Located in Saga Prefecture (佐賀県) on Kyushu Island (九州), Karatsu (唐津) is a city filled with the beauty of Japanese culture. The city was an important trading port in the past because of its proximity to China and Korea. Karatsu’s name has its origin from the words “kara (唐),” meaning China or continental East Asia, and “tsu (津),” meaning port.
Most recently, the city’s locations were used as inspiration for the anime, Yuri!!! on ICE. If you are a fan of the anime or if you just really want to explore the city, on this list are 15 activities that you can do while vacationing in Karatsu!
Karatsu Castle was built in 1602 by Terasawa Hirotaka (寺沢広高), a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉). The castle is located in the northern part of Karatsu City and it faces the sea. The castle is a hirayamajiro (平山城) or a castle built on a plain instead of a hill or mountain. Karatsu Castle is also known as the “Dancing Crane Castle” or Maizuru-jo (舞鶴城) because it looks similar to a bird with spread wings.
During spring, visiting Karatsu Castle is a very pleasant experience because the cherry blossom trees and Wisteria flowers are in full bloom.
Kagamiyama Onsen was recently used as inspiration for the anime, Yuri!!! on ICE. When you visit this place, it will be very hard to miss because of its large Japanese gate with the name “鏡山温泉” written on it. When you enter the reception area, you will see that they are selling local souvenirs. Aside from relaxing in their onsen, be sure to try out their katsudon (カツ丼), which was also featured on Yuri!!! on ICE.
The Niji no Matsubara Pine Grove is considered as one of the three greatest pine forests in Japan. In the 17th century, Terasawa Hirotaka, the first lord of Karatsu, planted pine trees along the coastline for protection against the wind and tide. “Niji no Matsubara” means “rainbow beach with a forest of pine trees.”
The Yobuko Morning Market can be found on Asaichi-dori Street (朝市通り). It is considered as one of the three largest morning markets in Japan. Here, you can find fresh seafood, vegetables, fruits, and dried specialties at reasonable prices. You can even bargain with the shop owners. This morning market is said to have begun in the Taisho (大正) period. The market is open from 7:30 am to 12:00 pm.
This mansion is the former residence of Koreyoshi Takatori (高取伊好), the owner of the Kishima (杵島) coal mine and other businesses. The site has two large buildings of about 300 square meters. The buildings include a Noh stage (能舞台), interiors with plant and animal carvings, paintings on sliding doors, etc. To preserve the place, photography is prohibited inside.
When in Karatsu, do not miss out on this! This food stall sells handmade burgers. Karatsu Burger Oteguchi is very well known for their demi-glace sauce. Their burgers are served with two burger patties, an egg, and a slice of ham.
The Genkai Quasi-National Park is located on the Genkai coast of three prefectures, namely Fukuoka (福岡), Saga, and Nagasaki (長崎). This national park was founded in June 1956 and is famous for the Nanatsugama caves. These are seven caves formed by erosion and are as high as 5 meters and as deep as 110 meters. It is also possible to board a boat and view the caves up close.
The Nagoya Castle was built in 1591 by Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi but was destroyed in 1598. Currently, only the stone fence and camp remain. The castle tower foundation is a perfect spot for hanami (花見) or flower viewing during spring.
The Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum is located inside the Nagoya Castle Ruins. Exhibits in the museum include materials related to the castle and the history of the cultural exchange between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
Karatsu ware or Karatsu-yaki (唐津焼), along with Raku-yaki (楽焼) and Hagi-yaki (萩焼), are Japan’s great tea ceramics. Karatsu-yaki is fondly called “Chato (茶陶),” which means tea ceramics, and it was very well loved by tea ceremony masters from the ancient times. Karatsu ware was originally made for everyday use. The style used for Karatsu pottery is said to be a perfect example of the wabi-sabi aesthetic.
Mt. Kagamiyama is a mountain 284 meters above sea level. At the summit, there is a lookout point, a lawn area, and a rest area. From here, you can see spectacular views of Karatsu City, including Karatsu Bay, the Niji no Matsubara Pine Grove, and Iki Island (壱岐島) of the neighboring Nagasaki Prefecture.
Kagamiyama also has many legends surrounding it, with it being referenced in the Man’yoshu (万葉集), which is the oldest collection of Japanese poems.
Mikaeri no Taki waterfalls is located in Ouchi (相知), south of Karatsu City. This place is a sight to see during the different seasons because, in spring, it is adorned with lots of cherry blossoms, in summer, it is full of greenery, and during fall, the place is filled with autumn leaves.
The Mikaeri no Taki waterfalls has been designated as one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan. The Hydrangea Festival (アジサイ祭り) is held from June to July and you can see hydrangeas of different colors in full bloom here.
This sightseeing spot is a must-visit if you want to witness a beautiful sunset. For viewing pleasure, it is recommended to visit Oura Tanada Rice Terraces during the rice planting season which is from May to June. This has also been selected as one of the best rice terraces in Japan.
Karatsu Shrine was established during the Nara (奈良) period. Since then, successive feudal lords have respected this shrine and the townsfolk have always shown their support. The shrine sponsors the Karatsu Kunchi Festival (唐津くんち) which is held in November of every year.
The Karatsu Kunchi Festival is also known as the Festival of Karatsu Shrine. It is considered as the major event in the Karatsu calendar. The festival is held annually, beginning on the evening of November 2nd and ending on November 4th.
In this event, massive colorful floats called hikiyama (曳山) are pulled through the streets. Hikiyama are made from washi paper plastered on bamboo or wooden frames. They are then lacquered and decorated with gold and silver leaves. A total of 14 hikiyama can be seen during the festival.
These are just 15 activities you can do when you visit Karatsu. When you get there, you might even discover other things to do and other places to visit. Just always remember to have fun while you are there!