Fukuoka Castle

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Fukuoka8.jpg

History
Kuroda Nagamasa received lands around present day Fukuoka for his service in the Battle of Sekigahara. Nagamasa came to Fukuoka in 1601 and began building Fukuoka Castle. In its time, Fukuoka Castle was the largest castle in Kyushu and boasted 47 yagura. Even though there is a foundation for a main keep, there is no evidence that a main keep was ever built. Noguchi Kazushige, who also assisted with Osaka and Edo Castles, built the stone walls of the castle. It is said Kato Kiyomasa was so impressed with the scale and workmanship, he nicknamed it the Stone Castle (Seki-jo).

The Kuroda family ruled for 12 generations and over 270 years. In 1871, the castle was decommissioned and most of the buildings were disassembled or moved.


Visit Notes

The above picture is of the extant Minami Tamon Yagura, an Important Cutural Property, donated by KyushuDan of Japanese Castle Explorer.

Update by ART (Jan 2024; visited 2019):

Fukuoka Castle is a major Edo period hirayamajiro (hilltop-flatland) castle site in Kyūshū; in fact it was the greatest castle in that region in its day. Ruins include mizubori (water moats), including the Ôhori lake; (lots of) ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), including the tenshudai (donjon platform); dorui (earthen embankments); and both extant and reconstructed castle structures.

The Kinen-yagura (Prayer Turret), so-called because its positioning in the northeast guarded the kimon (demon gate), a spiritual dimension through which ill things could pass unless properly warded off, was inexplicably MISSING when I visited. Restorative work is being carried out on the ramparts below it so for the duration of that time the yagura has gone into storage. I wish to re-visit Fukuokajō after it comes back.

I was thoroughly impressed with Fukuokajō and enjoyed epxloring it. I could've spent much longer there and hopefully will next time; the whole Ôhori area I left aside. My general impression is that Fukuokajō is regarded more slightly than it perhaps warrants, although this might be said for all Kyūshū sites except beloved Kumamotojō. I did see the same problems at multiple sites in Kyūshū though... lacklustre reconstructions, concrete where it shouldn't be, &c. I would recommend Fukuokajō to any and all castle fans, apart from those very discerning types who absolutely must have a gigantic tower to look at (I tease!).

The Mystery of the Tenshudai:

The mystery concerning Fukuokajō's tenshudai is whether it actually had a tenshu (donjon) built upon it. There is a very speculative theory that the castle tower was cruciform shaped, and that it was destroyed, along with documentation on it, during the anti-Christian purges in the early 17th century. Roof tiles have been unearthed around the tenshu but this does not prove that the building built upon the tenshudai was actually the main keep. A map of the castle in 1646 does not show a main keep structure. There are theories that a tenshu was initially built but demolished for one reason or another.

Kōrokan (鴻臚館・筑紫館):

The site of Fukuokajō was formerly the site of the Kōrokan, a guest house for foreign dignitaries throughout the 7th to 11th centuries (Asuka period through to Heian period). There is an exhibition hall built in a sort of mock classical style but it is by no means a reconstruction. The site was excavated in the late 1990s. Two other 'guest houses' like Kōrokan existed elsewhere in Japan but their locations are not known for sure, making the Kōrokan find one of great significance. The architecture conformed to that of administrative institutions of ancient and classical Japan (for example, palaces and jōsaku). Kōrokan was also known as Tsukushi no Murotsumi (some yamato-kotoba for you).

Fukuoka-based history blogger Rekishi-Nihon has written up a great description based on resources available at his local castle... please see friends of JCastle section to the right or below.




Gallery
  • Minami tamon yagura
  • Omotemon Gate
  • Kinen Yagura
  • shimonohashi otemon gate
  • shimonohashi otemon gate
  • stone walls
  • stone walls
  • stone walls
  • stone walls
  • stone walls
  • stone walls
  • Fukuoka Castle map
  • Najimamon, relocated from Najima Castle in 1961


Castle Profile
English Name Fukuoka Castle
Japanese Name 福岡城
Alternate Names Maizuru-jo, Seki-jo
Founder Kuroda Nagamasa
Year Founded 1601
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Top 100 Castles, has Important Cultural Properties, National Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Artifacts Minami Maru Tamon Yagura
Features stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Hakata Sta. (Kagoshima Line)
Visitor Information
Time Required
Website http://www.city.fukuoka.jp/contents/7d14c212173a/7d14c212173a66.htm
Location Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Coordinates 33° 35' 3.80" N, 130° 22' 59.20" E
Loading map...
Admin
Added to Jcastle 2006
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed
Friends of JCastle
Japanese Castle Explorer
Nihon Rekishi


