October escape—celebrate the arrival of autumn at Wakayama Castle
Wakayama Prefecture’s historic flagship attraction, Wakayama Castle, was a residential castle of the Kishu Tokugawa family, one of the three branch families of the Tokugawa, based in the Kishu Domain in the Edo period (1603-1868). Reflecting the majesty of these historical noble families, this magnificent castle is counted among the 100 Famous Castles of Japan.
At the end of October, I visited Wakayama Prefecture, where autumn was starting to take hold.
The origin of Wakayama Castle can be traced back to 1585, when Hashiba (Toyotomi) Hideyoshi ordered his younger brother to build the castle. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the castle was taken over by the Asano family before Tokugawa Yorinobu (a son of Ieyasu who was the first Tokugawa shogun, or the ruler of the country) moved in and established the Kishu Domain, which was administered by one of the three branch families of Tokugawa.
The Kishu Tokugawa family produced many shoguns, including the famous 8th shogun, Yoshimune, and the 14th successor, Iemochi.
Having succeeded in his shogunate reform initiatives in the middle of the Edo period, Yoshimune became known as a reviver of the nation. Today, a bronze statue of this eminent historical figure watches over the city.
The castle’s extensive premises attract many local hikers.
Its must-see attractions include the castle tower and Nishinomaru Garden. Located on the north side of the castle tower, this garden features a circuit style (stroll style) that was popular in the early Edo period (17th century).
Also called “Momijidani Teien” (“garden of a maple tree valley”), this historic garden is known for its beautiful and elegant autumn foliage views.
When I visited the castle, the trees were not yet in full autumn splendor, but I could still see beautiful scenery of green, yellow and red leaves mixed together.
The view of the Engyokaku Pavilion floating in the moat is truly picturesque.
Behind the moat is the Ohashi Roka Bridge, which used to connect the garden with Ninomaru, which housed residences of domain feudal lords and the government affairs building.
Only feudal lords and their attendants were allowed to cross this bridge, which has a roof and walls so that the internal view is hidden from the outside.
The view of the main castle tower seen through the bridge’s window was only accessible to feudal lords.
The garden features the Koshoan Tea House, where guests can enjoy the garden view accompanied by matcha tea and confections, which vary by season. On the day of my visit, they were serving a confection with a printed image of Japanese pampas grass, which made it a perfect tea companion for autumn.
It was a true privilege to relax and savor tea surrounded by a refreshing autumn breeze in the tranquil tea house.
After the tea break, I headed off to the main castle tower!
Though the tower burned down in an air raid during WWII, it was rebuilt in 1958 in response to earnest requests from local residents.
On the display inside the tower are valuable items such as weapons that used to belong the Kishu Domain.
The tower oversees the entire city of Wakayama. Peeking over the horizon is the mountain range featuring the Koyasan World Heritage Site.
This cute ceiling light features Kishu Temari balls!
Stepping out of the castle tower, I came across a “welcoming ninja team”!
They offer various types of services such as assistance for guests in wheelchairs and castle tours across Wakayama Castle Park.
I had a wonderful autumn escape at this mesmerizing castle.
If you are visiting Wakayama Prefecture, you should also visit the Nanki Shirahama Beach Resort, which is home to great nature, hot springs, seafood delicacies and adorable animals!
Trip to Nanki Shirahama in Wakayama
*The information herein is as of October 2020.