with written documents as objects of worship.

In the precinct of the Goryō Shrine, there is a smaller shrine, Teibō Shrine (堤防神社), that was erected with the hope that it would be free from damage from the floods. At the Goryō Park next to the shrine, a monument captures the magnitude of the flood caused by a typhoon in 1953. At the time, everything below that red line was submerged in water (this is around 20 meters above sea level).

How to Get to Goryō Shrine

Goryō Shrine is just a 10-minute walk from JR Fukuchiyama Station. From Fukuchiyama Castle, it is around a 15 to 20-minute walk.

Discover Other Attractions in Fukuchiyama

Shindoji-Bridge-Futasegawa-Gorge-Fukuchiyama-Kyoto-Japan
Click the photo to find out more information about this stunning spot!

In addition to Fukuchiyama Castle, Fukuchiyama City has many more amazing attractions that you might be interested in, including a stunning gorge and a shrine with a worship hall that requires some rock climbing skills to get to.

For more information, please refer to our article on Fukuchiyama City!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.