Japan’s former castle town, Usuki (臼杵), is one of the off-the-beaten-track areas offering tourists a chance to see some of old Japan. Usuki is located on the east coast of Oita Prefecture (大分県) in Kyushu (九州). There are so many places to visit in Usuki and these retain the beauty of the old castle town. To give you an insight on the popular attractions frequented by people from around the world, here are three top attractions in Usuki you should visit if you’re interested in Japanese architecture and history.
Usuki Castle, also known as Nyujima Castle (丹生島城), was completed in 1562 during the seat of Daimyo Otomo Sorin (大友宗麟), a Japanese feudal lord who’s one of a few to have converted to Roman Catholicism. It is situated on a rocky top which defended it from enemy attack. In some events, it defended itself by using cannons.
However, in 1578, enemies surrounded the castle in order to cut off the castle’s supplies and compel people to surrender inside. This battle was called the Battle of Mimikawa (耳川の戦い), where the castle occupants were starved out. It was only during the Meiji (明治) Period that the castle was dismantled, according to the order of the imperial government. The ruins of the castle are now being managed under Usuki Park (臼杵公園), which is popular for its cherry blossom trees during the spring season. The castle is accessible through a 10-minute walk from the JR Usuki Station. The remaining stone walls of the castle, the reconstructed gates, and the guard towers make the whole place a fascinating spot to visit.
Not far from the castle is the home of the Inaba Family (稲葉家), a samurai kin group which rose to prominence in the Sengoku (戦国) Period and Edo (江戸) Period. This samurai residence will give you a glimpse of the samurai lifestyle.
The residence is surrounded by traditional gardens making it perfect for strolls. The garden also has a warehouse where you can buy souvenirs. It is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Another samurai residence which can also be visited belongs to Marumo family (丸毛家). It is not as lavish as the Inaba residence but contains several elements that showcase the life of the samurai. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
The Nioza historical district is an old-style road in Oita prefecture. Walking in this place will lead you to numerous temples, and its laneways are made of cobblestones and traditional walls.
Other than gateways to temples, there are also gateways leading to residences. Since the place is visited by tourists most of the time, English signs can be found as you walk along. It provides information regarding the original samurai occupants. If you like shopping, you can head to Haccho Oji (八町大路), the traditional shopping street of the district. You may also see some red cat symbols as you walk around the area. These are called “lucky cats” and are used by locals to attract fortune.
Usuki is one of the best places in Oita which can be explored on foot or by bicycle. Apart from the attractions, the place is also boasting in its local cuisines. Why not explore this feudal castle town and its origins before they get lost in time?