A special one-day castle lord experience at Ozu Castle—Japan’s first-ever castle where you can stay overnight

There is a special travel plan which lets you stay at a castle located in Ehime Prefecture in the Shikoku region. Let’s see what’s included in the plan!

Ozu City in Ehime Prefecture is a castle town known as an area where many warlords used to reside. In this article, we would like to introduce Japan’s first-ever castle stay service that lets you stay at a castle and have it all to yourself in the historical town. You will get to experience the Japanese history and culture as they really are, feeling like a castle lord or a princess.

The castle you will be staying in is Ozu Castle, which is said to have been built during the Kamakura period. Although its castle keep was once demolished, it was fully reconstructed in 2004. One of the things that you should notice is the traditional Japanese construction methods underpinned by Japan’s extraordinary craftsmanship, such as the fact that no nails were used to build the castle.

In Japan, people believe that it is important to pass down designs and techniques. Ozu Castle is a complete restoration of what it once was 400 years ago and is said to be a “miraculous castle that is living on into the present day,” and it was registered as UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage site in 2020.

A variety of experiences are offered during your stay. Upon arrival, you get to re-enact how Sadayasu Kato, the first Ozu domain lord, entered Ozu back in 1617. Watching a gun salute with arquebuses that has traditionally been performed since the Edo period, dressing in kimono and samurai armor, riding a horse, signaling with a shell horn, and being welcomed by samurai retainers, and more—it is just filled with so many exciting experiences.

A variety of experiences are offered for an immersive experience of the Japanese history and culture.

The interior has been constructed with timbers from trees that are over 300 years old. Surrounded by sturdy columns and the scent of hinoki cypress, you can relax both inside and out. Looking down at the town from here might make you experience the feelings of the former castle lords pondering on what to do to govern the domain.

The bedroom has an open ceiling, which goes all the way up to the top of the castle keep. Many traditional Japanese construction techniques, such as wood joinery, that have been passed down have also been used for the interior.

And the biggest highlight of staying at a hotel is, of course, the food. For dinner, you can enjoy local specialties that have been passed down by Ozu Hiroku (meaning “secret records of Ozu”), an old chorography from the Edo period, as well as those prepared by reinterpreting the dishes which are considered to have been consumed by then castle lord Sadayasu Kato, using modern techniques. The tableware is also exquisite, using Tobe ware porcelain, which originated when the Kato clan had the people make the porcelain ware as part of the financial reconstruction efforts of the Ozu domain.

With lush nature and beautiful rivers, the wide range of foods sourced from the ocean, mountains, and rivers is one of the things that make Ozu attractive.

From the lounge and the bathroom available exclusively to the hotel guests, you can enjoy the view of Ozu Castle, and it looks even more fantastical when it is illuminated at night. Moreover, during breakfast, you can have Garyu Sanso Villa, which was rated one star in 2011 Michelin Green Guide Japan, all to yourself. The calming moment, sensing the gentle sound of the river and the swaying of trees and plants, is perfect for the beginning of an enriching day.

You can enjoy breakfast with a clear state of mind while watching the river flow.

Garyu Sanso Villa is an architectural masterpiece which was built in the Meiji period, using the traditional Japanese sukiya-zukuri style. It has been designated as Japan’s Important Cultural Property.

The castle stay plan at Ozu Castle accepts only one group a day. The price for an overnight stay is 660,000 JPY (including tax) per person for a group of two, so it’s not that inexpensive. However, those who have stayed there always leave satisfied saying, “It’s truly worth the price.”

You can add optional services that let you enjoy champagne on a river boat along the Hiji River that runs through Ozu, and visit the buildings in the city where the look of the historical town is well-preserved, for example. Note that the options may vary depending on the season, so it is recommended to consult the hotel about your preferences in advance.

Ozu is a historical castle town which flourished thanks to Japanese wax and raw silk, and there is a program that lets you feel the town’s authentic vibes with all your five senses.

“NIPPONIA HOTEL Ozu Castle Town” is an initiative launched by Ozu City simultaneously with the Ozu Castle Stay. It is characterized by the unique concept of “distributed hotels” that sees the entire castle town as a single hotel. The aim of the initiative is to preserve the castle town buildings with high historical and cultural value for future generations while drawing attention through the unique experience of the castle stay. The proceeds from the castle stay are allocated to the protection and maintenance of cultural properties so that the money circulates within the community.

This is the view of some of the hotel buildings of the NIPPONIA HOTEL Ozu Castle Town. With a total of 26 hotel buildings and 31 rooms, it is one of the largest “distributed” hotel systems in Japan.

When you are using the castle stay, a concierge will drive you to and from the Matsuyama Airport or the Matsuyama Station. Maybe some of you have dreamt of living in a castle if you are interested in the Japanese culture. Why not make the dream come true at Ozu Castle?

■DATA Ozu Castle Stay Address: 888 Ozu,Ozu-shi, Ehime Prefecture Closed on August and December to February. ※Limited to 1 couple per day (2-6 people) Tel. 0120-210-289(11:00 - 20:00) Official website:https://castlestay.ozucastle.com/en/home Instagram: https://instagram.com/ozu_castle_stay/ (Information as of April 2024.)

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