Top choice in Kyūshū

Nicknamed Maizuru-jō (Dancing Crane Castle), this elegantly proportioned white castle (built 1608, rebuilt 1966 and refurbished 2017) is picturesquely perched on a hill overlooking the sea. Inside are antique ceramics, samurai armour and archaeological displays, amid walls lined with Karatsu-yaki (Karatsu pottery) tiles. Download the Karatsu Castle app to scan QR codes for detailed English descriptions of select pieces. The climb up the hill can be a slog, especially in muggy summer heat, but there's a diagonal elevator.

The views from the castle grounds are breathtaking: Karatsu Bay and the town of Karatsu lie below, making it easy to see why the location was such prime real estate for Lord Terasawa, a chief retainer to Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

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1. Kyū-Takatori-tei

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This fabulously restored late–Meiji period villa of a local trader is built in a mix of Japanese and Western styles, with lantern-filled gardens, a…

2. Karatsu-jinja

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4. Nakazato Tarōemon

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