Japanese Castle Blueprints

     

People looking for technical diagrams of Japanese castles would be pretty disappointed with the Japanese Castle Explorer website. Sure, there are plenty of images (almost a thousand!) but I am certain there isn’t even one that specifies the heights, lengths, curves and angles of any Japanese castle.

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that the term Japanese castle does in fact refer to the whole lot, from the layout of the earthworks to each & every building standing atop it. So, if you did come across the blueprints of a Japanese castle, what you’d have in your hands would be quite a weighty collection of documents. If such a thing were available, which to my knowledge, there ain’t.

So where does that leave the artists and game/level designers out there wishing to get creative with accurately-proportioned Japanese castles? Well, I guess for the more creative of you, it won’t be a problem, you’ll just find a way. But for everyone else, I hope the following can be used as some sort of guide.

Search Engines

Sites like Google, Yahoo & Bing are the first places we go to find answers. And, why shouldn’t we? That’s where answers are nowadays. I’m certainly not suggesting that you steal images, but if they are just being used as a reference, I see no harm in that.

Okay, so a search for “Japanese castle blueprints” yields… not a lot. Well, a lot, but nothing relevant. Replacing blueprints with floor-plans, doesn’t really help either.

Perhaps the big flaw in our plan (See what I did there?), is that we are using English. If we want useful results, and lots of them, Japanese would surely be the way to go.

A couple of handy terms we can use in conjunction with the name of a specific castle are:

  • 青写真 (Aojashin) – Blueprint. As it literally translates to blue photograph, you may end up seeing lots of blue photographs.
  • 図面 (Zumen) – Plans, drawings, diagrams, blueprints. The one we’ll use.

You can now see that doing an image search for a term like “姫路城 図面” (which is Himeji castle and Zumen), gets us much closer to where we want to be. Still though, the image sizes are inconsistent and there may not even be diagrams for the particular castle you are looking for.

We could blame search engines for the lack of information but that hardly seem fair. They can only draw results from data that actually exists. Still, it’s a little disappointing, isn’t it?

Books

I think we’ll have much better luck if we hit the books, but not English ones, they’re no good. The big, big, big problem here though, will be their availability. I picked up all mine from Book off (Japan’s premier secondhand bookstore chain) But, do you live near one? There is of course Amazon Japan.

There are a number of books on individual castles that contain technical diagrams of its main buildings. A truly excellent example is 甦れ!幻の福岡城天守閣, which contains page after page of plans & cross-sections of Fukuoka castle’s buildings. Included are speculative schematics of what the main tower may have looked like (still unsure if there was one though).

A series of books that I can wholeheartedly recommend is in the table below. There are eight books in all with each book containing excellent diagrams on at least a few castles from that region. The first half of the book contains modern, color photos plus the odd, vintage map. The back half of the book contains vintage, black & white photos, maps and the technical drawings that we are looking for.

Mooks

A cross between the Magazine & the Book is the Mook. The two pictured here are filled with technical drawings of the most famous Tenshu (天守), the main towers of a Japanese castle. The text is Japanese but the fact that they are very visual means there is still value to be had when using them as a reference.

Just click on either of the covers and you’ll be whisked away to Amazon Japan. Secondhand Mooks are available, and they are cheap!

The end

I hope I have at least given you some good leads on getting your hands on some blueprints & plans of Japanese castles. And, if anyone out there has further suggestions to add, I’d be more than happy to hear them. Just let me now via the comments section below.

  • Thecustomshop

    Good info, thanks