Arrived at Tsuyama station close to 8:30 pm and rushed to the hotel, which was just a few footsteps away from the castle. I quickly checked in, dropped the bags and headed for the castle. I'd only be staying for one night and while I will have the entire morning to view the castle, the chance of seeing the castle illumination might just slip away. I ambled up the steps leading up to the admission gate entrance and was relieved that there's still about 45 minutes before the lights go out.
Now you may wonder, why write about Tsyuyama Castle 津山城 in the first travel article when the majestic Himeji Castle is featured on the homepage. Poll any number of travellers who have been to Japan about castles one definitely should not miss. and Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle, Matsumoto Castle will definitely crop up. 津山城 belongs to the category of castles where only ruins remain. In fact it is more commonly referred to as Kakuzan Park 鶴山公園 as the park was developed on the castle grounds. Although not being ranked amongst the most famous castles, it is however one of the top 100 cherry blossom spots in Japan.
The next morning, I headed straight for the castle after breakfast. I arrived at exactly 9 am just as the staff was just getting ready at the ticketing booth. However, I was not the first one there and there were already two elderly gentlemen moving about with their DSLRs. Well, there's a ticketing machine next to the booth so I guess the staff simply just let them in before the official opening hours.
To me the sakura looked even better in the day, and I was fortunate to have fine weather. There is a viewing gallery at the edge of the castle wall, where you can just sit on a bench and take in the view below and the surroundings.
What remains standing today is the 10m high stone wall and a reconstructed yagura (turret). It is difficult to imagine how Tsuyama Castle used to have 77 buildings in the Edo Period, even surpassing the 61 buidings of Himeji Castle, making it one of the greatest hirayama (flatland-mountain) style castle in Japan.
I'd strongly recommend coming to the castle early in the morning before more vistors start streaming in, especially if you want to film just yourself in a 花吹雪 hanafubuki. This is a very apt term to describe the cherry blossom petals being carried by a breeze, and for a stronger, more sustained breeze, it is certainly wonderful to be caught in a cherry blossom blizzard.
It was a very productive morning - in a short span of 1 hour, with just a few other photographers milling around the castle grounds, I had taken enough pictures to be convinced that Tsuyama Castle will definitely be revisited should I make a trip to West Japan in future. I'd love to stay for another hour, but I think sakura blindness has started to set in for me.