The cherry blossom is particularly significant in Japanese culture as it represents the end of dormant winter and the beginning of new life and the growing season of spring.
Following the weather report on evening news broadcasts, the Sakura Zensen (the Cherry-Blossom Front) is presented. The blooms begin to open in Okinawa first during February and the front typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April. It then proceeds north, arriving in Hokkaido a few weeks later. The Japanese pay close attention to these cherry blossom forecasts. They will go to parks, shrines and temples with family and friends and hold a flower viewing party (hanami).
There are countless places all over Japan to observe the blossoming sakura trees and one exceptionally beautiful spot is Marugame Castle, also known as Kameyama Castle, located in Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture.
Kagawa Prefecture, located on the island of Shikoku is the smallest prefecture in Japan. Marugame, is a port city in western Kagawa Prefecture, located just west of the Seto Ohashi Bridge, which connects Shikoku to Japan’s main island of Honshu. For many centuries, Marugame’s location along the Seto Inland Sea has made it a key player in maritime trade and transportation. Marugame Castle was constructed high up on a hill overlooking the city in an effort to help control the area. The castle is one of twelve original castles in Japan today (castles whose keeps have survived the post-feudal period intact).
The castle was constructed between 1597 and 1602 by the feudal lord, Ikoma Chikamasa, who also built Tamamo Castle in nearby Takamatsu. However, the construction of the castle violated a policy that limited the number of castles per province and was torn down in 1615. When the province split into two in 1660, Marugame Castle was rebuilt. Over the centuries many of the castle buildings were destroyed by fires and now only the original keep and several of the castle gates remain.
Today, the castle is a part of Kameyama Park and houses a small museum. The castle grounds are very popular during the spring as 1,000 cherry trees are planted around the walls and the keep. They bloom from late March through early April and an annual festival is held on the site during the first 2 weeks of April.
The castle is located 15 minutes on foot from Marugame Station. It is accessible from Tokyo via the Marunouchi Line to the Tokaido / Sanyo Shinkansen and transferring to the Yosan Line Limited Express. The entire journey takes approximately 5.5 hours to complete.
Visiting Hours : 9:00AM to 4:30PM
(Closed: December 25 to 31)