See Japan's castles the easy way
Article posted on Wednesday, June, 1st, 2011 at 9:37 pm
The Rokumeikan Hizō Shashinjō (鹿鳴館秘蔵写真帖) is providing us with another fantastic vintage vista. I won’t bother saying which part of Edo castle it is, suffice to say it is a quiet corner of a castle that had more corners, quiet or otherwise, than any other.
I love this picture, it has a real ghost-town quality to it. There’s not a soul to be seen amongst the cracked plaster walls and overgrown steps & stonework. The fact that there was even a photographer there to capture it seems lucky indeed.
The image has a lot to offer, so I recommend you get your nose up to the screen and have a good look around. The stand out for me in that well.
Article posted on Sunday, May, 15th, 2011 at 2:09 pm
I have managed to collect some interesting items over the years. It’s something I guess we all do. Some things you’ll want to continue to hang on to, and other things you’re willing to let go. Especially if they end up going to an appreciative home.
With a view to making available these still-interesting items (and yes, making some money back) I set-up a Shop Page. At the present there is a mere handful of categories; Postcards (featured below), Books, Souvenirs & Antiques.
Some vintage postcards
So, there was a bunch of postcard images just sitting there doing nothing, and I thought why not give them some extra exposure. One minor note. I notice the Japanese script on all of the following cards runs from right to left. Anyway, enjoy!
The first is of the main tower of Ōsaka Castle. It is undated, but I’m willing to bet that it is from the 1930′s. This tower was in fact rebuilt in 1931.
This one of Edo Castle (I know, I know. It’s the Imperial Palace.) and it is old (1904). This particular view is an oft replicated one, though it surely must be one of the earliest.
The Hansōbō is a temple (shrine ?) in Kamakura. I really do not know a thing about the place. The postcard however features a red ink that has a fantastic quality about it when viewed with your own eyes.
Here is another of the Imperial Palace of Tōkyō. The writing, though clear, is unreadable by me. Anyone want to give it a shot? Anyway, you’ll see that there are a lot of Yukata (light Kimono) about.
The final postcard is of the former Imperial Palace, the one in Kyōto, before the move to the new capital in Tōkyō. The gate is the Kenrei-mon. This wide-bordered style of postcard is one that I’ve seen from the earlier decades of the 1900's.
So, there you have it people. Some postcards and who-knows-what-else for sale. Spend some cash, you can trust me.
Article posted on Sunday, May, 8th, 2011 at 1:35 pm
This old photograph is another taken from the book, Rokumeikan Hizō Shashinjō (鹿鳴館秘蔵写真帖). The gate pictured is the Sōmon gate (惣門), and is the first of three that lead to Tokugawa Hidetada’s mausoleum. The gate and the mausoleum itself were built by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa Shōgun for his father, the second Tokugawa Shōgun (Hidetada).
Hidetada’s mausoleum is (was?) known as the Daitoku-in (台徳院) and was part of the Zōjō-ji (増上寺) temple complex that would later house the mausoleums of several of the Tokugawa Shōguns. Check out the following, totally-sweet table.
|The mausoleums of the Zōjō temple|
|Tokugawa Hidetada||徳川秀忠||2nd Tokugawa Shōgun||Daitoku-in||台徳院|
|Tokugawa Ienobu||徳川家宣||6th Tokugawa Shōgun||Bunshō-in||文昭院|
|Tokugawa Ietsugu||徳川家継||7th Tokugawa Shōgun||Yūshō-in||有章院|
|Tokugawa Ieshige||徳川家重||9th Tokugawa Shōgun||Shunshin-in||惇信院|
|Tokugawa Ieyoshi||徳川家慶||12th Tokugawa Shōgun||Shintoku-in||慎徳院|
|Tokugawa Iemochi||徳川家茂||14th Tokugawa Shōgun||Shōtoku-in||昭徳院|
Sadly, the march of time plus a heavy dose of WWII bombing has ensured that nothing more than a handful of gates have survived to the present day of the original mausoleums’ buildings. Perhaps it won’t surprise you to know that the Sōmon gate is one of them.
It was a photo & post by fellow Twitterer, Muza-chan, that sparked my interest in the gate. Here is the post: Daitoku-in Mausoleum Somon Gate Night View. And with the help of that information, I was able to track the gate down to here.
The next time I’m in Tokyo, I will be making a visit to this gate for-sure!
Article posted on Wednesday, April, 20th, 2011 at 9:38 am
I was recently flipping through a book I’d picked up a while ago called Rokumeikan Hizō Shashinjō (鹿鳴館秘蔵写真帖). It’s a book I find of great interest even given my poor, poor Japanese language skills because it is filled with photographs from one of the most fascinating periods in Japan’s history.
