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 Wednesday, October, 12th, 2011 at 10:09 pm
Here’s me getting ready to go crazy with my Kagoshima adventures (see last post: Sakurajima bang) and I realise that I have ton of stuff that I’ve yet to get to from the Japanese Summer school holidays.
I did some driving back in August, and why would I be driving around Kumamoto in my free time? To visit castles of course. The castle I visited that day was Kikuchi castle.
Interestingly, Kikuchi the castle is written as 鞠智城, and Kikuchi the city is written as 菊池市. Also interestingly, is that this type of thing isn’t that rare.
The ancient Kikuchi castle (鞠智城) wasn’t the only castle I had my sights set on that day, in fact. There was another Kikuchi castle (菊池城) and this one was of the later, Sengoku-period variety. (Confused yet?)
The stone castle-marker you see to the left was the only indication that the site was ever anything more than the local shrine, or so I thought. Not 10 steps to the left of the castle marker is a door, and a door I’d recommend you go through.
What I found was several large rooms filled with border-line fascinating, historical items on display. Most amazing of all was that the door was just open, no-one was there to collect the entry-fee. There was no entry fee. There were no visitors.
Thinking back now, it almost blows my mind the amount of history out there that is not locked away, yet still no-one gets to experience it.
Armour, and quite a bit of it. The suits of armour below I’d date to the Edo perod (1603 – 1868). I don’t believe there were signs saying each armour belonged to so-and-so. The one photo I have with the sign clearly visible simply states that it it of the Etchū-style (越中流).
I don’t consider myself an expert on Japanese arms and armour, but its style of the armour below would indicate that it belongs to an era prior to those of the previous photo.
This was a surprise, armour of a Mongol warrior. The Kikuchi clan actually came to prominence (if I’m to believe Wikipedia) during (one of) the Mongol invasions of Japan at Hakata bay. Getting back to the armour, it’s probably a replica.
The sign says that this old roof tile was dug up from what was the main enclosure (of the castle.)
A fine array of weapons, and so rare that they can be photographed. There were no signs nor guards to say that photography wasn’t permitted. This place gets the Japanese Castle Explorer seal of approval.
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, February, 9th, 2011 at 10:39 pm
In the very early hours of Sunday morning I made the dash down the Western coast of Kyūshū. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, it always is. The plan was to scoot through Kumamoto city to explore the Southern area of Kumamoto Prefecture. Easier said than done. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the Kumamoto Castle, I drove straight for it.
I might just skip the play-by-play and explain the following video. Sashiki castle was the final destination for the day, and can I say, it was awesome! I’d actually had my eye on this place for some time. How glad I was that I could finally get there. So, check out not only this video but also the link to the Sashiki castle profile page for plenty of pictures & information.
Article posted on Tuesday, December, 14th, 2010 at 7:52 pm
I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t ever do a post on flavoured Kit-Kats, and for anyone who’s ever read a Japanese blog, you may know very well what I’m talking about. And it’s not that I have anything against those who do blog on the topic of Japanese snacks, it’s just that I thought there’d be 1,001 things to get to before getting onto the topic of food. Well, at least I thought that was the case.
So anyway, the other day I’m at work minding my own business when I get a tap on the shoulder. Turns out one of the other teachers went to Kumamoto & brought back the obligatory omiyage (お土産). Pictured below is the snack. It’s a fairly typical souvenir being a small, individually wrapped piece of food.
My question for the advanced students is, who do you see? Such is my shallowness, my interest with the milk cookie is only as deep as its wrapper.
Article posted on Wednesday, October, 13th, 2010 at 11:09 pm
There are just so many pictures that I’m unable to post in the relevant castle profiles. With that in mind I’d like to share with you some photos of the Gyōbu mansion from my visit to Kumamoto City.
The Gyōbu mansion is said to be the former residence of a high-ranking samurai closely related to the Hosokawa lords of Kumamoto castle. It is located within a short walk of the castle so there are no excuses for skipping it. It was actually moved to its current site in 1993. (This type of thing is happening more & more.)
Unfortunately, I took all of the photos below from outside the residence. I did do a tour of the mansion back in 2001 and didn’t feel the need to check it out again. In hindsight, I probably should’ve taken the time to get some better photos of the interior. I’ll just have to visit again.
I’ve titled this post “Shashin -” which I’ll use for short-ish posts with a gallery of some pics, just as I have done with this post. Oh, for those not in the know, Shashin (写真) means photo in Japanese.
Article posted on Friday, February, 19th, 2010 at 7:34 pm
Planning for a day trip
In March I’ll have some spare time on my hands so I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to check out some of the castles I haven’t been to in southern Kumamoto Prefecture. The candidates include Yatsushiro, Uto, Hitoyoshi & Sashiki castles. A little investigating revealed even more, (smaller and older) castles that I wouldn’t mind checking out if time allows.
While searching for information on Yatsushiro castle, I came across news of the recently (not really) rediscovered Mugishima Castle. And the most surprising thing about this castle is that the locals would’ve been quite happy to see the remnants bulldozed. But more on that later.
The castle was built in 1588 by Konishi Yukinaga, a Christian daimyō who eventually lost this castle & his life following defeat in the Battle of Sekigahara. The Katō clan then took over and continued to use the castle until 1619 when it became damaged by a major earthquake.
A law was enacted in 1615 that essentially limited each domain to just one castle. While the number of castles was greatly reduced in the years that followed, the shogunate also made numerous exceptions, Kumamoto domain being one. Special permission had been granted that allowed both Kumamoto & Mugishima castles to be retained after 1615 & permission was once again obtained for Yatsushiro Castle to be built 1619. Hosokawa Tadaoki retired to here the following year.
Mugishima Castle’s rediscovery
During the building of a road & sewer, stonework belonging to Mugishima Castle was unearthed. Naturally, all work had to stop to allow for an investigation into the old castle’s remains. Substantial stonework along with broken roof tiles & collapsed turrets walls were eventually uncovered.
The following is a time line that will illustrate the truly glacial pace at which events occurred.
- 1950 – Decision made to build the road
- 1960 – Construction permit obtained
- 1965 – Parts of the castle were excavated. Declared Important Cultural Property
- 1996 – Further excavations were carried out
The final word
A great deal of tension existed between the parties involved, local residents wanted their road (having waited for so many years) & there were those who wanted the site preserved. A compromise was reached that would see the road & sewer work continue and also the site preserved. The path of the road would continue straight over the top of the ruins & the sewer would be built 7 meters below the ruins and with that, Mugishima Castle’s moment in the sun ended.
Photo via wikipedia