Tag Archives: Nagoya

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.

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Nagoya Castletown Trivia 2 : He’s stuck in Murasaki…

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20140920_133543-a     This is the continuation of the former article – Nagoya Castletown Trivia 1: The Lost Purple River and the Phantom White River

     In the middle of the Edo period, the Tokugawa Shogun Yoshimune imposed strict rules throughout Japan due to fiscal austerity. The constraint extended over samurai warriors, who were controlled by the Laws for the Military Houses called Buke shohatto in Japanese. That is, he prohibited the nation from enjoying dressing up, extravagant ceremonies, festivals, going to the theater and so on. 20140920_135113

     However, Tokugawa Muneharu, the domain lord of Owari, which is now called Nagoya, disobeyed him. He ignored Buke shotatto and Yoshimune’s order to stimulate the economy. For example, he walked around in richly decorated costumes, held big festivals, built many theaters, and developed red-light districts. That was why, this area’s economy boomed and many people, artifacts, and cultural activities were pouring in from all over Japan. 20140920_135442

     Moreover, Muneharu encouraged warriors to take on other jobs as a sideline. Actually, warriors were suffering economic hardships despite their high status. They were able to enjoy leisure activities by this additional income. Most of them earned money as teachers. There were many small private schools called terakoya here and there in the Edo period. Merchants, farmers, many people learned reading, writing and arithmetic there. It was not only men but also women who studied at these schools. 20140920_140217

     The most popular textbook for reading among girls was The Tale of Genji. Girls went crazy over the imperial love story of the Heian period. So, it is no wonder that someone conceived of creating something related to the story to gain new students. There was competition between schools like in the present day cram schools. Ah, yes! That monument of Murasaki Shikibu (the author of The Tale of Genji) in Denko-in Temple might be one of the advertisements! (If you do not know what I am talking about, read my former article, please! ) At least, Mr. Fukada thinks so. That is why he believes that the name of the Murasaki River is derived from another origin, not Murasaki Shikibu. According to him, murasaki means ahead (saki) of the village (mura). Oh, I see…20140920_140225-a

     Now, there used to be an entertainment center in this area by the Murasaki River, which does not exist anymore. It had many theaters and was also a major red-light district. People called going to the area “go to Murasaki,” at that time. Many warriors indulged in sex with prostitutes. And if someone became hook on a certain woman, they said about him, “He’s stuck in Murasaki.”

     The tour participants left Tsutamo, the restaurant, and went to the site where there used to be the stone monument of Murasaki Shikibu, and Shirakawa Koen Park, which used to be the enclave for the families of American soldiers in the postwar time, and then arrived at a shrine called Wakamiya Hachiman. 20140920_140408-a

     Wakamiya Hachiman was built in the 10th Century near Nagoya Castle, but was moved to the present place for its castellation in the 17th Century. Actually, there are other shrines in its grounds, such as Goshin-i Shrine, and Sumiyoshi Shrine. Goshin-i Shrine relates to sewing. That is why it has a memorial service for broken needles once a year and has many stone monuments engraved with names of apparel companies, such as Brother Industries, Organ Needles, and Kanebo. Sumiyoshi Shrine was built in 1959for preserving nine wind-up dolls, which had been rescued from the fires of the war. You can see the dolls once a year on November 15, which is its ritual day.

     I was able to learn many things about Nagoya’s history through the lecture and tour. The lunch was also wonderful. I had a great time!

Nagoya Castletown Trivia 1: The Lost Purple River and the Phantom White River

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       “Nowadays, eels are one of the endangered species, but there were many broiled eel restaurants around there for lumber dealers in the Edo period. That was why the area used to be called Kabayaki-cho, which means broiled eel street. Actually, some of them seemed to serve catfish or snakehead fish instead of eels,” said Mr. Masao Fukada, the owner of a historic Japanese-style restaurant, Tsutamo, which celebrates its 100th year in business this year.

