Ohori Park is an extremely popular site for walking and jogging in an area noted for its water and greenery. Not as many people extend their walk to the site of the Fukuoka Castle Ruins next to the park, however. The castle was built by Kuroda Nagamasa, who was a major contributor to the victory of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the battle of Sekigahara. He built the castle after being awarded a large fiefdom for his services. It was a magnificent structure that required seven years to erect. It was also known as Maizuru Castle, because it was said to resemble a crane dancing in the sky when viewed from the sea. Ohori Park was the site of the castle moat.
Unfortunately, most of the structure, including the castle tower, no longer remains. Several gates and turrets still stand on the castle grounds, however, including the Shimonohashi Gate and the Tamon and Shiomi turrets. The existing stone walls are quite beautiful, and their appearance gives one an idea of the splendor of the castle when it was still standing. There are also many trees on the castle grounds, making it a pleasant place to stroll when the plums and cherries are in bloom.
The view from the highest point on the grounds where the tower once stood offers a terrific view of Hakata Bay and the surrounding area. The keep is the symbol of Japanese castles, but it is not clear whether Fukuoka Castle had one. That is a great mystery which is still debated by researchers. Based on the size of the foundation stones and walls, however, the castle keep would have been five levels had one existed.
The Fukuoka-jo Mukashi Tambokan opened on one part of the castle grounds this April. It features an exhibit of a scale model of the castle and a video explaining the castle’s origins and history. Admission is free, and it’s an excellent spot for taking a short break. It’s worth dropping by if you’re walking to or from the castle site.
Originally published in Jun. 2012.