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Top 3 things you must not miss in Karatsu City

Karatsu

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The history of Karatsu City

Karatsu City is located in Saga prefecture in Kyushu. Karatsu City is actually the product of several smaller towns merging into one city in 2005.

karatsu city
Part of Karatsu City, seen from Karatsu Castle

In the past Karatsu was an important trading port between China and Korea, and this is reflected in the name ‘Karatsu’. ‘Kara’ means ‘China’ or the continent of East Asia, and ‘tsu’ means port. Today Karatsu is the most famous for the Karatsu Kunchi festival taking place in early November.

1.Karatsu Castle

Karatsu Castle is one of the most beautiful castles I have seen in Japan. I think it’s even more beautiful than the famous Himeji Castle. Karatsu Castle is sometimes called Maizuru, which translates into ‘Dancing Crane’. The castle earned this nickname because it resembles a crane with its wings spread. The top part of the castle looks like the head of the crane.

Karatsu castle
Karatsu Castle seen from the sea side

Karatsu

The castle was constructed in 1608, near Karatsu Bay, looking out over the water. It has a stunning view of its surroundings, including the interesting Takashima Island. Karatsu Castle is built on high ground and is surrounded by trees making it look separate from the city below. The best time to visit the Karatsu Castle is in spring when the cherry blossoms and the wisteria bloom around the property.

takashima island
Takashima Island seen from Karatsu Castle

Currently the castle is under construction until spring 2017. You can still see the castle, but you cannot enter during the construction. The best view of Karatsu Castle is from the pier where boats depart to Takashima Island. It is about a 10-minute walk from the castle. Please see the map below.

Karatsu Castle, Opening hours and ticket price:

Opening hours: 09:00-17:00
Entry fees: ¥410 per adult

Website: here

Karatsu Castle, How to get there:

The closest train station is Karatsu Station – a 20-minute walk from the castle. You can also take a bus from the station, get off at Karatsujo Iriguchi. It’s about a 7-minute bus ride.

2.Former Takatori Residence

The Takatori Residence is considered an Important Cultural Property and it’s easy to understand why. It’s an amazing mixture of Western and different Asian styles. It has influences from the western countries as well as Japan, China and Korea. It all blends together into a fantastic, extra-ordinary residence.

takatori residence
The entrance of Takatori Residence
Takatori residence
Takatori Residence seen from behind
Noh stage
Noh stage

There is a guided tour around the massive house, and it is available in both English and Japanese. The guide will show you the remarkable details of the house, including built in fireplaces, imported tile, and beautiful paintings with natural motifs such as plants and animals painted in stunning ink shades and unique style.

It is widely believed that the Takatori is one of the last remaining residential houses with a built in Noh stage. Historically, even in a grand estate, it was rare to find a built-in Noh stage.  The Takatori Residence is very unique for this reason.

I have always been fascinated by the old houses and architecture of Japan, and have visited several interesting buildings during my time in the country. The Former Takatori Residence remains one of my absolute favourites – certainly my favourite place to see in Karatsu, and more generally a top site to see in the city.

The owner of Takatori Residence

The former Takatori Residence belonged to a businessman named Takatori Koreyoshi in the Meiji period. He learned about mining and helped to develop and improve Karatsu’s coal mining in a time when they needed it the most. His contribution was considered so large that he earned the nickname, “the King of Coal.”

Former Takatori Residence, Opening hours and ticket price:

Opening hours: 09:30-17:00
Entry fees: ¥510 per adult

Website: here (only in Japanese)
Guided tour takes approximately 1 hour and is available in Japanese and English.

Former Takatori Residence, How to get there:

The residence is located 20 minutes walking from Karatsu Station. Alternatively, it is possible to take a 10-minute bus ride from Karatsu station to Jonainiomon followed by a 5-minute walk to the Takatori Residence.

3.Former Karatsu Bank

The bank building was completed in 1912 in western style and it was used as a bank until 1997. Karatsu Bank was designed by a local architect from Karatsu, Minoru Tanaka. Minoru Tanaka was an apprentice of the famous architect Tatsuno Kingo who designed the JR Tokyo Station.

karatsu former bank building
Former Karatsu Bank building

Today the building is open for the public and it is definitely worth a visit as one of the top things to do in Karatsu City. The first floor is used as an event space, and the second floor displays works and documents by the famous architect Tatsuno Kingo. The reception counter of the bank still remains and it is made in heavy, well-polished wood.

reception karatsu bank
The original reception counter of Karatsu Bank

Former Karatsu Bank, Opening hours and ticket price:

Opening hours: 09:00-18:00
Entry fee: Free

Former Karatsu Bank, How to get there:

Located a 10-minute walk from Karatsu station.

 

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