The Innoshima Suigun Castle was a bit of a letdown for me. Having visited several dozen castles all around Japan, it is difficult to get excited about castles these days; so I tried to keep my expectations low, but it wasn’t low enough. Since I was travelling along the Shimanami Kaido, castle visits were not the main priority. Enjoying the trip was most important, so I wasn’t in the mindset to appreciate the castle as much as I should. I was also put down a little by the fact that I read it wasn’t really a “castle” but I did hear conflicting reports about it.
Getting to the castle is very difficult if you don’t have a car. Even by bicycle it wasn’t the easiest place to reach. I was able to get there but the hill from the main road to the castle entrance was not easy to climb. I ended up walking my bike up to the castle, and with my bag I had to look for a safe place to park my bike. I ended up hiding it behind a map and hoping no one would notice it.
Once everything was stored, I headed up to the main castle keep. The path to the castle is pretty simple and straight forward. Being on top of a hill, I’m sure it was relatively simple to protect it, and there were other fortifications around the island to help protect the inner castle. I assume that for these reason there was only a simple staircase to get to the top, rather than a small labyrinth of passages going through walls and such.
On the way to the top, you do see a few anchors as it is a naval castle. It was run by the Murakami family which ruled the waterways in their day. You can see the Murakami family crest, a simple kanji for “up” all over the place. Once you get to the top, you have a choice of a few buildings to look at. Since it was hot and I was tired, I didn’t really care too much for the buildings.
The buildings looked to be reconstructions but the main castle keep is free to enter. I didn’t go to the top because I couldn’t read the Japanese and didn’t want to break any rules, but I believe you can go to the top of the castle. All of this is free. On the main floor of the castle, there is a small museum showcasing the local festival where they re-enact different scenes and wear period costumes from the Murakami times.
The other building of interest is a museum of sorts. It appears to have a few models of the ships from the time the Murakami family ruled the area but for a foreigner who can’t read a lot of Japanese, I wasn’t very interested in it. I did find out later that they do have some English information, but I’m not too disappointed that I didn’t go inside.
There was only one area that I didn’t venture to. It was across the valley and required me to go down a short hill and up a longer one. From what I could see, you get a better vantage point of the castle and you also get to see more of the valley below, but I was too lazy and too tired to really go there. I also wanted to see other things, which I ended up not really seeing anyways, but it ended up being better as I had more time to just relax and enjoy the main purpose of the trip, cycling.
The overall verdict is that the Innoshima Suigun Castle is not a bad place, but not a great place either. If I was on a tour or if I was driving, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Since I was cycling, I really wasn’t in the mindset to enjoy it. I kind of regret not being able to really see everything, but at the same time I wouldn’t change what I did. From the information I had, I really couldn’t have known much more. If you have a chance, do consider going and let me know if I did miss out on anything.