     I took part in an interesting class for learning the history of Nagoya last Saturday with some of my friends. The class included the restaurant’s boxed lunch and a walking tour. The presenter was Chris Glenn, who is a popular DJ of ZIP-FM, one of Nagoya’s local radio stations, and is the deputy director of NITA (Nagoya International Tourism Association), the organizer of the class. Kyoji Kikuchi, a TV personality in Nagoya, was also in the class. The participants learned many historical trivia about Nagoya’s downtown, Sakae, and had delicious lunch and an interesting walking tour. I had a great time! 20140920_121020-b

     The history of Nagoya City started with the castellation of Nagoya Castle in 1612. The center of this area was Kiyosu located in the north of Nagoya until then. There was a massive movement of people from Kiyosu to Nagoya to make a new town. Not only people but also almost all temples and shrines were redeployed. The exodus is called Kiyosu-goshi. The street where Tsutamo stands became an entertainment area at that time. 20140920_121536

     According to Mr. Fukada, the name of his restaurant derives from the protagonists’ names of a drama called Ippon-matsu-dohyo-iri, which is a touching-human story of (O) Tsuta, a waitress, who helps Mohei, who has been fired a sumo-wrestler. It was popular when his grandfather started business.

     Nagoya’s downtown was a water-rich area which was a reservoir of the Kiso River in the Edo period. There used to be a river called “The Murasaki” and many springs around there. Tsutamo still has three wells, and the water, which is always 17 degrees, is used for their ponds inside. The Murasaki River had been a fresh stream in the Edo period, but it had stagnated by the Meiji period. So, somewhere down the line, people started to call it “The Shirakawa” to wish its restoration. Shirakawa means white river literally, and its name remains still now, such as Shirakawa Koen Park. 20140920_103212

     Speaking of Shirakawa Koen Park, it is an urban oasis which houses Nagoya City Science Museum and Art Museum now. But the place was an enclave called Amerika-mura, or the American Village, for the families of American soldiers in Nagoya after the war until 1958. Mr. Fukada would often get food or money with his friends by shouting “Give me chocolate!” to them. He was also able to enter the area and was amazed by the difference in the lives of GIs and Japanese people those days. “Their futon had four legs!” 20140920_130028-b

     Now, why did the river have the name of the Murasaki? Murasaki means purple in Japanese. Actually, it seemed to have nothing to do with the color. There is an apartment building near Tsutamo, but the place used to be a temple named Denko-in with a stone monument called “Murasaki Shikibu-no-hi” until the end of the war. The temple was moved with the monument to Meito-ku in the east of Nagoya because of the town relocation project in the postwar period. According to a legend, the river’s name was derived from the monument.20140920_133112-a

     Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese female novelist at the Imperial court in the 11th Century, and is well known as the author of The Tale of Genji. Why did the stone monument with her name exist in the temple? She lived in Kyoto far from Nagoya in her time. Actually, there is an interesting story: 20140920_131609-b

     One day, a noble-looking woman passed by this area and was taken into care by villagers. She told them that her mistress had died in the capital and she was on her way home. But she decided to stay there for a while to mourn her lady because she was moved by their kindness and the purity of water in the village. After three years, she drowned herself in a stream leaving a message: The period of mourning for my mistress is over. I’m going to her place. Villagers built a monument for her by the river and named it Murasaki Shikibu-no-hi because the person whom she had served was Murasaki Shikibu…

Really?

(To be continued…)

Churchill in Love: I thought it had Churchill’s bedroom scenes!

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チャ     “A Yes vote for Scottish independence on Thursday would go down in history as a political and economic mistake as large as Winston Churchill’s decision in 1925 to return the pound to the gold standard or the failure of the Federal Reserve to provide sufficient liquidity to the US banking system which we now know brought on the Great Depression in the US…”20140914_143033-a

     The chief economist of German financial giant, Deutsche Bank, warned Scottish people about independence from the UK last Friday. I do not know whether Scottish people accepted warnings like his or not, but they finally chose to remain as part of the UK yesterday. I am wondering what the result will cause from now on, but at least it seems that we were able to avoid a world crisis.

