Tag Archives: samurai

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!

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.

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!

A Middle Class Samurai Warrier’s Diary in Edo Period

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4121007409      How much do you think I paid for this book? I bought it for only one yen through Amazon! It’s Genroku Otatami Bugyo No Nikki, written by Jiro Kosaka in 1984. This book is based on a diary written by a samurai warrier in the middle management position in Edo period. I bought this book because the lecturer had mentioned it in a lecture about Shirakabe area in Higashi-ku, the eastern place from Nagoya Castle, the other day.

     It was snowing so hard that day that I hesitated to go outside. But I went to the lecture and had a wonderful time. The lecturer talked about many interesting things, especially, about people who used to live in Shirakabe area, such as Sakichi Toyota, the founder of Toyota Motor, and Akio Morita, the founder of Sony. But who I got interested in the best was the writer of the diary: Bunzaemon Asahi. TS3N0012

     Bunzaemon was a samurai warrier in the middle class and a kind of facilities department chief in Owari, now Nagoya, in Edo period. He loved going to the theater, gambling, and poems, indulged sex and alcohol, and suffered from hysterical his wife and lover. He was interested in martial arts and became a disciple of many of them, but he had no physical and mental power and no sense for them.

     Such a worthless samurai had written journals for 26 years and eight months until he died! They’re 37 books and called Omu Rochuki. He was an ordinary samurai. He didn’t do anything special in his time, except for writing his own diary. He recorded the social situation, prices of commodities, the weather, astronomical observation, from small to big affairs, theater criticism, gambling info, even indictment against the government and the lord.

     After the lecture, I ordered this book at Amazon. There are many interesting descriptions in it as follows: TS3N10310001

“July third. I went shooting. I fired 13 shots, but no hit.”

“At the wedding, many people drank too much and threw up at the table.”

“I drank too much last night. I have a stomachache and feel sick. I threw up twice this morning. I shouldn’t drink too much from now on.”

“It’s fine today. I drank too much and threw up terribly last night. I really feel sick. I mustn’t drink much from now on. I’ll stop drink for a while from tonight.”

     He ended up dying from liver ailment.

     What I’m surprised at his diaries is how much people committed suicide. Japan is notorious for large numbers of suicide and I’d thought it was just a present problem. But it seems a kind of tradition and habit for Japanese. There are lots of descriptions of variety of suicide in Bunzaemon’s diaries.

“May 31. Juzaemon Arakawa died. He had opened a gambling house in secret for many years because he was very poor. This time, because many of his customers had been arrested, he killed himself by eating lots of cold noodles and jellies and 500 plums. He had a lover and a 13-year-old boy.”

“A wife in Dekimachi took a part time job at a liqueur shop. The wife and the brewer had a love affair. The wife’s husband noticed it and killed the wife and brewer, and then killed himself by the sword today.”

“Gohei Tori’s wife died on August 29. During Gohei’s absence on business in Edo (now Tokyo), she had a love affair. She killed herself at the toilet before her husband’s return.”

“An old woman cut her throat with a razor in the daytime. She was very poor. She had no relatives and places to go.”

“A farmer in Nozaki, killed himself because he had no rice for tax. He went out of his house, became naked, sit on a straw mat, and cut his neck with a knife.”TS3N10330001

     Most of the suicide people chose their death because of poverty in the era. Couldn’t they live truly? They didn’t die from starvation. They killed themselves. Many of them did for fear of revelation of their secrets. Did they really need to die? Why did they choose to try to solve their problems without killing themselves? Japanese people tend to choose suicide easily. Nothing has changed on people’s life and thinking way, I thought when I was reading the book. It’s not only about suicide but also many things.

     Why don’t you read the book? You can buy a second handed one for only one yen through Amazon!

元禄御畳奉行の日記―尾張藩士の見た浮世