Wakayama Castle 和歌山城
Dramatic castle in western Japan boasting lush gardens and easy access to a striking modern art museum
Situated on top of the small hill of Torafusu, the grounds and gardens surrounding Wakayama Castle are almost as spectacular as the architecture of the feudal fortress itself. Although World War II bombing destroyed most of the original castle buildings, a faithful reconstruction has successfully recreated an aura of power and authority.
- Having a cup of green matcha tea in the beautiful Nishi-no-Maru gardens
- Samurai armor and weapons on display in the central keep
- Okaguchi Gate, one of the few surviving structures from the original castle
How to Get There
Wakayama Castle is a 20-minute walk from Wakayama Station or a 10-minute walk from Nankai Wakayama-shi Station.
You can get to Wakayama Station from Osaka via either Shin-Osaka or Namba Station in an hour, or from Kyoto Station which takes 1.5 hours. There are buses from both stations to the Wakayama Castle Park entrance. Get off the bus at Koen-mae.
Wakayama Castle is one of Japan's "Three Great Flatland Mountain Castles," along with Iyo-Matsuyama and Himeji Castle
The curved stone walls of the castle are original, and were designed to fit the contours of the hill
The expansive castle grounds have long been Wakayama's go-to spot for cherry-blossom picnics in the spring
A center of historical happenings
In 1585, powerful warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the building of Wakayama Castle. Construction of Osaka Castle had begun two years previously and he appointed his brother to oversee the building of this new, grand structure to control the important coastal peninsula. The castle was occupied by one of the three most important Tokugawa sub-branches after the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1867). Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the castle was maintained and designated a National Treasure in 1935. Unfortunately, the castle was almost completely destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt in the 1950s.
Tea leaves and autumn leaves
While the vast open grounds in front of the castle are prime spring cherry-blossom territory, there's no need to feel left out if you visit in the autumn months. Come fall, the castle's traditional Nishi-no-Maru Teien Garden (also called Momiji-Dani, "Valley of Autumn Leaves") is bedecked in vibrant gold, yellow, and red foliage. Visit the teahouse and complement your viewing with some brilliant green matcha tea.
Dig deeper into Wakayama's feudal history
If a visit to the castle piques your historical interest, make a stop at the nearby Wakayama Historical Center . Keep hold of your castle admission ticket and use it to enter the center to discover more about the castle's construction and the key figures who rose and fell within its swooping white walls. You'll also find fascinating artifacts from the development of the area, including ancient texts, drawings, and excavated relics. There's even the original golden seal of the Tokugawa family. The small theater inside the center shows a short video about the rebuilding of the castle.
Modern art in ancient grounds
After getting your fill of the dramatic castle history, take a short walk south of the park for a more modern cultural experience. The Museum of Modern Art Wakayama has a collection of 10,000 art pieces, including a wealth of traditional woodcut prints and work by local artists. There are also pieces from global art giants such as Picasso, Rodin and Rothko. A small entry fee is charged.