Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Study of the Stone Walls of Nagoya Castle : Building stone walls is the same as a battle!

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     “Oh, this is wrong!” Professor Miura shouted, pointing at the information board reading “The stone walls of the castle tower are inclined that the upper parts are curved outwards. This incline is called ‘kata-kobai’ and can bear the heavy weight of the stones and high pressure of the soil. In addition it is beautiful.” “Everything is wrong, except ‘beautiful’,” he added. Actually, the castle tower of Nagoya Castle has S-shaped edges. CAM00342

     Last Saturday I attended an interesting lecture about the stone walls of Nagoya Castle. The event was held by Nagoya International Tourism Association (NITA), whose deputy director is a DJ of ZIP FM, Chris Glenn. He is famous because he is not only a radio personality but also an ‘otaku’ of Japanese castles. He was the MC of the event, and the lecturer was Professor Masayuki Miura of Hiroshima University, who is a leading expert on castle architecture. 石垣1

     The place where the lecture was held was an oldish spooky building called Ohka-kaikan near Nagoya Castle. I did not see any ghosts there, but I could not stay inside alone. Along the eerie stairs, I finally opened the door and I felt relieved. There were about 40 living people in the room. Surprisingly, the student sitting in front of me was Nagoya’s Mayor Kawamura. After the 90-minute class about the stone walls of Nagoya Castle, the participants went to the castle with Professor Miura and Chris. I had visited the castle many times, but it was the first time for me to look at the stones so intensely. CAM00326

     Nagoya Castle was built on a marshy area to prevent invasion by enemies. That is why, the castle tower has been sinking since it was constructed about 400 years ago. You can see a Chinese character which expresses the number three on a stone in the second layer of its stone walls. It means that the stone used to be on the third layer. The first layer has sunk completely below the ground. The castle tower does not lean because of its method of construction. There are wooden bars called dogi under the base stones. They make the building sink uniformly. It seems the castle has sunk from 50 cm to 1 m during 400 years. CAM00347

     Most of the stone walls of Nagoya Castle were piled by the two ways mainly: Nuno-zumi (to make all of the layers uniform height) and Ran-zumi (to pile the stones at random). The arrangement of stones has also two methods: Uchikomi-hagi (to fill gaps with small stones) and Kirikomi-hagi (to put the stones without spaces), and the castle’s stone walls were mostly made by the former. But since the Meiji era, walls have been mended by the technique called Tani-zumi, which is to put stones in sideways. It is because the method is easier to pile stones and it looks beautiful. The strength, however, is much inferior. CAM00328

There was a big earthquake in 1891, and the broken parts were mended with Tani-zumi by the Imperial Household Ministry. According to Professor Miura, the repaired parts were terrible. He predicted, “All of the parts mended by the Imperial Household Ministry will tumble into ruin if a big earthquake hits the Nagoya area, but the original stone walls which did not break in 1891 won’t unpile. I can’t wait!” CAM00323

     The length of the stone walls of the castle is about 8.2 km. This large scale construction was done in just a half year. The founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, Ieyasu Tokugawa ordered 20 feudal lords to build the stone walls to prevent their rebellion, and he took away their money and drive power of opposing to him. Those lords were subordinate warriors of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who had ruled over Japan before Ieyasu. Nagoya Castle needed three times as many stones as Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle, and the scale of its castle tower was as four times as big as Osaka Castle.CAM00346

     All of the stones for building Nagoya Castle were quarried from Shinojima Island. They were carried along the Horikawa River via Ise Bay. You can see words or marks carved on stones in the castle. It was to prevent the different building teams from stealing each other. But there was a big stone under the castle tower on which the name of a powerful lord, Kiyomasa Kato, is carved to assert his power in perpetuity his power. CAM00353

     Speaking of Kiyomasa Kato, there is another big stone called “Kiyomasa-ishi”, or Kiyomasa’s stone, in the castle. It has an information board explaining that Kiyomasa was standing on the stone when it was carried into the castle. However, Professor Miura denied the story. According to him, the stone walls which have so-called “Kiyomasa-ishi” were made by another lord, Nagamasa Kuroda, whose father, Kanbei Kuroda, is the protagonist of the long-running historical drama on NHK TV this year. Professor Miura claimed that the stone should have been called “Nagamasa-ishi,” or Nagamasa’s stone!CAM00350

     You might notice that some of the stones have cracks or are reddish when you see Nagoya Castle’s stone walls. They are due to being exposed to high temperature when the castle was burnt down by the air-raids in 1945. Most stones of the walls are granite, which is weak against heat. Iron in granite changes to ferric oxide by heat and reddens the stones. Unfortunately, Nagoya Castle’s castle tower was lost in the war, but still now you can see most of the original stones… CAM00332

     Actually, I learned much more about the stone walls of Nagoya Castle. I cannot write all of it here! I had never thought that I could learn so many things about the stones and the castle’s walls, nor looked at them so intensely before the lecture and tour. Professor Miura and Chris talked passionately about the castle and its stone walls. I am sure they can enjoy drinking for at least three hours with the theme…Professor Miura said, “Nagoya Castle is the best in Japan to study the stone walls!” And Chris said, “If you want to see Kiyomasa’s name clearly on the stone, you should come here at around 4:30 p.m.” Well…why don’t you come to Nagoya Castle to see the stone walls and stay there until the closing time?

