See Japan's castles the easy way

Kyū-Hosokawa Gyōbutei video

Article posted on Monday, August, 13th, 2012 at 4:03 pm


I’m toying with the idea of a Japanese castle (or relating to the Japanese castle) video series. Perhaps you could say that’s what I’ve been doing up to now, but those were me meandering and speaking off-the-cuff as it were. This time what I’m hoping for is a shorter and more concise format with less rough edges & more questions answered.

Now that the scene is set, here is episode 2. It’s all about the Kyū-Hosokawa Gyōbutei which we’ve seen before on this here blog. Anyway, please enjoy!

More information on Kumamoto Castle
Kyū-Hosokawa Gyōbutei on the Japanese Castle Explorer Map
More information on Higo Province

Akashi Castle video

Article posted on Thursday, August, 9th, 2012 at 7:31 pm


How’s it going everyone? Enjoying our Summer vacation, are we? Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve had some time to put together a video of one of my favourite Japanese castles. It’s more a slide-show than a video, but there it is narrated with what I’m hoping is interesting and useful information.

Here are a few links for even more information. Be sure not to skip the video though!
More information on Akashi Castle.
Akashi Castle on the Japanese Castle Explorer Map.
More information on Harima Province.

A chat about Ogi Domain

Article posted on Tuesday, July, 10th, 2012 at 9:37 pm


I found myself driving through Ogi City (小城市) in Saga Prefecture on the weekend. It sounds like I was there by accident, and actually I was. I had been aware of Ogi Domain for some time, but without any actual trace of the former Jin’ya‘s structures, I’d just always put it off. Until now, of course.

Today, all there is to be found at the site of the former domain headquarters is large and very green park. Dotted around the park several shrines can be found. The largest shrine is the Okayama Jinja, and it was there that I spied a particularly old-looking gate bearing the heraldic crest (Kamon – 家紋) of the Ogi branch of the Nabeshima clan.

Up a mountain

Article posted on Sunday, April, 29th, 2012 at 10:06 am


Kiizan (基肄山) is located in Kiyama (基山) at Saga Prefecture’s eastern tip. I wrote about it in the post, A path less travelled. In this video, which you should just watch instead of reading this, I touch on two of the “Old-style Korean mountain fortresses” of Kyūshū, Dazaifu, the Mongol invasion and “Kamikaze”. I touch on them, nothing too deep. Enjoy!

A Kagoshima wish

Article posted on Friday, February, 17th, 2012 at 11:09 pm


Would you believe that I’ve been a busy boy? Like, very busy, even? Anyway, I was looking through old photos of my travels over the last year. And, thanks to the ever expanding capacities of memory sticks, that means litterly 1000′s of photos. Several did stand out, but it was this one from the Tsurugane Shrine (located next to the Sengan-en) that prompted me to attempt a post. Something I haven’t done for quite some time.

The weather was rather drab that day. That day being the day I snapped a shot of Sakurajima coughing up some soot (Sakurajima Bang.) What we see in the photo below is called an Ema, something you’d write your wishes on.

You know what I’d wish for? No? I do, but how about you? What would you wish for.

I’ve been a very busy boy

Article posted on Monday, January, 23rd, 2012 at 8:21 pm


Hello RSS subscribers & regular/semi-regular dropper byers. It has been a while, hasn’t it? The first thing you should know is that I’ve been slaving away for the last month to bring you the best Japanese Castle Explorer that I possibly can. I’ve put together a list.

So, what’s new?

The main site (i.e. not this blog) has a completely new theme. Though the layout should look familiar, I assure you it is a very different animal under the hood. How might it be different, you ask?

Small screen friendly
All pages can now fold up or out depending on the screen size. There are actually three stepped sizes and you can see them all by manually resizing the browser. Give it a go: link


(Pictured: Matsushiro Castle Profile)

Province pages
These pages have been around for some time but now there’s a top page. Also though, I’ve added way more data. Check out Shinano Province.

