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July 21, 2016 - Karatsu City - Saga
For my first day in Saga, I decided to visit the quiet seaside castle town of Karatsu which is also known for it's pottery. The town can be reached from Hakata (Fukuoka) by catching the Kuko Subway line which then turns into the JR Chihuki line. It takes roughly 70-90 minutes and costs 1140 yen with a few trains leaving each hour - but sometimes a transfer is needed.
As I was staying a little bit out of the town - I visited Niji no Matsubara Pine Grove which was close to my hotel. I then visited the castle followed by some other attractions within the city centre itself.
Niji no Matsubara Pine Grove is a pretty road right next to the ocean - but due to it's distance from the main town centre and lack of places to walk - I would suggest missing this attraction if you don't have a car. If you have a car - then drive through here!
Around 1.5 km's from the pine grove is Karatsu Castle, which has been reconstructed. Some of the outer walls are also under repairs which limits access from one side of the castle.
To get up to the top, you can either walk or catch a lift for 100 yen. As I saw the entrance I was going to use was closed - I took the lift. For those who are lazy - take the lift up and walk down.
Entrance to the castle is 410 yen or 1000 yen for a multi ticket which also gets you into the Takatori Residence and Matsuri Exhibition Hall.
The Takatori Residence can easily be described as the premier attraction in Katsura, which consists of a large residence and pretty garden which is located rather close to the castle. Even though the residence is only a little over 100 years old, there are some really nice unique features such as indoors Noh Stage etc.
The insides of the residence is quite impressive, specifically many of the painted screens which cannot be photographed. There is also a good amount of English information but I had one of the guides show me around and explain the intricacies for around half of the residence. The guides here really have a love for this place which can be seen through taking people through when they don't have too...
Around a 10 minute walk from the residence is Katsura Shrine which is smack bang in the middle of the town. Like normal - this is just your normal run of the mill major shrine which can be found in most major towns.
Located next to the shrine is the Hikiyama Exhibition Hall, which shows the floats shown during the yearly matsuri or festival. The floats are interesting but there is not much here apart from the 12 or 14 floats themselves which are quite large.
Another small attraction is the Former Karatsu Bank which is free to enter. There is not too much to see but it still gives you the idea of what a Japanese bank felt like at the turn of the century.
Karatsu is a pretty and sleepy town which is a good place to relax and unwind. It's not the most happening town in the world but there are a good smattering of good attractions and the town in general is rather english friendly. For tomorrow, I'll be heading out to Yobuko before staying the night in Saga.
Saga Tourism Office: http://www.karatsu-kankou.jp/en/ (English)