In the Edo Period, Kitsuki City flourished as a castle town. The city center is referred to as “Sandwich Castle Town”, because this commercial area is sandwiched between two samurai residential areas on the northern and southern hills. There are many slopes that connects both areas, but the most beautiful slope is “Suya-no-Saka” that rises to Kitadai in the north. Such slopes have beautiful cobblestoned pavements and are the best places to enjoy the landscape while also wearing kimono.
The city itself is referred to as “Little Kyoto” because of the atmosphere of the Edo period all over the town. It is also certified as the “historic townscape where kimonos look right at home”. Due to its looks, it often serves as the location for historical shows and movies.
Access to Kitsuki City
Arriving by airplane:
Approximately 1h 30 mins from Haneda airport to Oita airport. About half an hour bus ride from Oita airport to Oita Station. The nearby Hiji bus stop will take you to Kitsuki Station in some 15 minutes.
Arriving by train:
Approximately 4h 45 mins by JR Tokaido bullet train from Tokyo station to Kokura station.
About 1h by JR Kagoshima Honsen Line from Kokura station to Kitsuki Station.
Kitsuki Castle, the smallest castle in Japan
In Kitsuki City you find Kitsuki Castle, which is considered the smallest castle in Japan. There are few existing castles in Oita prefecture, making this castle very popular amongst tourists. The current castle tower was rebuilt in 1970 and the scenery of the Beppu Bay is fabulous from the it! Kitsuku Castle also look very picturesque from a distance and is especially beautiful at dusk. Since the city is known as a historical town where kimonos fit right in, there are many shops renting kimonos; and strolling around the castle in kimono is highly recommended.
Traditional dishes unique to the Castle Town
Musha-jiru is one of the traditional local dishes of Kitsuki City. It’s a kind of miso soup with chopped vegetables and deep fried fish cake. The name of the dish – “Musha-jiru” – is new, and was changed 10 years ago from its original name: “Dango-jiru ( dumpling soup) in fisherman’s village”. Dango-jiru is the older version and was served with normal fish cakes. The dish was changed when deep fried fish cake was used instead. It was so tasty that the dish became a stable and acquired its new name.
There is another traditional food called “Ureshino” which is rice soaked in tea with sea bream. The story behind the name “Ureshino” comes from a story saying that a long time ago, the lord of the castle ate this dish and because he loved it said “Ureshiino” (which means “I’m happy” in Japanese). The sea bream is marinated in sesame flavored sauce and then put on the rice that has been soaked in tea instead of broth. To try it yourself, visit the restaurant Wakaeya, which has served the same flavor of “Ureshino” since 1698.
Kitsuki City is a fascinating town which can take you back to the Edo period in many ways, so why not visit!
Oita Prefecture official tourism information site:
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