     By the way, I went to see a play last Saturday about the politician who was referred to in the German economist’s warning to Scottish people. The title was Churchill in Love. Yes, the protagonist Winston Churchill was a high-flyer during the interwar period. But “in love”? So, I asked the actor who played Churchill when I received a flyer for the play, saying “Not ‘Churchill in Nagoya’?” But he replied, “Ha ha! No, no. It’s Churchill in Love!” with a laugh, and then added, “It’ll be the first time for me to have a bedroom scene.” Whaaaaaat? Churchill in a bedroom scene? I bought a ticket on the spot. 20140914_123326-a

     The flyer had the plot: In the summer of 1959 Sir Winston Churchill and his family boarded on the luxury yacht Christina at the invitation of Aristotle Onassis and his wife, Tina. Also invited on board the yacht was the mercurial opera diva, Maria Callas. What follows is a tempestuous cruise into the heart of deceit, desire, and disillusion as the aging Churchill and his family, seek to avoid any hint of impropriety. Love and lust wage war in this historical meditation of one man’s long love affair with his wife and another man’s descent into desperation. 20140914_125705

     Hmm…What will happen on stage? I was excited as I walked to the theater, which looks more like an old warehouse than a theater. It is a 42-year-old building named Nanatsudera Kyodo Studio which is located in Osu, Nagoya. An army major was standing in front of the building when I arrived. He was the actor who was playing Major Lang. Before the curtain-up, the play had already started. In fact, he and an actress who was playing Churchill’s wife came and went between the stage and the audience seats inside to enhance the mood.20140914_142300

    Actually, there was no bedroom scene played by Churchill and his wife. Instead of them, Ari Onassis and Maria Callas played love scenes. I was relieved. You know, Churchill was in his 80s. Love has different kinds like ancient Greek identified: familiarity (storge), friendship (philia), sexual and romantic desire (eros), and divine love (agape). The play depicted that Ari and Maria did not know true love or how to love someone from the heart. But they just pursue eros, one form of love. So, they also knew about love, which was just different from Churchill’s. Anyway, the play was interesting with thrilling episodes of those historical famous characters!

Bitter 758 Coffee: Why don’t you try “Nagoya” coffee?

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An interesting article caught my eyes when I opened the newspaper (The Chunichi) on August 30th morning:

Bitter 758 (Nagoya) Coffee ~ A long-established company and Nagoya Institute of Technology “blend” coffee together~
Ito Coffee Shokai, a long-established coffee beans wholesale firm in Higashi-ku, Nagoya, and Associate Professor Takanori Ito (the environmental design) of Nagoya Institute of Technology’s Graduate School have co-developed coffee featuring its strong taste like other Nagoya’s local food, such as miso-katsu (fried pork with sweet soy bean paste) and tebasaki (spicy fried chicken wings). They have named the coffee “758 (Nagoya) Coffee” and are going to sell it on the top floor of the Nagoya TV Tower on 30th (Yasuyuki Ichikawa)20140830_142038

     It tasted strong and bitter when I sipped the coffee, just as it was intended. The coffee’s feature is its strong taste and bitterness. They insisted on making the coffee stronger and bitterer than usual ones. “We’re very proud of releasing this new coffee,” said Aiko Ito, one of the coffee company executives. Ito Coffee Shokai being established in 1951 is one of the oldest coffee beans wholesale companies in Nagoya. This project began with Associate Professor Ito’s approach to them to create new taste coffee to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Nagoya TV Tower. They researched Nagoya citizens’ taste with three types of coffee in July and August. As the result, about 80% of the subjects chose the bitterest one as “Nagoya taste.” Why do Nagoya’s people like bitter and strong coffee? According to Mr. Toshiyuki Otake, a freelance writer who knowing well about the culture of Japan’s coffee shops, said, “People tend to like the strong taste of miso, or soy bean paste and so on, in Nagoya. Bitter coffee matches strong flavor food.” Associate Professor Ito presumed that they might feel like they had gotten their money’s worth because of the extra content that gave the extreme taste as people in the Nagoya area tend to be prudent. 20140830_141012