3.00
(23 votes)
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avatar

ARTShogun

5 months ago
Score 0++
Updated visit notes section with some more info and my own impressions.
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Matthew WardGunshi

10 months ago
Score 0++
I did some reading about the Kinen Turret and its whereabouts. Looks like it was dismantled in 2019 for ishigaki repairs and its parts were put in storage. It was supposed to have been restored in 2022, but there has been no recent news that I can find about it being restored, so presumably it's still in storage. I suppose it has been delayed for some reason. Hopefully they will get around to putting it back together soon.
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ARTShogun

12 months ago
Score 1++
Added Najimamon
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Matthew WardGunshi

14 months ago
Score 1++

I haven't been to this castle yet, but from reading about it, it seems that there are several original yagura and gates left. A few of the yagura seem to have been moved and then relocated back to the castle fairly recently.

The status of the Shimonohashi Otemon Gate pictured above is a little unclear to me: it was the victim of arson in the year 2000, but my poor Japanese reading can't quite tell whether it was completely destroyed and reconstructed or demaged and repaired. For what it's worth, it's still listed as a Prefectural Cultural Asset.

Anyway, seems like it's quite a big site, and sounds like a worthy castle to visit.
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Kikima34Gunshi

54 months ago
Score 0++

Visited in Winter 2020. Although there are very few structures left on the site, the grounds do a very good job at telling you what was where. There are many informative signs, which I liked. When I was there, the plum blossoms were just starting to bloom. The castle grounds has many great spots for viewing flowers and the hilltop view is very great!

This castle is also in a great location as it is close to several famous parks. Overall, it was a great time.
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ARTShogun

56 months ago
Score 0++

Fukuoka Castle is a major Edo Period hirayamajiro (hilltop-flatland) castle site in Kyūshū, in fact it was the greatest castle in that region in its day. Ruins include mizubori (water moats), including the Ôhori lake; (lots of) ishigaki (stone-piled ramparts), including the tenshudai (donjon platform); dorui (earthen embankments); and both extant and reconstructed castle structures.

The Kinen-yagura (Prayer Turret), so-called because its positioning in the northeast guarded the kimon (demon gate), a spiritual dimension through which ill things could pass unless properly warded off, was inexplicably /missing/ when I visited. Restorative work is being carried out on the ramparts below it so for the duration of that time the yagura has gone into storage, as it were, although where it is and in what state I don't know - maybe it's a secret. It has been missing from August and I do not know when it will return. I was thinking of putting pictures of it on milk cartons but then I found a facebook post explaning its absence; presumably it will return in due time when the ishigaki on which it stands is made safe. I wish to re-visit Fukuokajō after it comes back.

I was also rebuffed at the tenshudai, where some maintenance work was being done, seemingly just to cut back grass. So I couldn't climb the tenshudai or properly inspect the stonework surrounding it due to the workmen, so this was also a bitter disappointment. The workmen could've been more helpful. One just stood vaguely in my way and then when I gave him a nod and awkwardly tried to shift pass he blocked my way without any attempt at explanation. This was vexing but I soon let them get on with their jobs...

Despite these set backs I was thoroughly impressed with Fukuokajō and enjoyed epxloring it. I could've spent much longer there and hopefully will next time; the whole Ôhori area I left aside. My general impression is that Fukuokajō is regarded more slightly than it perhaps warrants, although this might be said for all Kyūshū sites except beloved Kumamotojō. I did see the same problems at multiple sites in Kyūshū though... lacklustre reconstructions, concrete where it shouldn't be, &c., but I will discuss that some other time. I would recommend Fukuokajō to any and all castle fans, apart from those very discerning types who absolutely must have a gigantic tower to look at (I tease!).

Apart from the highlight photos, these pictures are presented in the order that I took them (but I removed many which weren't clear, showed basically the same thing or were duplicates), so that basically you can see the route I took around the castle: I tried to spiral around and gradually inward toward the main bailey, and then proceeded directly to the Shiomi-yagura in the north of the castle.

History:

Stuart Iles has written up a great description based on resources available at the castle: https://reki...uoka-castle/

Most English language wikipedia articles on Japanese castles are rubbish, but Fukuokajō may just have the best. It's quite an extensive description of the castle so I will share it here (I cannot guarantee that everything written is accurate -- because it's wikipedia and anyone can edit it)... Please see: https://en.w...kuoka_Castle

The Mystery of the Tenshudai (福岡城天守台):

I've talked before on this page about Fukuokajō's mysterious tenshudai and whether it actually had a tenshu (donjon) built upon it, including a whacky theory that the castle tower was cruciform shaped, and that it was destroyed, along with documentation on it, during the anti-Christian purges. Roof tiles have been unearthed around the tenshu but this does not prove that the building built upon the tenshudai was actually the main keep. A map of the castle in 1646 does not show a main keep structure. There are theories that a tenshu was initially built but demolished for one reason or another. I welcome any information you may have on the subject!

