I’m supposed to explain in English about the castle tower and the golden Shachihoko in Nagoaya Castle to tourists from overseas on September 4th. That’s why I studied about those items! I’m going to introduce them in only two minutes that day. So I can’t mention most of what I studied… I’ll write about the information of them here.
＊Nagoya Castle and Shachihoko, a lucky charm
If you ask anyone in Japan what is a symbol in Nagoya, most of them will reply, “It’s Kinshachi.” Kinshachi means golden Shachihoko, a lucky charm, two of which are shinning on the top of the castle tower of Nagoya Castle.
Nagoya Castle was built in 1612 by order of the first shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. It was who lived first there was his 9th son, Yoshinao Tokugawa. In Japanese castles since the 16th century, the castle tower was very important as not only a watchtower and a command headquarters in domestic wartime but also showing the lord’s power to people and his enemies.
You can find Shachihoko in old Japanese buildings, but probably the two of golden Shachihoko of Nagoya Castle are the most beautiful, I think. Oh, you don’t know what Shachihoko is all about?! OK, I’ll explain.
Maraka was believed to have an elephant’s head and a crocodile’s body, and Shibi was believed to have a tiger’s head and a fish body in the old days. Those creatures were also believed to live in water and to splash water if there was a fire. That’s why they used to be fixed on top of buildings to protect fire as a lucky charm. And some people say those lucky charms were put on top of buildings so as not to suffer from drought because they have much to do with water. You’ll be able to find those lucky charms in Asian countries.
People say it was Nobunaga Oda, one of the most famous general in the 16 century, to start putting Shachihoko on top of buildings. And it seems that the first building was Azuchi Castle.
Shachiko is often shortened to Shachi, and golden means kin in Japanese. That’s why peple call “Kinshachi” the two of golden Shachihoko of the top of the castle tower in Nagoya Castle.
＊Kinshachi of Nagoya Castle
The two of original Kinshachi, which were fixed on the top of the castle tower of Nagoya Castle, was made from Japanese old oval gold coins rolled thinly. The weight of the gold was 320 kg, which is converted into more than 400 million yen. The present ones were made after World War II, and a total of 88 kg of gold was used for the two. The original ones were made from wood, lead plate and gold plate, but the present ones were made from bronze, Japanese lacquer and gold plate.
Actually, gold of the original Kinshachi was changed three times in 1730, 1827, and 1846. The local government used gold because of financial difficulties. And Kinshachi became to look dingy. So they covered the two of them with wire cages for glossing their dull surfaces in 1730. But they explained it for protecting from birds those days.
＊Crises of Kinshachi
In 1870 after the Meiji Restoration, Nagoya castle and Kinshachi were decided to be taken down by the local government. But Max Von Brant, a minister from Germany saved the crisis. He advised the government and the local one to cancel the plan because he had been impressed at the scenery from the castle tower and the paintings on the sliding doors and walls in the palace. Besides Colonel Nakamura asked General of the Army Aritomo Yamagata to preserve Himeji Castle and Nagoya Castle and his request was granted in 1878.
One of the reasons why Colonel Nakamura’s request was heard of was probably Kinshachi was showed at Vienna Expo in Austria in 1873. In advance of the expo, there was a domestic expo in Yushima, Tokyo. Kinshachi gained populartity there, and it was chosen as an entry to the expo in Vienna.
You know, Kinshachi is covered with gold. That’s why it had had its gold stolen many times. The most famous one is a story of Kinsuke Kakinoki. He was said to steel three gold scales of Kinshachi by flying with a kite. It was a fake, but Kinsuke Kakinoki was a real robber and was executed in 1763. The latest robbery was in 1937. There were 110 scales on the male Kinshachi’s body (There are male Kinshachi and female one. ) and the thief stole 58 of them during a measuring examination. He was arrested soon because he tried to sell them.
The castle tower of Nagoya Castle was burned to ashes the fires of war in 1945. The present one was rebuilt in 1959. Actually, the gold of the original Kinshachi was found after the war. The remain was brought to the occupation forces, but it was returned to Nagoya City as 6.6 kg gold in 1967 from the Japanese Ministry of Finance. Nagoya City made a miniature Kinshachi as the head of the city flag and a golden kettle by the gold for the memory of the original Kinshachi.
Although Kinshachi, the golden Shachihoko, is a lucky charm for protecting against fire, the castle tower was burned down by a fire. It seems its power sometimes doesn’t work…But today Shachihoko are on lids of hydrants in Nagoya City and trying to protect people from fire!