Filled with images from the early 1870′s, (precisely the time when the feudal domains were abolished & replaced with the current system of governance) it shows a decrepit Edo castle, neglected temples as gorgeous as those of Nikkō as well as not-really-random photos from a tour of Western Japan.
The photographs are the work of Yokoyama Matsusaburō (横山松三郎), Uchida Kuichi (内田 九一) and others. The image below is taken from the front cover.
Posing at the Naka-no-Mon
The above picture truly does say 1,000 words. I shouldn’t muddy the waters by adding my own, but I will. Below is my Top 10: Surprising things about this photo:
- That it actually dates from a time when wearing swords was allowed.
- There are weeds growing out of the roofs.
- Plaster is falling from the walls.
- There are kids in the photo.
- The kids are wearing swords.
- The man sitting has an umbrella.
- The umbrella is modern, not a traditional Japanese umbrella.
- One of the Samurai is wearing a digital watch.
- I should’ve gone with Top 5 or something.
Article posted on Tuesday, March, 22nd, 2011 at 8:02 pm
This little museum has a lot of history about it, and I’m not just talking about the items exhibited within. What has been known as the Matsuura Historical Museum since 1955 is also known as 旧松浦藩主旧邸 (Kyū Matsuura Hanshu kyūtei). Not exactly a term you’d come across too often, and why would you? It means (The) former feudal lord of the Matsuura domain’s former residence, and there’s probably only one of them.
The former domain of Hirado, formerly located at the north-western corner of former Hizen province, was a modest yet notable one. It was once home to Japan’s first European foreign trading posts steered by the likes of Jacques Specx & William Adams.
The buildings that currently occupy the site were built in 1893, but these were not the first. Rather disappointingly, I’m unable to determine exactly when the site was established. What I can confirm is that the site was in use by the Matsuura clan before the move to Hirado castle, which can be seen on the hill, across the bay in the above photo.
One point I’d like to make, and it comes courtesy Hoikusha-published, Japanese Castles by Michio Fujioka, is that the Matsuura mansion was built in the defensively-strong position at the foot of a mountain; one of the two favoured positions of the earliest castles. The other being at the mountain’s peak. Both of these positions would become less and less popular, but that story is for another time.
As I said, the buildings date from 1893, and there is a real charm about them. The main building is the Chitose Kaku (千歳閣) and houses over 150 fascinating items relating to the Matsuura clan. There’s armour and other items of clothing, there are also many items dating from early European trade.
Another building of note is the Kanun Tei (閑雲亭). It’s a largish tea house and was originally built along with the others in 1893. There is a twist though. A typhoon struck in 1987 which levelled the structure. It was rebuilt soon after, and they say with the original materials. (cough, co.. bullshit!)
The Matsuura Historical Museum and both the city & island of Hirado have so much to offer tourists. So, if you find yourself in Nagasaki, take a bus or a train up North. It’s well worth it.
Article posted on Wednesday, February, 23rd, 2011 at 9:00 pm
“The castle of Ōsaka. (The famous place of Ōsaka.)”
Ōsaka castle is most definitely famous. It always has been. The Tokugawa-built Ōsaka castle was famous, so was the Toyotomi castle before that. Going back even further there was the Ishiyama Hongan-ji, which was one of the strongest fortresses Japan had ever seen. The Ishiyama Hongan-ji, a fortress of the Ikkō-ikki warrior monks, was actually under siege for a decade before finally falling to Oda Nobunaga!
The incarnation pictured below is that of the Meiji period (1868-1912). The Emperor had been returned to power and many of the former Samurai castles were being used to house a modern, expanding & most-definitely Western-styled Imperial army. At Ōsaka, the troops were housed in the Nishi-no-maru.
The rows of barracks have long since gone but the view isn’t entirely different. The moat & the high stone-walls haven’t changed. Also still remaining are the two turrets sitting atop the corners, the Inui Turret (left) & the Sengan Turret (right). Check out this post I did a while back on the Inui Turret.
I really don’t know enough about postcards/image reproduction of back in the olden days, but it appears to be an artificially coloured photograph. It seems to precise to be a painting and the colour just doesn’t seem right. I wonder if anyone would like to hazard a guess as to its age?
Article posted on Friday, February, 18th, 2011 at 10:53 pm
Setting the scene
In 1862, the acting head of the Shimazu clan, a guy named Shimazu Saburō (島津三郎), attended the Emperor’s envoy’s entourage to the capital of Edo. Perhaps he was there to offer weight to the request that the Shōgun travel to Kyōto to discuss measures that could be implemented to keep foreigners off Japanese soil.