Dohyo Matsuri ~ a ceremony of a sumo tornament ~ : Sumo is still a Shinto ritual…

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     Now the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament is on at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Sumo is a kind of wrestling and Japanese national sport. In these modern days, sumo is regarded as a sport, but it used to be a Shinto ritual. That is why, there are many Shinto rites in sumo wrestling still now. A ceremony called “dohyo-matsuri” was held last Saturday, and I went to see it with two of my friends. CAM00260

     Dohyo-matsuri is held on the day before the start of the tournament to purify the ring called dohyo and pray for safety of the event. It is opened to the public for free, but many people do not even know of its existence. It is probably because it is not given publicity in a positive manner. It is still a Shinto ritual and they want to hold it in a quiet and respectful manner. So, the entrance door of the gymnasium was closed by 9:50 a.m. to start the ceremony at 10:00.

     CAM00283High-ranking sumo wrestlers and authorized people were seated around the dohyo ring. Three sumo referees called gyoji, in white Shinto priest costumes performed the ceremony. They purified the participants and the place with some holy plants called sakaki, paper streamers named shide, and sake. Then the main referee recited a Shinto prayer. CAM00287

     There was a small hole in the center of the ring. The referees put offerings – some rice, salt, kelp seaweed, dried squid, nuts called kaya, and chestnuts into the hole. And then they poured sake over them. Two drum corps appeared and walked around the ring three times, striking the drum. Then, the hole in the ring was sealed…CAM00302

     While I was watching the ceremony, I realized anew that sumo is not only a sport but also still a Shinto ritual. That is why women cannot enter the dohyo ring today in the 21st century, either… Oh, I am not going to be a sumo wrestler, mind you!

The “Type One” Classes Reunion: Long time no see! We haven’t talked before, though…

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“Umm…Who are they?”
“Check your yearbook!”

CAM00216-a   It was at the beginning of June when I communicated with the organizer of the reunion via text messages. T-chan, the party organizer, planned the meeting this time and invited me. He sent me the list of the prospective participants, but I did not know half of them.

     There was a big high school reunion last year. It was an official one for former students who entered the school in the fifth, fifteenth, twenty-fifth, thirtieth, and thirty-fourth years from the school’s foundation. It seems that about 200 graduates attended the party. I received the invitation, but unfortunately I could not make it. T-chan joined the reunion and had a really good time there. Then he decided to have small reunions every year. So he organized the party at the end of last month, but this time he invited just people who had been in the “Type One” classes.

     The Type One…I had forgotten the word completely until I saw the word in his message. My school used to be separated into four: The Type One, Two, Three, and Four. The Type One was classes for students who were planning to major in liberal arts in private colleges, Type Two, liberal arts in national and public ones, Type Three, math and science in private, and Type Four, math and science in national and public. T-chan and I were in one of the Type One classes. He found out at the big reunion last year that the Type Two people often met after graduation, and wanted to have a party with former students of the Type One, like the Type Two.CAM00229-a

     Okay…the yearbook….the yearbook?! Where is it? I searched my apartment, but could not find it. It may be in my mother’s place… When I found the dusty album with the faded spine in a paper bag in a corner of my mother’s house, I could not help feeling nostalgic. I was very surprised when I opened the photo book. I could not remember my principal at all. Moreover, most of the teachers looked younger than I had thought… “Were they so young?! Actually, my homeroom teacher passed away in his 20s. I was shocked when I heard the news. It was because he departed at such a young age and I had believed he was in his 50s…

     I found my own picture soon, and then T-chan and another boy N-kun on the same page. But I could not find the others easily. At least, I was able to know the others had not been in the same class…It seemed I had never talked to them…

     “Actually I can’t tell the restaurant name because I don’t know how to read the Chinese characters. One represents ‘fish’ and ‘existence’ and the other ‘horse’ and ‘to be’. I hope all of you will find the restaurant. Let’s meet there at 6:00 ! See you tomorrow!”

     I received such a terrible text message from T-chan the night before the party. Great! The party organizer cannot tell the meeting place correctly! I began solving the puzzle, anyway. It must be a character of ‘tuna’ made from ‘fish’ and ‘existence,’ and ‘speedy’ from ‘horse’ and ‘to be.’ But I did not know how to read the restaurant’s name. Nevertheless, I was able to get the answer soon on the Internet. Luckily all the participants came to the sushi restaurant named ‘Ichi’ the next day.

