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Saga Castle History Museum

The Saga Castle History Museum is a fine example of how historical buildings should be reconstructed. And, what’s more, it is also a very interesting museum.

Saga castle

Saga castle was a magnificent castle in the 17th century, and one of the largest in Japan at the time, on par with the likes of Nagoya Castle. A 70 metre-wide moat, part of which still exists today, surrounded the castle grounds. It was an example of a hiraijiro, a castle built on the flat plains rather than on a hill and it was not build on a high stone base but was surrounded by a wall. Because of this, when you see it, it doesn’t have the same initial impact as some of the other famous castles in Japan, but it is impressive in its own way.

By the twentieth century, what little remained of Saga castle, following the Saga rebellion of 1874, was dismantled, and, bar the main entrance gate, all visible traces vanished. Excavations of the site between 1994-95 for a reconstruction project, uncovered the original foundations of the 1838 main palace, known as the honmaru, so when work began in 2001, the foundation stones and an extremely detailed reconstruction plan from 1838, were used to faithfully reproduce the building.

The museum is reached through this castle gate which is the only part of the original castle which was not destroyed or dismantled during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Saga castle gate

If you look closely at the large wooden gates, you can see bullet holes from the Saga rebellion of 1874!

Gate with Bullet holes

Bullet hole

The museum is housed in this faithful reconstruction of the main palace of Saga Castle as it stood in the early 19th century.

Saga Castle Museum bld

And when I say faithful, not only was it reconstructed in 2004 on its original site using the actual floor plan from reconstruction plans of 1838 and 100% Japanese timber, but, apart from a few modern reinforcements, it was built entirely by traditional building techniques; meaning no metal nails, and no concrete! The only concrete on show is what you can see through a small window on the floor, showing how a layer of concrete was used in the foundations!

Foundations

At 2,500 m², this building is the largest wooden building in Japan. Over 700 tatami mats were required to cover the floors.Saga_castle_6

Ceremony hall

The museum gives an insight into Saga’s rich history and in particular highlights the significant role that Saga played in shaping modern Japan.

One part of the museum, the Gozano or Lord’s quarters, is in fact the original castle building from 1838.

Saga_castle_9

If you look closely at the wood you can see that it is darker and older than the rest of the building.

Gozano

The building was dismantled and rebuilt at another location in 1958 but was returned in 2004.

If you have plenty of time, I’d recommend watching the videos in this room. They all have English subtitles.

Video

I strongly recommend that you take advantage of the audio guide. It is available from the information desk next to the entrance and is free of charge in English, Chinese and Korean. The audio guide is professional, well organized, informative and very interesting. You’ll learn a little about the Nabeshima clan which ruled Saga domain and about Saga’s rich history, as well as details of the reconstruction project.

Saga castle Audio

Entrance to the museum is free but if you wish to give a donation, there are donation boxes next to the exit.

Donation box

The museum is well worth the visit. If you are interested in Japanese history or even just traditional Japanese buildings I’d recommend you visit the museum. You won’t be disappointed.

Information

The Saga Castle History Museum
Address: 2-18-1 Jounai, Saga city
Telephone: 0952-41-7550
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 18:00
Regular Holidays: December 29 – 31st
Access 1: 10 mins bus ride from JR Saga station.
Access 2: 25 mins bus ride from Saga Airport
Distance to airport: 10 km from Saga Airport
Wi-Fi:
Admission: Admission is free but there’s a donation box at the exit.
Language: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, English
HP:
Map:

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