Kōrokan (鴻臚館・筑紫館):

The site of Fukuokajō was formerly the site of the Kōrokan, a guest house for foreign dignitaries throughout the 7th to 11th centuries (Asuka Period through to Heian Period). There is an exhibition hall built in a sort of mock classical style but it is by no means a reconstruction. The site was excavated in the late 1990s. Two other "guest houses" like Kōrokan existed elsewhere in Japan but their locations are not known for sure, making the Kōrokan find one of great significance. The architecture conformed to that of administrative institutions of Ancient and Classical Japan (for example, palaces and Jōsaku). Kōrokan was also known as Tsukushi no Murotsumi (some yamato-kotoba for you).
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ARTShogun

57 months ago
Score 0++
Somewhat underrated, I felt this castle had much to offer in terms of structures, ishigaki, and nawabari. Unfortunately I was restricted access from the tenshudai.
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DiegoDeManilaAshigaru

105 months ago
Score 0++
Visited for a second time in March 2015 (https://with...-march-2015/). Not much left of the castle itself, but there's an excellent view of the city to be had from the tenshu base. The remains of the Asuka/Heian-era kōrokan that have been excavated on the castle grounds are a highlight of the experience.
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Anonymous user #1

123 months ago
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Visited: 11 April 2014 ☆

Unfortunately only a view buildings left, but wonderful view from upthere.
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

123 months ago
Score 0++
Liked this immensely, huge area which would have looked impressive in its day.
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FurinkazanDaimyo

137 months ago
Score 1++
I arrived today in Japan and landed directly in Fukuoka. After visiting some temples and shrines i went to this site. Since it was raining this morning i took the subway to Asakasa-station. From there it is a small walk to the site. There are now very big excavations fo the diplomatic center Kôrokan of the Heian period. The first building entering the site of the castle is the information center. Don't miss it, they'll provide you with a map of the site in english. Look at the explanation-movie. You will see some 3d rendering of the castle. Go then to the Kôrokan where you can obtain the nihon 100 meijô-stamp. From there follow the route on the map. You will go to every interesting place and building. There are lots of information panels(with english). The buildings and ishigaki are interesting.
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RaymondWDaimyo

150 months ago
Score 0++
Prior to the construction of Fukuoka Castle, there was another castle nearby. Najima Castle, which was built by Kobayakawa Takakage in 1587, was about 5km away from Fukuoka Castle. However, the terrain restricted the expansion of the Najima Castle, so Kuroda Yoshitaka and his son, Kuroda Nagamasa, relocated to a new location and built Fukuoka Castle over a seven-period, starting in 1601. This was one of the largest castles built in the early Edo Period. It covered 2.46 million square metres and had 47 yaguras (turrets). According to one sign at the castle site, the experts still could not decide if a castle keep was actually built, but based on the size of the stone foundation, they estimated that it had a five-storey main castle tower with other lesser castle towers attached to form a multi-towered castle keep. This castle ruin has a couple of original yaguras left: the Tamon Yagura in the Minaminomaru (Southern Bailey) and the Kinen Yagura (Prayer Turret), located on the northeastern corner of the Honmaru (Main Bailey). There is also one original Honmaru gate, the Omote-Gomon, which was moved to Sofuji Temple in 1918 and is now the Sofuji Sanmon Gate. One of Najima Castle’s original gates, a side gate, can also be found at Fukuoka Castle. It is a very easy castle site to visit as it is just a short subway ride from Hakata Station to Ohori-koen Station, which is just a few hundred metres from the restored Shimonohashi Otemon (damaged in a fire in 2000.) For castle fans who want to get their 100 Meijo Stamp, you will have to go to the Korokan. Entry is free, and it is a museum about a diplomatic embassy between China and Japan. The Korokan stood near Hakata Bay from the second half of the 7th century until the 11th century. Also, if you are interested in learning more about the two Mongol Invasions of Japan in the 13th century, there is the small but interesting Museum of Mongol Invasions near Maidashikyudaibyoinmae Station on the subway. It is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, but if you call ahead and make an appointment, they can open up the museum for you on a weekday. Since my previous visit to Fukuoka Castle in 2008, the local authorities have put up some new signs giving more detailed information about the castle and its history. Combined with the Korokan, this castle site is worth three stars as it has some original structures and good detailed signs in four languages including English.
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Frank T.Gunshi

155 months ago
Score 0++
There is no keep, but the grounds are extensive, and there's enough to make it interesting and worth a visit. Besides, Fukuoka is a great town.