The Castle Tower and Shachihoko


    This is Tenshukaku, or the castle tower, in Nagoya Castle. It was originally used as a watchtower and a command headquarters in domestic wartime, not for living. You may have thought the lord and his family lived there, but they lived in another place called Ninomaru-Palace.

     The castle tower is excellent architecturally. usually the upper floor is smaller than the lower one. But, look at the photo. The first floor and the second floor are the same size. So, it had enough space to store weapons, food, and water and so on in wartime.

     Whenever I come to the castle, I’m impressed by the beauty and the strength of the tower. Probably people who lived in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries might have felt the power of the lord when they looked up at the castle tower as well.

     Now, look at the top of the building. You see the shining golden fish-shape objects there. They are called Shachihoko, a lucky charm. Shachihoko is often shortened to Shachi and those are usually called Kinshachi. Kin means golden in Japanese. They’re beautiful, aren’t they? They’re covered with 18 carat gold. A total of 88 kg of gold was used for both Shachihoko. I think the value of the gold is around 150 million yen or over 1 million dollars now.

     Shachihoko is a kind of imaginary creature with a tiger head and a fish body. In the old days, it was believed to live in water and splash water when there was a fire. That’s why those Shachihoko were fixed on top of the roof to protect the castle tower from fire. You’ll find the same kind of lucky charms in other old Japanese buildings as well.

     Unfortunately, the original castle tower and its Shachihoko were burned to ashes by the fires of war in 1945. It seems Shachihoko’s magical power sometimes doesn’t work. But Shachihoko is trying to protect us from fire still now. You’ll find its figure on the lids of fire hydrants in Nagoya city.


2 responses »

  1. enter your blog by accident, I just wanna ask u a question. the "shachihoko", which is a sea animal in Japan, right? and when u as a guid will introduce the animal to foreigner, so that time u will say "shachihoko" or "dolphins"? and I just wanna ask u is the "shachihoko" same as "dolphins"? By the way, I like your BLOG very much.I hope I can read your new article sooner or later. Hope you will do a good job as a guide. Good luck.

    Hi Yuki! Thank you for visiting my space! "Shachihoko" is not a sea animal, it’s a mythical creature in China. It cames to Japan long time ago. The sea animal you mentioned is "shachi". In Nagoya, Japan, the golden colored "shachihoko" on top of the roof of tha castle tower is very famous and popular. You know, golden means in Japanese "kin-no". That’s why the golden "shachihoko" is called "Kin-no-shachihoko" and it’s often shortened as "Kin-shachi". So probably someone must have made a mistake and mistranslated it into English, I think. And then the mythical creatures started to be called goden dolphins in English by mistake…

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