This Centuries-old Samurai Castle Is Now a Japanese Hotel — and Guests Are Invited to Dress Like Warriors

Plus, go moon-gazing with sake in hand and have breakfast at a cliffside teahouse.

Ozu Castle, also known as Jizogatake Castle, is a castle located in Ozu, Ehime Prefecture, Japan
Photo: Getty Images

How’s this for an escape? A Japanese village 500 miles away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo has turned an old wooden castle into a hotel that feels straight out of the 16th century.

Ozu Castle in southern Japan is one of only a few timber castles still standing in the country and is the only samurai castle where travelers can spend the night.

Scoring a reservation may not be easy, and it won’t be cheap. The property plans to host only 30 reservations in its first year with up to six guests each. Rates start at around $9,500 per night for two guests and about $950 for each additional guest. The steep price does include a few extras.

Overnight guests are welcomed by flag bearers and the sound of conch shell horns. They’re given the option of donning kimonos or Medieval warrior uniforms and can dine in one of the compound’s four original 400-year-old turrets.

Entertainment includes a kagura folk dance performance and a moon-viewing session with sake and poetry. Breakfast is included at Garyu Sanso, a 100-year-old cliffside villa and teahouse overlooking the Hiji River.

There are no en-suite toilets in the castle, but a luxury bath and lounge have been added to the compound, CNN reported. The broader Nipponia Hotel project, which includes the castle, does have 11 other rooms with en-suite baths in the village.

The original Ozu Castle was mostly destroyed in 1888. Locals pledged to restore it in the 1990s, using old photographs and wooden models as their guide. The effort is part of a broader plan to revive the region and make it a better place to live.

In recent decades, the area’s population has been declining and the availability of properties ripe for repurposing has increased. The Nipponia Hotel complex’s front desk was once a medical clinic.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter at @meena_thiru and on Instagram at @meenathiru.

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