See Japan's castles the easy way
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!
Article posted on Saturday, October, 1st, 2011 at 8:51 am
A slight detour from my trip home from work takes me here, the Matsuzaki Shuku (or is that Juku?) For those who can’t wait for the video explaining what this place is, it was a rest stop for Daimyō & their entourages on their long journeys (& forced visits) to the capital of Edo. This system was known as Sankin kōtai (参勤交代).
This particular rest-stop is located in southern Fukuoka Prefecture, so it was used by clans such as the Shimazu, Hosokawa and Tachibana, among others.
Very few signs of the Shuku remain today. Happily, things of interest can still be found if you seek them out.
Below is a building whose interesting styling and white-plaster walls means it get noticed. There was no information board to indicate that it even existed when the Shuku was catering to Daimyō & samurai.
This tin-topped, two-story building is the only inn that remains. It was one of many that once lined the streets.
Hanging onions who are paying for their crime of being yummy.
A seemingly abandoned building. I am intrigued as to what may be found inside. If only the side of the building would open up allowing me to pear within.
Damn! I still can’t quite see inside. I suspect if I take a closer look, someone will call the police.
This was so cool. These two trowel artists were applying the finishing touches to the house’s gable.
One of my final sights before exiting the Shuku.
Thanks you checking this post out everyone. I have been very slack with posting these last couple of months.
Article posted on Saturday, February, 12th, 2011 at 11:31 pm
Today we’re going to visit the Kyū-Hosokawa Gyōbutei. At times, misleadingly billed as a Daimyō’s residence, it actually started life as a second home for Okitaka, whose brother was the Daimyō. So, while not actually being a Daimyo’s residence, it remains a fine example of a home belonging to the upper echelons of the then ruling military class.
The building complex was built soon after 1646. Between the years of 1688 and 1711, it was remodelled & expanded on several occasions. It wasn’t until the age of the samurai had passed that it became the primary residence of Okitaka’s descendants. In 1985, it was designated an Important Cultural Property of Kumamoto Prefecture.
Location and layout
From 1990 and lasting 4 years, all buildings were moved to their current location from Higashi kokai, approximately one-and-a-half kilometres to the East of where it now stands.
The image above represents the site of Kumamoto castle. To the extreme left of the map is the Kyū-Hosokawa Gyōbutei compound. This part of the castle is known as the San-no-maru, and is in the North-West corner of the castle grounds.
Entry is gained via the Nagaya-mon. This type of gate more closely resembles a simple, rectangular building with double doors allowing passage through it.
Follow the short path and you’ll arrive at the entrance, and like so many others, it features a beautiful kara-hafu style gable. Naturally, the shoes will have to come off.
The first few rooms are where visitors could be greeted. As you make your way around in an anti-clockwise direction, you’ll then pass through the guest quarters. Continuing on, you’ll pass through the study, where high-ranking guests were entertained, then on to the private chambers of the Lord and his family.
The final major wing contains the amenities and the servants’ quarters.
The living quarters
The rooms are plainly decorated yet elegant. Most rooms contain simple exhibits such as furniture, cosmetics boxes and other small furnishings.
The wing containing the kitchen and the servants’ quarters was perhaps the most interesting.
Shown here is the kitchen, and you can see large pots and a sink in the background. Just out of frame is a refrigerator, covered with magnets & old fast-food menus.
Servant’s living quarters
Climbing these stairs isn’t allowed, so we’ll just have to settle for this shot. What I can tell you is that you’d find a pretty spartan room, not even any tatami flooring. That was reserved for the head male & female servants (which are down-stairs).
A quiet corner
I don’t think this room is anything particular special. I just like the shot. Aside for the three lanterns, there is a Jingasa, not exactly a helmet but simple head wear for those in the military. As for the room’s location, it sits to the right of the main entrance.
Article posted on Wednesday, July, 14th, 2010 at 5:47 pm
Castle in Japanese – 城, represented a lot of things. It ranged from something massive and modern like Nagoya or Himeji castles right down to the simplest of stockade, which is probably now nothing more than a site marker in the form of a post in the ground.
It is a little confusing then, that there was a particular type of fortification that served many of the same functions as any large, Edo-period castle but was instead known as a Jin’ya. Well, just to be clear, they would never have been able to withstand any sustained assault but it was from within their offices that the domain was administered, just like at the larger castles.
Jin’ya, written as 陣屋, can be a little tricky to translate. Depending on your source, the following words may pop up: Magistrate’s office, Encampment, Government house, etc…
Generally, Jin’ya were located in domains valued up to 30,000 koku – which is what Wikipedia says. According to a recent book purchase though, it seems there were plenty of domains valued over the 30,000-koku figure. Akizuki Jin’ya in Fukuoka Prefecture for example, was valued at 50,000 koku at one point. And, I’m not having a go at Wikipedia’s contributers. To be honest, the average koku value does tend to hover around the 30,000 mark.
Jin’ya were found all over Japan, and in rather large numbers. Many were built on land held by the Tokugawa Shogunate and others were set-up by Daimyo as mini-domains within their own borders. Some were even established at decommissioned castles. Nagayama Jin’ya in Oita prefecture to name just one.
Akizuki Jin’ya / Jō
Depending on which resource you refer to, the H.Q. of a certain Kuroda Nagaoki (third son of Kuroda Nagamasa) in 1623 was Akizuki castle (秋月城) or Akizuki Jin’ya (秋月陣屋). Whatever its label, let’s have a look at how it may have once looked:
The rear & the side defences cannot clearly be understood viewing this scale model. After refering to my field notes, those three sides were inaccessable due to a creek & embankments. Along the front however is a moat, several multi-story turrets & a main gate. Perhaps it also isn’t so clear but their are two enclosures. One containing the offices and an “L” shaped horse stable. The other presumably containing the lord’s residence.
So, there you have it folks. I hope I’ve been able to clear up what a Jin’ya is and isn’t. In the end, I’m not so sure if I have. Suffice it to say, It’s a Jin’ya if it says it’s a Jin’ya.
Article posted on Tuesday, April, 6th, 2010 at 9:47 pm
A while back I got an email out of the blue from someone requesting use of one of my castle photos for a book. How cool is that? Fast-forward to the present day, this morning in fact, and waiting in my in-box was an email informing me that the book containing the requested photo had just been published. It isn’t the National Geographic, but I for one am pretty thrilled.
I should point out that what follows isn’t a critical review, the book is neither sitting in front of me, nor did pay enough attention during class in high school if it were.
What I do know is that this isn’t your average book of the samurai of the Edo-period. Yes, it is filled with all the important names, dates, places, events & background information that should be there, but it is actually targeted toward people wanting to use the Edo period as the setting of their creative masterpieces.
I might just leave it there because there’s no point to me just repeating everything that’s in the press release or on the publisher’s home page. But, I suggest you click on those links if you’d like to get a better idea of what the book has to offer & to see some selected pages.
What is well worth mentioning is the fact that Tadashi Ehara, the book’s author, has made the offer of a 33% discount exclusively to JCE blog readers (that’s you guys!) Just get in contact by commenting below, by email (kyushudan [at] yahoo.com.au) or direct message on Twitter for those who are interested. Thank you Tadashi.
For the sake of transparency, I’d just like to say that I won’t be receiving any commission or reward if you decide to buy this book. One more thing. The photo I provided it that of Hirado castle.