Oshi Castle Ruins are located in Gyoda City in Eastern Saitama Prefecture. Nicknamed “the floating castle”, and sometimes “Turtle Castle”, due to its position on elevated land surrounded by water, the story of the castle is particularly famous. In its day, the castle was considered one of Kanto’s seven strongholds. The Narita clan built Oshi Castle. It was completed in 1479. But what the castle is most famous for is withstanding a siege against incredible odds. There is even a movie about the Siege of Oshi (Castle), Nobuo no Shiro, which was named The Floating Castle in English. There is plenty online in English about the history of this castle, but I want to introduce contemporary Oshi Castle…
Present day Oshi Castle
Oshi castle is the pride and joy of Gyoda City. What remains of it in modern day Gyoda is the three story turret “Gosankai Yagura”, the foundations of the original castle, “Korai” castle gate and a moat. There are carp in the moat river. In addition, there is a very small park around the castle. The three story turret was reconstructed on the grounds in 1988 to function as the Gyoda City Museum. There is a great view from the top floor of the tower. The museum costs 200 yen to enter, but you can roam around the grounds freely.
Monthly events at the castle
Before the pandemic you could see a samurai performance at the castle on weekends. Unfortunately, Gyoda city have suspended this event indefinitely. However, even during the pandemic, there is a monthly event on at the castle. “Gyoda Hanachozu week” is actually two weeks long. Hanachozu are the water fonts with flowers in them. Playing on the nickname “floating castle”, the castle displays floating flowers during hanachozu week. Moreover, they light up the castle and the floating flowers for one night only during that period. You can see the dates, with more information, here.
Above, Oshi Castle lit up at night, Saturday January 15th 2022, by photographer and fellow Saitama lover Yuji Shibasaki. The castle will be lit up again, all things equal, on Saturday February 5th 2022.
The Oshi Castle remains look particularly pretty in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. There aren’t that many cherry blossoms directly around the castle, but it is possible in about three different spots to get a photo of cherry blossom backdropped by the castle. Moreover, a short walk away, there is a famous sakura spot at Gyoda Suijo Park.
Update March 26th 2022: the cherry blossoms around the castle have started to bloom.
Gyoda Floating Castle Festival
The Gyoda Floating Castle Festival, or Gyoda Ukijyo Matsuri, is held every year on the last Saturday and Sunday of July. However, in both 2020 and 2021 they cancelled the festival due to the pandemic. The main part of the festival actually doesn’t take part at the castle, but around Gyoda Station. This sacred rites festival attracts about 55,000 people annually, from all over Saitama and beyond. The Danbe Folk Dance is one of the highlights of this festival. There are also portable shrines, floats, a parade and festival stalls. Furthermore, there is usually a flea market on the day too. The festival is on from late afternoon until about 9 pm at night. Official event website.
Nobuo no Shiro
Oshi Castle became even more popular within Japan thanks to the 2012 movie “Nobuo no Shiro”. The movie is called The Floating Castle in English. It tells the story of the Siege of Oshi. The story of the siege is very famous in Japan. Because against great odds, the Oshi villagers, about 500 of them, defended the castle against 20,000 samurai. Moreover, the movie was adapted from the novel of the same name and is based on historic facts. You can see why the people of Gyoda are so proud of Oshi Castle.
Keep an eye out for the Oshi Castle manhole cover art – with chrysanthemum, the flower of Gyoda – all around the city.
Address: 17-23 Honmaru, Gyoda, Saitama 361-0052
Hours: The grounds are open 24 hours, but the museum within the turret, is open from 9 am to 4.30 pm (last entry at 4 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays and the fourth Friday of the month.
Cost: Free to roam the grounds, admire the hanachozu, but 200 yen into the museum for adults. High school students and University students are charged 100 yen and it is 50 yen for a child over 6 years old.
The Oshi Castle ruins are about a 15 minute walk from Gyodashi Station on the Chichibu Railway line. If you are using the JR Takasaki line you can get a bus from Gyoda station. Take a city loop bus from the station and get off at Oshi Castle Ruins. They announce the bus stop stop name in English too. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes from Gyoda station to the ruins on that bus.
If you come by car, there is free parking on the grounds.