     “Long time no seeeeeeee! Well…we haven’t talked before…right?”

     We graduated from the same high school in the same year. But I did not know half of the participants. So, we started with a self-introduction. T-chan was in Class 1 and belonged to the kendo club, N-kun, Class 1, and the tennis club, M-kun, Class 2, and the badminton club, Y-chan, Class 2, and the swimming club, K-chan, Class 3, and also the swimming club, and I, Class 1, and the chorus club.

     “The chorus club?! Did our school have a chorus club?!” All of them shouted. Yes, it did…it was a small club…and no longer exists, though…After the self-introduction, we had animated conversations looking through a yearbook that T-chan had brought to the party. Lots of forgotten memories were reawakened for us. All of us did not know each other, but spent the same time at the same place. So, we had many things to talk together. I had a wonderful time and made old and new friends!

The Handcraft Fair in Nagoya 2014: No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product!

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CAM00233     “You buy a cheap hoodie at a UNIQLO store and then add something like Tyrolean trims or something, or change the cord to a fancy one. You see, you can get an original item easily! No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product! ” Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka, a fashion designer, explained how to modify old or plain clothing items, showing many examples: T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, hats, bags, shoes…CAM00212

     I was in Fukiage Hall last Friday with two of my friends. There was an annual event called “Handcraft Fair in Nagoya.” I attend the event every year. (The previous articles about the event: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008) My main purpose is to buy bags from a bag designer called Yukako. She makes bags from used clothes. I like her taste. The two bags in the photo were the ones I bought this year. They are lovely, aren’t they? CAM00214

     That morning, I had an English class, and my friends had a Chinese medicine class. We met at a restaurant for lunch around 1p.m. All of us were tired and sleepy when we arrived at the place at about 3. We bought some coffee and slumped on to chairs in front of the stage. We did not have stamina for walking around. Then, the talk show began. I was able to get many ideas for modifying clothing.

     After the show, we went to the bag designer’s booth. It was difficult to choose one from her works. Every bag was appealing. I bought a big tote for Tai Chi and drum practice. I often need to bring a pair of shoes and extra clothing for Tai Chi and drum sticks and musical scores for playing the drums. The other one is for my usual outings. I met the bag maker with the one I had bought from her last year. She was very pleased to see it, as if she had met her child who was living far away from her. CAM00215

     My friends each bought some automatic needle threaders made in Italy and wooden clogs. All of us were happy to get what we had wanted. Whenever I come to the event, I am surprised and impressed by many fancywork devotees. I have not made anything by myself for a long time, but the event gave me many hints about modifying this year. According to Mr. Tanaka, you can get many items for modifying at 100 yen shops or hobby stores. I cannot make a bag from old clothes like Yukako, but I might be able to decorate my old bags and to perk them up!

The Alphorns in Nagoya: Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!

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SN3T0055     On a Sunday I suddenly wanted to eat ice cream. My husband and I were on our way home from a home improvement store. We dropped by a convenience store and bought ice cream. It was too hot to eat them in our car, which had no air – conditioner. So we went to a park nearby.

     When we were looking for a nice and cool place, we heard something. Some deep sounds. We found out the source when we were looking around. Three men were playing unfamiliar musical instruments. They were wooden horns, more than two meters long. SN3T0056

     I got interested in the instruments, but decided to finish my ice cream first since it began melting. Although it was hot that day, the wind was cool in the park. It was quite nice listening to the music, licking ice cream in the shade. When my husband and I finished our ice cream, the three men just stopped playing the horns. We walked up to them.

     “Hello,” one of the three men greeted us.
     “Hi! What’s this?” I asked him pointing to his horn.
     “It’s an alphorn.”
     “Alp? Does it have something to do with the Alps?”
     “Oh, yes!” He began explaining about the instrument enthusiastically as if he had been waiting to be asked. Actually, he was not the only person talking about the horn passionately, the other two men were also enthusing about the horns. SN3T0058

     They met the instruments first in Nagano Prefecture, not in Switzerland. There is a village which has a workshop for making alphorns by hand there. They heard about the instruments and the village, and went to the place several years ago. Then they fell in love with the horns. So, the three men went to the village for three months running to make their own ones. Each horn had a painting of beautiful flowers. They painted them by themselves. They were talking about their favorite musical instruments with starry eyes. SN3T0059

     “Why don’t you try?” one of them asked us with a smile.
     “Oh, really?”

     First, my husband tried. Amazingly, he made sounds after a few tries. The men’s eyes gleamed. They gathered around him, nodding, and said, “Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!” Next, I did. I tried hard. My face turned red, but no sound came from the horn. It seems that I have no talent for musical instruments…

     My husband and I are lucky because we stumbled across such an interesting instrument and people! According to them, they have more people in their group and are going to have a concert next March in Midori-ku. Why don’t you go to the concert if you can make it?