Maizuru Castle Park is pretty much the only thing to see or do in Kofu, at least around the station. Before going to Kofu, I spent a bit of time trying to see if there was anything interesting within walking distance of the station, but aside for Maizuru Castle Park, there really wasn’t anything that I could see in a morning/early afternoon before I had to return to Tokyo.
Like many areas in Yamanashi, there isn’t a lot of information about Maizuru Castle Park in English. There is a lot of historical information in Japanese, but there is no way I can read and translate it quickly enough for a blog post. Basically, there is a main entrance to the park, 2 rear entrances, and 2 side entrances. If you are coming from the station, you are actually coming from the rear entrance as the main entrance is on the south side of the castle park.
The main entrance is a nice place. There is a small block of cherry trees on the approach that were very lovely as I visited during the cherry blossom season. Once you get to the main entrance, there is the traditional moat with a bridge on it. There wasn’t much information about the bridge or the other sections of the castle park but from what I can tell it was a nice concrete bridge that was modeled to look like a traditional wood structure. If you have ever seen traditional castle entrances in Japan, you will know what this looks like.
Once you get inside the main entrance, you are greeted by a beautiful grass field on the right and a small garden on the left. There are some administration buildings or something like that as well but I wasn’t really interested in that area. I was more interested in the field. The field was lovely and a great place to play. When I arrived, a couple were getting some wedding photos taken and when I left there was a family playing soccer. I could imagine myself coming to this area and just relaxing every day if I lived in Kofu.
The rear entrance is closer to Kofu Station, which is to the north of Maizuru Castle Park. I never went to this area as I came from the front entrance and intend to leave the same way. The fields on the north side of the castle were used a lot more than the main field, but this is probably because it is closer to the station.
As you walk up the main slope from the main entrance, you can enjoy the increasingly beautiful view of Mt. Fuji. It was stunning to see that majestic mountain in the distance with snow on top. As you keep climbing up to where the original castle keep was, you can enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji getting more prominent as you start to rise above the buildings. My only problem with this is that they built a tall Toyoko Inn which was literally between my viewpoint and Mt. Fuji, so it looked like Mt. Fuji was resting on top of the Toyoko Inn most of the time!
Halfway up to the inner area of the castle is a nice little Buddhist hall. I’m not sure if it was a Buddhist or Shinto hall, but most halls that I have seen are Buddhist. It is a great place to just enjoy the peace and it does offer some interesting views of the memorial located at the inner area.
If you are up for a little exploring around the castle park, there is a nice little area on the east side of the inner area. You can access it via the small slopes near the field in the main entrance, or via the back entrance. It is a bit interesting to check out and good for a picnic. They even have a gazebo for you to have a small picnic if you’d like. It was a bit noisier than the main field which is why I probably wouldn’t care much about this area but it is better as they have a nice gazebo to have a small party.
If you enter the main castle keep area, you actually have to go through a recently reconstructed gate. The gate was very new when I visited and it still smelt of wood. When I first entered the area, I could hear a small kid running back and forth. The thumping was really cute as that kid was just going non-stop. I ended up waiting till I was leaving before I visited because I didn’t want to interrupt his exercise. It is a nice little place to just see how a castle gate would have looked if it was freshly built but there really isn’t too much to see.
Once you get into the inner area, the first thing that really catches your eye, well before you even enter the castle area to be honest, is the monument. There is a tall monolithic monument but I can’t remember what it was for. It was probably for a war or something as these monolithic monuments are usually for things like that. There are also a lot of nice places on the northern side for good views of the surrounding city. Just beware that the steps are steep and have some pebbles, so it is a little dangerous.
Finally, I made it to the former site of the castle keep. It is a very simple area and from the size, it probably wasn’t more than 3 floors, more likely it was only 2. You climb up a few steps and then you can get a great vantage point of Kofu. You can see the surrounding mountains, the city below, and Mt. Fuji behind the Toyoko Inn. Unfortunately by the time I got to the top it was starting to get cloudy so my photos started to look worse. It was still worth the short climb as you probably won’t get such a nice view so close to Kofu Station.
The Maizuru Castle Park is a wonderful place and Kofu Castle is a nice castle. If they rebuild all of it, I’m sure it will be wonderful. Since the castle is free, I am not complaining. I had a wonderful time just enjoying the park and enjoying the peacefulness of being out in the “countryside”. While I may not recommend visiting Kofu just for the castle, if you happen to be there for a day, I do recommend seeing the castle park and just taking it easy.