Monthly Archives: January 2015

Nagoya Castle’s Castle Gates and Watch Towers 2: Watch Towers

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     1403058_10152815111282356_7611750469628211205_o “I said JUST eleven!” Professor Miura said, looking at Chris from the corner of his eyes again.

     Professor Miura is a specialist in castle architecture at Hiroshima University. Chris Glenn, the famous radio DJ and samurai expert in Japan, was interviewing him about Nagoya Castle’s gates and watch towers. It was November 15th and I was attending the lecture. 1513753_10152815111457356_992569869806058203_n

     The number eleven, Professor Miura mentioned, indicates the number of watch towers in Nagoya Castle. Watch towers were the buildings for looking out, the strongpoints of defense, and arsenals before the Meiji Era (1868).

     “I said JUST eleven!” Professor Miura said again. The whole room was filled with giggling. You know the reason if you have read my former article (Nagoya Castle’s Castle Gates and Watch Towers 1: Death Box). Actually, almost the same thing had happened a few minutes previously when he mentioned the number of castle gates in Nagoya Castle. He said “I said JUST six!” at that time.

     10155448_10152815111777356_721926655084910360_n “Why did you say JUST eleven?” Chris asked him, rolling his eyes. Professor Miura nodded approvingly and said, “There were more than 80 watch towers in Hiroshima Castle and Okayama Castle. Kumamoto Castle and Himeji Castle had over 100 watch towers! Therefore, the number of watch towers in Nagoya Castle was extremely small.”

     Actually, two more watch towers were planned to be built in Nagoya Castle. But Osaka Castle, which was the enemy’s stronghold, fell in 1614 before all the watch towers were completed. That newfound victory is why the foundations for those watch towers remain unbuilt-on.

     Interestingly, the designs of the watch towers in Nagoya Castle are all different. Their size, style, shapes of roofs and windows and everything are diverse. Professor Miura gave a funny example to illustrate this uniqueness. “Imagine all the fighters in the Japan Self-Defense Force are different.” Oh, I see…1939566_10152815111937356_3404223952661816583_n

     One big difference between Nagoya Castle’s watch towers and those of other castles except for its diversity is their largeness. Each tower is as big as other castle’s main buildings (donjon). After the lecture, the participants had a rare opportunity to tour one of the watch towers. It is called Seihoku-Sumi-Yagura, and used to be the main tower of Kiyosu Castle, which was the castle of Oda Nobunaga, one of the most powerful feudal lords in the Age of Provincial War (the 16th century). That is why the watch tower is also called Kiyosu Yagura.

     10430362_10152815111882356_7696285545257231049_n Kiyosu Castle was demolished and its main tower was reconstructed as one of the watch towers in Nagoya Castle at the beginning of the 17th century, when Nagoya Castle was built. I do not know the reason but the present main tower of Kiyosu Castle is a replica of Inuyama Castle’s main tower…

     Although the number of watch towers is very small, the scale is more impressive than other castles due to the capacity of Nagoya Castle’s watch towers. Moreover, Nagoya Castle had a series of huge roved corridors which surround the main enclosure of the castle. It was called Tamon-Yagura and was also a gigantic store-room for weapons and armor. The width of the corridors was about six meters and the dimensions were equal to more than 300 watch towers from other castles. Unfortunately, this has not been rebuilt yet after it was burnt down by air raids during the Second World War. 1618320_10152815112082356_4570931935487098778_o

     I wrote in my previous article that enemies could not enter through the castle gates or other places. The reason is the existence of this huge series of corridors. It was impossible to break into the main enclosure of the castle through the strongest gates and the roofed huge corridors at that time. Actually, the corridors had a disconnected fireproof compartment, and the idea of fire protection was introduced to castle architecture for the first time in Japan. Not only its military preparedness but also the concept shows that Nagoya Castle was the most advanced architecture in Japan in the 17th century.

   10257195_10152815112942356_8133282589992585861_o   Professor Miura shouted, “Nagoya Castle should be rebuilt to its original style including Tamon-Yagura! It is Nagoya City’s duty!” Yeah! I would like to see the beautiful appearance of Nagoya Castle with the legendary Tamon-Yagura!

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Nagoya Castle’s Castle Gates and Watch Towers 1: Death Box

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     1506169_10152815110842356_4771654284456702730_o  “I said just six.” Professor Miura said that with a sidelong glance at Chris. “I said JUST six.” He repeated.  

     It was November 15th. I was attending a lecture on Nagoya Castle. The lecturer was Professor Miura of Hiroshima University. He is a specialist of Japanese castle architecture. The MC was Chris Glenn, who is famous as a radio DJ and samurai expert in Japan. This lecture’s theme was the gates and watch towers of Nagoya Castle. 10714011_10152815110922356_443045128408129985_o

     “Okay…what does JUST six mean?” Chris noticed that Professor Miura had repeated the phrase and asked him. Professor Miura started explaining it with satisfaction…

     “As I said, there are JUST six castle gates in Nagoya Castle. This number is very small. For example, Himeji Castle has 19 gates. Why does Nagoya Castle have such a small number of gates? Because it didn’t need so many gates due to each one’s strength, such as Masugata-Mon Gate.”

     “Oh, yes. Death Box…” Chris nodded.

     1658130_10152815111102356_1262957222292603576_o Masugata-Mon is a box-shaped gate. Once enemies entered the box, they would be shot to death by ambushing guards. No one could either move through or return alive from the gate. That is why Chris called the gate “Death Box.”

     The present main gate of Nagoya Castle, which was rebuilt after the World War II, is a replica of the gate called Fujimi-Yagura from Edo Castle. But the original one was a “Death Box.” So Professor Miura was shouting, “That gate is not a part of our castle! We should rebuild the gate to its original appearance!” Yeah, he is always passionate about Nagoya Castle… 10688258_10152815111187356_6083034233513872565_o

     The other gates were also strong. The gate called Omote-Nino-Mon is also known as Kurogane-Mon, which means “iron gate.” It was made from iron just as the name suggests and was about 21 centimeters thick, protecting against not only bullets but also cannon balls in the Edo period. Ninomaru-Ote-Nino-Mon is a gate with a big roof. This type of gate is called Korai-Mon. Korai-Mon were excellent at preserving the construction materials against deterioration because of the weather and its unique shape was to allowed archers to shot arrows.

      Therefore, the reason there were only six gates in Nagoya Castle, is each gate was much stronger than the other castles’ gates. But you might think, “But enemies can enter the castle from other places.” Actually, they could not. I’ll write about that next time.