HIRADO, Nagasaki -- A married couple from Tokyo have become the first guests to stay at Hirado Castle in this southwestern Japan city, the country's first permanent "shirohaku" castle for overnight stays.
Tetsuya Sanada, a senior employee at an information and telecommunications company, and his wife Yuko, both 57, stayed at the castle's "Kaiju Yagura" tower, which was transformed into a hotel, on Oct. 23. The pair participated in activities as castellans for the day, including a tea ceremony and watching a "kagura" dance.
The couple loves castles and travels all over the country to see them. They made a reservation at Hirado Castle after hearing from an acquaintance this summer that people could stay there. A limousine taxi brought the two to Hirado from the city of Fukuoka on Oct. 23. Once there, they observed a "Hirado Kagura" dance performance at the Kameoka Shrine, had a French dinner made with carefully selected ingredients produced in Hirado, and enjoyed views of the city from the top floor of the castle tower all booked for themselves.
On the following day, they boarded a cruiser to Nakaeno Island and the hamlet of Kasuga, and partook in a tea ceremony at a tea room in the Matsura Historical Museum. Hirado Mayor Naruhiko Kuroda handed them a commemorative gift at the Hirado Port pier.
Sanada smiled and said, "Staying at a castle is a rare experience. I'd like to recommend it to my friends. I'm very satisfied."
The "shirohaku" service was launched in April to appeal to rich customers from Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Among the selling points are the hotel's amazing view overlooking the Hirado Bridge and ocean. The 600,000-yen (roughly $5,266) nightly rate covers up to five people, but does not include meals.
(Japanese original by Hiroshi Watanuki, Sasebo Bureau)