Nagoya Castle Guided Tour


On Tuesday of the fourth, I acted as a guide at Nagoya Castle. I am taking a class of English guide training in NHK Cultural Center and a practical guiding tour was held that day.

     There are about 20 probationary guides in the class. Those guides were divided into two groups, A and B, on the day of the guiding tour and each group had three foreigner tourists, who brought their babies, too. And I belonged to B group.

     OK, I’ll show you around Nagoya Castle then.


Nagoya Castle was constructed in 1612 on the orders of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the shogun, who established the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo, a city is now called Tokyo in 1603. The Tokugawa Shogunate was the longest military government in Japanese history and lasted for 260 years. In 1600’s Ieyasu Tokugawa had still many enemies, especially in Osaka. As Nagoya is located between Osaka and Edo (Tokyo), he built the castle in order to ward off attacks from Osaka area.

     Nagoya Castle had flourished until Meiji Restoration in the middle of the 19th century. Unfortunately most of the buildings were burned down by the air raids on Nagoya in World War II, however, some towers and gates and most of the paintings on the sliding doors and walls in the palace survived the fire, and they became Important Cultural Assets. 

   *Inner moat and Omote-ninomon Gate
Inner Moat has no water. It’s because to protect the castle from intruders. Because the moat had no water, enemies couldn’t hide under the water, and they had to climb up and down the steep stone walls when they tried to attack the castle.

     There are three gates which survived World War II in Nagoya Castle. Omote-ninomon Gate, or the second front gate, is one of them. The gateposts and doors are covered with steel to protect from guns’ attacks. There are several holes on the mud-wall. They were used for putting firearms in.

   *Southeast Corner Turret
There are three turrets in existence in Nagoya Castle now, but there were originally eleven in Edo Period. Southeast Conner Turret is one of the three, which are the Important Cultural Assets. These towers were used for watchtowers and preparing weapons, not for enjoying the views. Each tower had equipment for battle; small doors for dropping stones and for sticking spears to enemies, for example.


   *The Site of Hommaru Palace
You can see only many stones there. There used to be a gorgeous palace in the place, but it was burned down in World War II. Now Nagoya City is planning to reconstruct the palace the 400th anniversary of the castle, and asking people donations! The reconstruction will start next year and will finish in 2025. How about coming see the palace 18 years later?

   *Stone Walls and Inscriptions
You’ll find many marks on the stone walls in Nagoya Castle. They were inscribed about 400 years ago. Ieyasu Tokugawa ordered feudal lords to build the stone walls for cutting off the lords’ power because most of them had used to be followers of his enemy clan Toyotomi. Gathering and setting up stones were very tough tasks. Each feudal lord put his men carve each individual mark on their stones to distinguish from others’ ones. Surprisingly, the stone walls were built in only six months! It is said 10000 people worked each day and a total of 2 million of people worked to set up the stone walls.  


   *Kiyomasa Stone
Look at the big stone. It’s called Kiyomasa Stone. Kiyomasa is a man’s name. It is said that Kiyomasa wanted to show his beggest loyalty to Ieyasu Tokugawa. That’s why he may have found such a big stone. In a legend, he had a big performance for bringing the stone to the place. From Atsuta Port, it was pulled by the rope and log rollers when Kiyomasa stood on the stone holding a fan in the hand and singing an encouraging song with good-looking boys. 


   *The Castle Tower and Shachihoko
You may have thought the lord and his family lived in the castle tower, but they lived in another place called Ninomaru-Palace. The castle tower was originally used as a watchtower and a command headquarters in domestic wartime. It’s excellent architecturally. Usually the upper floor is smaller than the lower one. But the first floor and the second floor of the castle tower are the same size. So it had enough space to store weapons, food, and water and so on in wartime. Whenever I come here, I’m very impressed by the beauty and the strength of the tower. Probably people who lived in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries may have felt the power of the lord when they looked up at the tower as well.

      You see two of the shinning golden fish-shaped objects on the top of the castle tower. They’re called Shachihoko, a lucky charm. Shachihoko is often shortened to Shachi and those two are called Kinshachi. Kin means golden in Japanese. They’re covered with 18 karat gold. A total of 88 kilos of gold was used for both Shachihoko. I think the value of the gold is around 150 million yen now.

     Shachihoko is a kind of imaginary creature with a tiger head and a fish body and was believed to live in water and to splash water when there was a fine in old days. That’s why those Shachihoko were fixed on top of the roof to protect the castle tower from fire. The same kind of lucky charms are seen 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 can find its figure on the lids of fire hydrants in Nagoya City.

       Now the castle tower is used as an observatory and exhibition rooms. You can survey the view of Nagoya City from the top floor of the building.


   *The Three Historical Heroes

     Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Iyeyasu Tokugawa were born in this region and devoted themselves to unifying Japan during the age of wars. There’re very popular haikus, or Japanese poems, which describe the three heroes’ characters.
Nobunaga: If a cuckoo doesn’t sing, I will kill it.
Hideyoshi: If a cuckoo doesn’t sing, I will make it sing.
Ieyasu: If a cuckoo doesn’t sing, I will wait until it sings. 

    *Ancient Type Guns
The ancient type guns were first introduced to Japan in 1543 by Portuguese. The use of firearms spread quickly and brought a great revolution in military strategy.  


    *Pictures on the Sliding Doors and Ceilings of the Palace.
Before Hommaru-Palace burned down by World War II, there were many gorgeous and beautiful decorations on the walls and ceilings in the palace. Fortunately more than 1000 pieces of those precious pictures survived the fire and now are Important Cultural Assets. Most of the paintings were used gold. It’s said that gold can make the room bright because it had no lights those days. Now there’s a project of reproducing all the pictures to set them to the Hommaru-Palace which will be rebuilt by 2025.


     Thank you for reading! It was really hot outside that day! I was exhausted. But of course I had a precious experience this time. I hadn’t known many things on Nagoya Castle in spite of living the city for a long time unitl I started joining in the class. I thought I need to study more about our own culture. So, how about visiting Nagoya Castle someday soon?


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