Peek around any corner in Izushi and you will feel the rich heritage of this small samurai town preserved from the Edo era (1603 to 1868). A true hidden gem in Hyogo prefecture Izushi is living samurai history – castles, temples, shrines and winding streets with preserved homes and shops. You will be transported back in time as you wander and wonder about the lives that have been lived here through the centuries.
Izushi Castle Overlooking the Town
Arriving via Toyooka city train station, you can hop aboard the frequent Zentan busses – Izushi does not have a direct connection by train. There is a bus stand just off to the right as you exit the station. The local bus will take you to the base of the famous samurai castle ruins with two restored towers and you can begin your journey from that point.
The Izushi castle (Izushi Joseki) is small and picturesque with traditional roof tiles and beautiful details and symbols of the samurai heritage of the town.
Leading up on the far side of the castle you can climb a steep set of stone steps with traditional bright red torii gates overhead. The combination of the white castle tower and the red arches will inspire you.
Shrines and Temples
As you explore the heritage town you will find several temples and shrines. The Morosugi Shrine at the base of the castle is a peaceful moss covered spot. Stop by the water and bamboo pool to purify yourself and enjoy the calm natural surroundings.
You can explore other shrines and temples including Sukyoji Temple, the Takuan-dera (Takuan Temple) that was the place of worship of Izushi Castle lords and samurai for generations.
A surprising find in Izushi town- is the Izushi Meijikan, this light blue wooden building is from 1887 at the start of the Meiji era. Inside you can find a small museum featuring artifacts of the famous people from the town. 100 yen entrance fee however exhibit information is only in Japanese at this time.
Shinkoro the Izushi Iconic Clock Tower
Built in 1871 as a drum tower- with a clock added 10 years later in 1881– Shinkoro is the clock tis now at the heart of this historical town. The clock itself has been replaced 3 times since 1881 the third clock is still keeping time for residents and visitors. Shinkoro is surrounded by a small moat with fish and you can enjoy a lunch of local soba looking over the water to this popular symbol of Izushi.
There are many other sites to see in Izushi, the Izushi Eirakukan is another historical wonder. Built in 1901 this theater/ playhouse is the oldest in the region. Visitors can tour the inner workings of the theater when there are no Kabuki performances scheduled. You can explore the low-fi but amazing special effects devices like the rotating stage, moved by human power underneath. Performances are still held here throughout the year. Check at the tourism center for tickets if there is a show scheduled.
Need a Break? Historic Soba and Coffee Stops in Izushi
I have two recommendations for a brief relaxing break in your explorations.
Near to the castle and Morosugi Shrine you can have a delicious coffee and cake at a small traditional kissaten (coffee shop) Fukurou. The inside of this shop is transporting– dark wooden beams, paintings of the local hills and sites, the atmosphere is very relaxing. (no menu in English but there are some photos and the staff are kind and willing to help)
A “Must-Try” local Izushi-soba noodles. One serving is made up of 5 small plates with a cold dipping sauce and various condiments, onion, mountain yam paste, egg, & wasabi. You can eat as many portions as you like– as kind of a local challenge. The noodles are freshly made at most shops and very delicious.
Izushi is a perfect town for a leisurely wander. Many attractions do not have English info but this map and information sheet from the tourism office can give you the background of all the major spots in this quaint village.
Getting to The Samurai Heritage Town of Izushi
You can travel to Izushi from 3 major cities in the Kansai/Hyogo Region.
- From Osaka 2 hour 30 minutes by limited express Konotori or Hamakaze. Change at Toyooka station then take a Zentan Bus bound for Izushi.
- From Kobe 2 hour 30 minutes by limited express Hamakaze train (Toyooka station, Ebara station or Yoka station– Zentan Bus bound for Izushi.
- From Himeji Only 1 hour 40 minutes by Hamakaze Train at Toyooka station take a Zentan Bus bound for Izushi same as above.
Long term resident of Japan, from the East coast of the USA. I love art, design, books, writing, food, film and I am a bit addicted to stationary! I love telling and hearing great stories. Everyday can be an adventure if you are open minded and curious.
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
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