In addition to his already stated purpose, there were two additional items Saburō wanted to discuss with the Shōgun. They were:
- the law requiring lengthy attendance by Daimyō in the capital (and when not there, hostages in their place) to be abolished
- for himself to be appointed by the Shōgun to a level of particular importance in the Emperor’s court
Not only were the above two requests denied, but the Shōgun didn’t even make space in his schedule for face time with the regent of Satsuma. This only served to add to what was already a deep, hereditary hatred that the Shimazu had for the Tokugawa.
A woodblock print depicting the attack upon a British national on September 14th, 1862. The man standing upright with the red, billowing Hakama is none other than Shimazu Saburō (this time written as 嶋津三郎).
The dangers of horseback riding
With their business more-or-less concluded, they left Edo. When on the Tōkaidō, the main road linking Edo with Kyōto and Ōsaka, Saburō and his procession came across four mounted Englishmen, one of which was a lady.
When the day-trippers got close, only one of the four dismounted & bowed. To dismount was seen as the right thing by the Japanese, but seen as appalling by every other foreigner in Japan at the time. In fact, the Anglo-Japanese friendship treaty that was in effect, deemed such an action as unnecessary for Anglos. In any case, Charles Richardson, pictured in the black coat & top hat, met his end for not having shown sufficient respect.
Compensation of ₤25,000 was demanded for Mr Rishardson’s death, however almost one year had passed and the British still hadn’t received the requested funds. Dissatisfied, several British ships were assembled and proceeded to bombard the Satsuma capital of Kagoshima.
Article posted on Monday, February, 7th, 2011 at 9:51 pm
Again with the postcards? Yes, they continue, and there’s still quite a few to go. Just like all the postcards that I’ve posted before, this one has a bit of age to it. Exactly how old it is, I’ll not at all sure. How about…. early 1900′s? It has some nice colour to it too, what do you think?
Pictured is Nagoya castle, a castle I’d really like to get back too. You know, I might just take this opportunity to digress a moment… Has everyone heard that story how in Japan you can forget your wallet on the bus and then when you come back an hour later it’ll still there? Well, that’s basically what happened to me on my visit to this castle, except the wallet, minus the cash, ended up in Nara. Well, it was my own stupid fault.
The Tenshu (天守) and Lesser Tenshu (小天守) can be seen in the distance. The moat runs from left-to-right (or right-to-left if you’d prefer), but it also runs from where the two boys stand toward the Lesser Tenshu. This in effect splits the Ofukai-maru (御深井丸) & the Nish-no-maru (西の丸).
When I look at this postcard, I begin to feel nostalgic for a time I never experienced. 懐かしい
Article posted on Saturday, January, 22nd, 2011 at 1:20 pm
In recalling their youth, it seems Japanese parents look on their elementary (primary) school bags with the kind of nostalgia that I’d reserve for my Star Wars toys. My own school bag did the same thing, you know, carry books & stuff, but In my home country of Australia, it was probably something we could kick around without a second thought. In some instances, It was the home of the very smelly, forgotten banana. A dreadful discovery.
In Japanese, the word for school bag is Randoseru, written as ランドセル, it is an introduced word (gairaigo – 外来語), coming from the Dutch language. By the looks of the photo below, it hasn’t always meant school bag.
The photo tells a thousand words, but I’ll add just a few more anyway. Both of the examples above exhibit golden Kamon, one is the Hollyhock (aoi – 葵) of the Tokugawa & the other is the horse’s bit (kutsuwa – 轡) of the Shimazu. I’m pretty sure these bags weren’t for traipsing off to school. The woodblock print shows a military parade from the Meiji Period (1868-1912), and the title of the display being: Hainou (Ransel) – 背嚢 (ランドセル). My Googling suggests that the first word, Hainou, is used to specifically describe a soldier’s backpack.
Article posted on Friday, January, 7th, 2011 at 1:13 pm
Well, here’s another postcard, and it looks to have a bit of age to it. Most unusual is that it isn’t made of card, but of wood. A wooden postcard! Who’s ever heard of such a thing?
By no stretch of the imagination am I mad about postcards. If anything, I’m happy to steer well clear of them. In this case though, what interests me is that we are able to catch a glimpse of what once was, as it was.
Depicted is the Wadakura Gate (和田倉門) of Edo Castle, which was one of two gates that connected Daimyo alley (大名小路) to Nishi-no-Maru Shita (西の丸下). Put in simple terms, probably where I should’ve started, the bridge & gate connected two enclosures in the South-East corner of Edo castle.
Today, the area isn’t completely unrecognisable. The moat, a bridge & stonework remain. Clearly missing is the small Korai-style gate, its flanking, white walls & the large turret-topped gate. Also, the Wadakura Gate of today is sporting a lot more trees. Trees are good.