Kishiwada Castle and the Danjiri Museum

Osaka Prefecture was once home to a great many castles. Sadly, many of those castles fell long ago, leaving only commemorative markers behind. Currently, there are only three castles in Osaka Pref. Osaka Castle, Ikeda Castle, and Kishiwada Castle. Kishiwada Castle is the only castle in Osaka’s southern Senshu region, and is therefore naturally one of the region’s biggest icons. Apart from being the seat of political and military power in the Senshu region, the castle also played a role in one of the region’s most beloved traditions: danjiri festivals. It is fitting then that just outside of the castle grounds is the Kishiwada Danjiri Museum!


The History of Kishiwada Castle

The exact origins of the castle are rather hard to track down, but according castle records, in 1334 Wada Takaie [和田高家] of the Kusunoki clan built a castle in a place called “Kishi”. Because Kishi is governed by Wada, the name “Kishiwada” [岸和田] gradually evolved. If these records are true, then it is very likely that the castle was probably a very small and simple castle surrounded by a wall or small moat at that time.

Kishiwada Castle changed hands many times after the time of Wada Takaie. In the 16th century, Hideyoshi fought against the monks of Negoro-ji Temple in north Wakayama. The monks tried to attack Kishiwada Castle to expand their territory, but Hideyoshi managed to fend them off. After the battle in 1585, Koide Hidemasa [小出秀政], Hideyoshi’s uncle, became the lord of the castle. He then began to expand the castle—it was probably even bigger than the current castle. It was during this time that the town around the castle began to flourish as well.

ink and watercolor painting of the legend of tako jizo
Legend of Tako Jizo: according to a Kishiwada folk legend, octopuses protected Kiwada Castle from Negoro-ji monks.

Okabe’s Castle

In the early Edo Period, the castle passed in to the hands of the Okabe clan who continued to live in the castle till the end of the Meiji Period. They not only continued to expand and fortify the castle but also started Danjiri festivals and laid the foundations for Kishiwada to become the largest city in Senshu region.

entrance of sannomaru shrine marked by bright vermilion torii
Sannomaru Shrine, the shrine where the Danjiri festivals started

Unfortunately, a fire in 1827 destroyed the castle. In 1954 generous donation from the citizens in Kishiwada made it possible to rebuild the castle. As a result, the castle may be a bit different from what it used to be, though moats and stone walls are from the original castle.


Getting to Kishiwada Castle

To get to Kishiwada Castle from Osaka City, take the Nankai Main Line Express or Limited Express from Namba Station for 30 minutes. You can get off at either Kishiwada or Takojizo Station. From either station, the castle is roughly a 15 minute walk. There are many helpful markers and boards to lead you to the castle, so you will not get lost.


Castle Grounds

Though Kishiwada Castle is not as big as say, Osaka Castle, it still looks very cool.

Kishiwada Castle on a bright and clear day
Kishiwada Castle
Kishigi shrine in next to kishiwada castle
Kishigi Shrine: During Kishiwada’s Danjiri festival, many danjiri come to this shrine.

When you walk around the castle, you will see a small strip of lawn around the stone wall of the castle. This is called inubashiri [犬走り], literally meaning a place only big enough for dogs to run. The presence of the inubashiri is very interesting because it makes it easier for enemies to enter the castle.

Kishiwada castle framed by willow trees
Inubashiri at Kishiwada Castle

As a matter of fact, the purpose of the inubashiri is not well understood. The most likely reason probably has something to do with the fact that the rocks that make up the wall are rather fragile and need additional support. In any case, an inubashiri is quite a rare find in a Japanese castle.

Otemon gate of kishiwada castle
Otemon Gate, rebuilt in 1969.

Once you enter the castle, you will see the Hachijin no Niwa Garden, the theme of which is Zhuge Liang’s Eight Tactical Military Formation. The garden was made by the famous Shigemori Mirei.

front of kishiwada castle surrounded by its stone garden
Kishiwada Castle

Also, if you plan to go to the Danjiri Museum, you should buy a combined ticket here!

Combination ticket for kishiwada castle, the kishiwada danjiri museum and the kishiwada natural science museum
Ticket for Kishiwada Castle. Also covers the fees for the Dajiri Museum and the Kishiwada Natural Science Museum. 800 yen for adults

The inside of the castle is a museum that exhibits items related to Okabe clan. Even if historic stuff isn’t your cup of tea, you might find the various suits of samurai armor on display pretty cool. Once you reach the top floor, you will have a great view of Kishiwada City.

areal view of Hachijin no Niwa stone garden of kishiwada castle
Hachijin no Niwa from the top of the castle: the garden is unique in the sense that it is meant to be seen from the top of the castle.

Kishiwada Danjiri Museum

Right next to the Kisahiwada Castle is the Danjiri Museum. Throughout the Senshu region, when people say Kishiwada, they always think of danjiri festivals. The festivals only take place over the course of several days of September, but here you can see danjiri whenever you want.

front of the danjiri museum in Kishiwada
Danjiri Museum

As we discussed in our post about danjiri, there two types of danjiri in Senshu region: Kami-danjiri and Shimo-danjiri, in this museum they primarily feature Shimo-danjiri, since those are the most common type in Kishiwada.

large danjiri covered in lanterns inside the dark room in the Kishiwada Danjiri Museum
Kishiwada Danjiri Museum

From the detailed carvings to the old danjiri and other danjiri related stuff, you can enjoy many kinds of things here.

danjiri carving of the Battle of the oni of oeyama in the kishiwada danjiri museum
The theme of this carving is “The Battle of the Oni of Oeyama” [大江山鬼退治], a famous Japanese classic folk tale.
Gokenya-machi Danjiri in the kishiwada danjiri museum
Gokenya-machi Danjiri: the oldest danjiri in Kishiwada. In order to get though the castle gate, they made it possible to lower the roof.

You can even try out the danjiri for yourself!play exhibit room with a danjiri roof and drums


Coming next time,
Let’s take a cake break! Giant cake parfait at Mior!

The adventure continues…

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