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 Sunday, July, 3rd, 2011 at 10:38 pm
I was greeted with coldness last February. It seems nine summers in the Northern hemisphere haven’t been enough to to prepare me for sub-fifteen-degree days. Of course, I mean 15° Celsius.
It was not without effort that I guided my near-numb finger to the shutter button for the capture. What can I say? The wind-chill factor was hellish.
The moat we see below is far and away the widest at Kumamoto. For some reason I’ve got it in my head that the moat is like this to keep the gunners out of effective range. I’m 99% sure that I’ve read that very explanation somewhere, but do you think I’m able to dig it up?
The doubt keeps creeping in. Now I’m only 98% sure. What I am able to state with some certainty is that the walls and the tower to the right of the image were all (re)built in the last 10 years.
And now another little factoid pops into my head: After being quarried, the stones were left in a field for several years to give them a more rustic patina. Now, I’m not even going to bother Googling that one! I think I just need sleep.
Oh, and thanks must go to Japan Dave for the post processing. :)
Article posted on Saturday, May, 14th, 2011 at 11:54 am
I have been slack with posting of late. Apologies. The following, though hastily slapped together, I hope will get you your (and me my) fix of Japan and its castles.
In early February of this year I woke up in the middle of the night and drove down to Kumamoto Prefecture. My intention was to actually skip that city’s castle to explore the lower half of the prefecture. That plan proved impossible, I couldn’t resist dropping by.
When I arrived, the carpark was still shut and the only people I could see about were joggers, walkers and other miscellaneous dawn park-goers, and I recall it being damn cold. My dropping-by put me many hours behind schedule. It really is a special place though.
This well and truly qualifies as an edit. I decided to add the following as opposed to replace the original image to spare repeat visitors any confusion. The reason for the edit/addendum: David LaSpina of JapanDave kindly offered his services and produced the following image.
I really like it!
Article posted on Sunday, April, 17th, 2011 at 7:45 am
So much has been said of the twin-sword-wielding strategist that I doubt any introduction would be necessary. If you are unfamiliar with his work, he was Japan’s original triple threat: a peerless swordsman, a genius multi-disciplined artist & a bully on the level of Biff Tannen. “Omae wa chicken??”
It might help the reader to recount his feats & movements around Japan but like I said, so much has been said that I’m sure a quick Google search will satisfy any curiosity. Instead, let us skip to the end of his life in Kumamoto.
The last two years of his life were spent in a cave in north-eastern Kumamoto city called Reigandō (霊巌洞) (map). I doubt he was overly active but he did produce a series of articles on strategy. The book is Go-rin-no-shō (五輪の書) and is something to be considered deeply, just as it says itself countless times.
And now finally we find ourselves in Musashizuka (map) to the north-west of Kumamoto Castle, it’s Miyamoto Musashi’s final resting place. I wonder if he is resting, but continuing on his chosen path instead, the way of the Samurai.
Article posted on Tuesday, February, 22nd, 2011 at 7:51 pm
You know, it has occurred to me that; Money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man’s world. Is this a thought that you’ve arrived at yourself? No? Well, perhaps it’s just me and ABBA then.
This 500-yen coin is one of a series that have been minted to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Local Government Law. Exciting stuff. The first in the series was issued back in 2008.
I’m pretty sure these aren’t in general circulation (to lazy to Google it folks). I’d like to get my hands on one though.
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 Saturday, January, 29th, 2011 at 12:32 pm
Every Japanese castle was made up of layers; rings of defence that, if breached, would still be at the mercy of turrets & arrow-slot-laden walls further in, then finally, the main tower itself. In a place & time of small-scale siege weapons, it was a world of hurt.
A world of hurt was exactly what Katō Kiyomasa experienced in Korea during a prolonged siege at Ulsan castle (蔚山倭城) in the Winter of 1598. Such was the wretched bleakness of that siege that he would set his mind to build arguably Japan’s strongest castles on his return to his home province of Higo (肥後国).
The result was Kumamoto castle, and it means business. There is no showing off with car-sized stones from the backs of trucks, no fancy-pants, gold-leaf roof tiles. Kiyomasa knew exactly what was important, and it was more than just truly ingeniously-designed rings of doom! The soldiers manning those walls needed sustenance.
- over 120 wells were dug to ensure an unfailing water supply
- Ginkgo trees were planted within the grounds. (the tree produces edible nuts)
- Tatami flooring was stuffed, not with rice straw, but with vegetable stalks so as they could be eaten
Tatami stuffing & nuts anyone? There’s plenty to go around!
Article posted on Thursday, December, 30th, 2010 at 9:59 pm
Something arrived the other day, a postcard dating from the early 1900′s! I hope it wasn’t urgent. The postcard features a coloured image of Kumamoto castle‘s Uto Turret & is postmarked 12th February 1919.
I wish I knew more about the process of taking the black-and-white image and turning it into the postcard we see before us. The colouring certainly improves the visual appeal, but it does also aide in the discerning of some of the details of the 400-plus-year-old building – details that might have been obscured without the splashes of colour.
You’ll notice at the top, left of the postcard it says Kumamoto Castle, Higo. I found this kind of interesting seeing as the old provinces were abolished in 1871, Higo (肥後国) becoming Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県). At the bottom of the card,（熊本百景）熊本城宇土の櫓 - (100 scenes of Kumamoto) The Uto Turret of Kumamoto castle.
The back of the postcard tells its own story, its reason for existing I guess. It was sent from Kumamoto city by a gentleman hoping to make contact with someone in Sydney, Australia. Below, I've typed out the message in full. I've neglected to add any [sic]‘s. Hey, no-one's perfect. Is anyone able to make sense of the Please send me… sentence?
I have learned your esteemed name from U.S.C.E. club. I should like so much to keep up a exchange with you. Please send me view of magnificent Bank in your localty. Trust you like this view.