     Hmm…They are going to sell the coffee on 30th…30th…Oh, it’s today! I realized it, and left for the Nagoya TV Tower right away. Why? You’ll get the answer when you read under this blog’s title. Yes! I love coffee! I wanted to try the new coffee as a coffee lover. The Nagoya TV Tower finished its role as an electric wave tower in 2011, since when it has been used as a sightseeing attraction. But it is still a symbol of Nagoya. Nevertheless, I had never ascended the tower until that day…So, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to go there, too. 20140830_134920-a

     Actually, there were two other big events in the area that day: Domatsuri and 24 Hour Television. Nippon Domannaka Festival a.k.a Domatsuri is the largest dance festival in central Japan. Many people get together for the event from all over Japan and dance and dance and dance! On the other hand, 24 Hour Television is a kind of charity program. Because of those events, it was very crowded around the tower. 20140830_140048

     There was sanctuary above the hustle and bustle. I saw many people on the top floor of the tower, but they were enjoying the scenery over coffee calmly. The view from the top was fantastic. And the Nagoya taste coffee was also nice. It was not as strong or bitter as I had imagined possibly because I am a Nagoyan, myself. By the way, the coffee’s name “758” is read “na-go-ya.” 7 can be read ‘na,’ 5, ‘go’ and 8, ‘ya’ in Japanese. It is a kind of play on words. Ito Coffee Shokai is going to sell the coffee beans for 758 yen per 200 grams at their shop soon!

The Night Zoo: Where is your father?

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20140815_190022     To be honest, I do not like to go to zoos or aquariums so much. I do not feel happy to see animals imprisoned. I feel rather depressed. But I do not deny their importance of existence. They deal with protecting endangered species, and provide opportunities to observe creatures directly, especially to children. They make children happy, and make their family also happy. I was frisky as well when I was a little child, shouting “That’s an elephant!”

     I who had been avoiding visiting zoos for a long time went to a zoo last month. What brought me there? It was the “Night Zoo.” There is a zoo named Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya. They opened at night during the obon holidays. That was the first time in three years. They usually close at 5:00 p.m., but opened until 8:30 during the period. It was a rare opportunity to be in the zoo at night, and they had not held the event for three years. Besides, it was not raining. That was why I decided to go to the “Night Zoo.”20140815_190319

     We had thunderstorms in Nagoya area in mid-August this year. So, they had to close the zoo many times during the Night Zoo event period. But it stopped raining in the evening when I went to the zoo that day. It was terribly hot and humid in the zoo, which was filled with swarms of people. It was quite dark in the zoo for the same of the animals. So, there was no music, either. But the atmosphere looked like a summer festival. Children were cavorting. 20140815_190639

     I expected to hear lost children announcement many times, but I never heard even one. Instead, I heard mothers’ and children’s conversations several times:

     “Where is your father?”
“Donno.”
“You should’ve taken care of him!”
“Why me?!”20140815_185832

It seemed there were many lost fathers in the zoo that night…

     In the dark park pond, many couples were pedaling the swan-shaped boats. No lights, no music. They just needed an intimate space where they could be alone. I understand that, but the pond has a jinx: Couples who ride thsese boats in the park will break up soon…20140815_191109

     Animals looked tired. If I were an animal in the zoo, I would cry out, “I’m tired! Go home, humans!” In the darkness, I was not able to see many animals. Instead, I watched many people. It was so crowded and dark that I did not have anything else to see. Anyway, I enjoyed an extraordinary summer night.

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!