Iwakuni Castle and Ropeway

On the other side of Kintaikyo lies Kikko Park, the grounds of the former residence of the Iwakuni domain lords. The park is home to a number of historical buildings, but also the Ropeway Base Station, which takes visitors up to Iwakunijō. The replica castle sits atop the 200-m (656-ft) summit of Mount Shiroyama, overlooking the city below. 

Pete and I decided to explore the park later and head straight to the castle. The Ropeway is one way to get to there; you can also hike up a 6.8 km (4.2 mi) trail, which takes about 2.5 hours. In a funny coincidence, both of us were recovering from busted ankles, though, so we opted for the quick and easy way.

There was a bit of a line for the Ropeway but we didn’t have to wait long before we were zipping up the side of the mountain. I think it took all of 5 minutes to get to the top. Once you reach the summit station, it’s about a 10 minute walk from there to the castle.

The original Iwakuni Castle was built in 1698 by Kikkawa Hiroie, the first lord of the Iwakuni Domain. Just seven years later, though, it was demolished as part of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s “One Castle Per Province” decree of 1615.

As per the new law, each feudal lord was only allowed to have one castle in each territory that he owned. The purpose of this was to regulate the power of the feudal lords, thus strengthening the Tokugawa family’s domination of Japan.

Iwakuni Castle
The view from the top floor of Iwakuni Castle.
The grounds below Iwakuni Castle.
The mountains surrounding Iwakuni Castle.

In 1962, a replica of the castle was built from concrete, which still stands today. It was selected in 2006 as one of the 100 Great Castles of Japan. While otherwise faithful to the original, the current version sits slightly closer to the edge of the mountain so that it can be seen more easily from below. This also gives visitors a better view from the castle. 

You’re supposed to be able to see all the way to the islands of the Seto Inland Sea from the top floor, but it was a hazy, overcast day. The sun had peeked out for a bit when we were crossing Kintaikyo, but it had since disappeared again behind the clouds. Still, the view was impressive. The wide vista includes Kikko Park, Kintaikyo, the Nishiki River, the old castle town, and Iwakuni city below. You can also enjoy views of the rolling mountains behind the castle on the opposite side.

While the viewing platform is undoubtedly the main attraction of the castle, the interior also has a mini museum with displays on armor, weaponry, and other famous castles in Japan. There’s plenty of katana swords to check out, as well as a precise scale model of Kintaikyo.

And when you’re ready to head back down the mountain, you can wait for the next cable car at the small plaza next to the station. It boasts its own viewing platform, kids’ play area, and the Shiroyama Mechanical Clock, which plays music every 15 minutes. 

View from the summit ropeway station.
View from the cable car of Kikko Park.

Visit Iwakuni Castle

Iwakuni Castle is accessible via cable car or hike. For access via cable car, go to the Iwakuni Castle Ropeway Mountain Foot Station (岩国城ロープウェー 山麓駅) in Kikko Park. The Ropeway is open from 9:00 to 17:00, runs every 15 minutes, and costs 560 for a round trip. To hike up Shiroyama, head east from Kikko Park to Momijidani Park (紅葉谷公園). The trail starts just after you pass the public restrooms on your right.

Hours: 9:00~16:45

Admission: 270円


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