Videos page
Now in one, convenient location: Castle videos

Galleries / Articles
Added a Castle roofs page.
Added a Namako walls page.
Re-added the Miscellaneous pictures page.
Re-added the Stone-throwing windows page.

Castle profiles
Hagi castle – updated pictures & information.
Tsuwano castle – updated pictures & information.

Boring stuff
There’s a privacy policy page
Updated to a newer version of Mootools.

Misc stats / milestones
Castle profiles: 146
Pictures: 1,044
Blog posts: 195
Main site pageviews: 220,000
Blog pageviews: 30,000

Seek and ye shall, or shall not find

Article posted on Wednesday, January, 11th, 2012 at 8:00 pm


This actually came as a bit of a shock when I first saw it. Had I not specifically been looking for it, I no doubt would have missed it. Have a close look at the photo, can you see what it is?

For those unable to make out what is written, the sign post indicates that this is the main entrance to the National Historic Site of Tsuwano castle. I don’t think the problem is that my visit happened to co-incide with garbage day, and that some Tsuwano resident plonked their weekly collection of refuse square in front of the sign making it hard to read. I feel, and kind of strongly, that they could have made the entrance a little more obvious – a bit more welcoming wouldn’t have hurt either.

So how is it that a National Historic Site (also a Hyakku Meijō listed castle) gets away with such poor promotion & presentation? Good question. To be fair, this isn’t the only entrance – there are several hiking paths up the mountain. Aside from those there is one other, perhaps one that many have come to believe is the main entrance. There is a ski-lift-type contraption to convey the tourist types to the top.

The joke is on me as it turns out. I later learned that the Hyakku Meijō stamp for this castle is to be found at the chair-lift building. Either at the top or at the bottom, does anyone know? Woe is me.

The Nagoya Imperial villa

Article posted on Tuesday, December, 27th, 2011 at 3:41 pm


I had my doubts as to whether this postcard was truly old or not; its condition was just too good. Certainly the photograph (featuring everybody’s favourite Nagoya Castle) is old, but I imagine anyone with a printer a flair for retro-styling could turn-out something similar before chowing down on their morning Wheat-Bix.

What’s that caption say? Well observed! It says, 「宮離屋古名」, which is kind of gibberish. UNLESS, I read what’s reflected with this mirror I just happen to have! Ahh, It says 「名古屋離宮」, which is read as Nagoya Rikyū – The Nagoya (Imperial) villa.

…interesting. Looking at the wear on the reverse side of the card, it’s apparent that the caption was stamped, or otherwise created by a device that impacted upon the card, denting it slightly. I think we can now safely conclude that this postcard was not made using an ink-jet printer. And, that’s good enough for me.

So, how old might it be? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Kanmon Straits – Shimonoseki

Article posted on Friday, December, 23rd, 2011 at 10:15 am


This video has had its run on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Youtube, but I thought it may be a good idea to post it here as well. It comes from my visit to Shimonoseki a few months back. The post, Route 3 and other tales of endurance, tells of that trip in some detail. Be sure to follow the link if you are after a slightly longish read.

The topics that I touch on (ever so briefly) are, the Battle of Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦の戦い), Miyamoto Musashi / Sasaki Kojiro’s duel on Ganryū island (巌流島の決闘) & the Chōshu cannon (長州砲).

Kappa manhole cover

Article posted on Saturday, December, 10th, 2011 at 8:06 am


There are Japanese towns who take branding very seriously, and if I may say, way before it was considered cool. These towns, whose number I imagine would be quite significant, take their チャーム・ポイント (unique/special feature) and infuse it with every other aspect of the town that they possibly can. Hey, why not?

For some towns it’s bamboo crafts, for others it’s traditional (Japanese) paper, or lanterns, or tea, or any and every other food or craft you could possibly name. For Tanushumaru in Fukuoka Pref, it’s the mischievous Kappa.

Pictured top-right, is Tanushimaru’s train station. Surrounding the station, and indeed all over town, are images and small, stone statues of Kappa. Below, in a place no-one will find, I found a monhole-cover, on a wall.

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