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Wanted: Castle lord, lady for a night, deal includes free domestic flights

This Aug. 8, 2005 file photo shows the tower of Hirado Castle, right, which overlooks the city center of Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of the Hirado Municipal Government)

HIRADO, Nagasaki -- A guesthouse company is looking for a couple to become the lord and lady of Hirado Castle here, and they began their search on "castle day," April 6.

    Hyakusen Renma Inc. is looking to have the couple stay in the castle for one night, on May 20, and will even pay the cost of domestic plane tickets to make the journey. The city of Hirado is lending the castle out free of charge, and inviting the couple to "get a taste of the lord and lady lifestyle."

    The Japan Tourism Agency has been promoting both public and private efforts to create tourism based on Japan's historical resources. As part of this, adviser to the agency and president of Hyakusen Renma, Yasuhiro Kamiyama, pitched the idea of a night staying in a castle to municipal governments with castles nationwide. The city of Hirado was the first to respond, saying they want to get the word out about Hirado's charms. Hirado Castle, whose tower was reconstructed in 1962, has yet to be recognized as a cultural asset.

    The Japan Castle Foundation, which named April 6 "castle day," a play on the words "shi" (four) and "roku" (six) to make the word for castle -- "shiro" -- commented that they "have never heard an example of a regular person staying overnight in a castle before."

    On the day of the stay, roughly 30 student volunteers will meet the pair in military formation dressed in full armor. The castle tower, which looks down upon the center of Hirado from a height of about 18 meters, will be made into a bedroom, and city officials dressed as ninja will stand guard. As for dinner, a historically accurate lord's meal made from local ingredients will be offered.

    Applications will be accepted until April 23 through the website http://mag.stayjapan.com/610/ (in English) and http://mag.stayjapan.com/ja/841/ (in Japanese), and in the event of multiple applications, the winners will be chosen through a draw.

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