April 26, 2024

Live like a lord or lady for a night at Ozu Castle



Guests have the whole castle tower to themselves.

Did you know you can stay in a castle overnight and experience the life of a feudal lord or lady? Ozu Castle Stay lets one couple at a time rent out the entire castle in the Ehime city of Ozu for just over ¥1.3 million ($8,800) per night.

Ozu Castle, a designated Important Cultural Property that is usually open to the public, dates back to the end of the Kamakura Period. It originally was known as Jizogatake Castle, built in 1331 by the local lord Toyofusa Utsunomiya and used by his family for over 200 years. After that, it was gradually modernized under a succession of different lords, eventually attaining its present form around 1617, when Sadayasu Kato became the lord. Unfortunately, the castle’s four-level tower, its tallest and most conspicuous part, was demolished in 1888, but it was rebuilt in 2004.

Castles generally are reconstructed using concrete these days, and it initially looked like this tower would go the same way. But, due to the existence of good historical records, including a wooden model of the original castle from the Edo Period and good-quality photographs taken from multiple perspectives, it was determined that the tower could be rebuilt in wood. Involving traditional carpentry techniques, the project cost ¥1.3 billion.

When guests arrive, they are welcomed as the new “lords” of the castle, with their armor-clad “vassals” providing a matchlock-gun salute.

The castle’s four turrets date back to the Edo Period, and all have been designated as Important Cultural Properties. If you stay there, you even eat dinner in one of the turrets.

Staying at the castle, which has been possible since July 2020, is a one-of-a-kind experience that begins even before you enter.

As a guest, you are met at Matsuyama Airport by staffers dressed as samurai. They drive you to Ozu, where you get changed — male guests into armor and women into traditional kimono. You then enter the castle grounds as its new “lords” as the sun sets.

You are welcomed by your “vassals” with a conch shell horn and drums and a salute with matchlock guns, a ceremony based on historical records from the time when Kato was the lord. Kagura, a traditional form of Shinto music and dance, is also performed. Dinner is then served in the Takaran tower, with dishes based on food eaten by the original feudal lords. You can take a bath in newly built facilities while enjoying a view of the castle, and then retire to bed in a tower. During your stay, only a butler and the chef are permitted to enter the castle, letting you enjoy peace and privacy.

All in all, it is a genuinely rare treat, including not just the castle but the ceremonies and traditional performing arts, which themselves can be considered as forms of intangible heritage.

For dinner, guests enjoy the “Lord’s Meal,” with traditional dishes likely to have been eaten by real feudal lords of the past, only prepared using modern techniques.

Guests are treated to their own private performance of kagura, a traditional performing art of this region.


国の重要文化財に指定される「城」に泊まれることをご存じだろうか? 愛媛県大洲市の「大洲城キャッスルステイ」だ。2020年に始まった取り組みで1日1組限定、二人で1泊約120万円で城に泊まることができる。天守は1888年に解体されたが(2004年に木造で復元)、城郭には4棟の櫓(やぐら)が江戸時代から現存し、このすべてが国指定の重要文化財となっている。城に泊まる際には、この櫓でディナーを食べるなど、実際に使用することができるのがこのプランの醍醐味だ。



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