Japanese City Guides: Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle 名古屋城
Originally built on the orders of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, commissioned in 1610 and completed in 1612, the reconstructed Nagoya Castle features a new five-story main keep or donjon mounted by a pair of 3m-long golden shachi (dolphins), which have become symbols of the city and are made in strict accordance with the originals.
Nagoya Castle was constructed on a huge scale to emphasize the power of Tokugawa Ieyasu after his victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and his ascent to the position of shogun, effectively in control of the whole of Japan. Nagoya Castle also secured Ieyasu's western flank on the Tokaido highway which ran from Kyoto to Edo (present-day Tokyo).
The Tatsumi Tower (South East Tower) survived the World War II bombing
Nagoya Castle's huge construction project was tendered out to Tokugawa's vassals and trusted allies in the north and west of Japan, chief among them Kato Kiyomasa (statues of whom appear within the grounds), the supreme castle architect of his day, Kumamoto Castle being his pie de ristance, and Fukushima Masanori and Maeda Toshimitsu. Inscriptions on the stones of the castle and its huge, sloping walls denote which of the lords were responsible for each section of the building work.
One huge stone in the defences is known as the Kiyomasa Stone after a legend that the feudal lord stood upon the stone urging on his workers on with a fan as it was hauled by ropes into position. More likely this stone was positioned by Kuroda Nagamasa. The keep of nearby Kiyosu Castle was brought to Nagoya Castle to become the northwest turret of the new castle. Some of the workers who were brought to Nagoya from Kyushu with Kiyomasa to construct the castle stayed in the area and settled in nearby Arimatsu, where they passed on their techniques of shibori - fabric tie-dying - which remains an important local craft.
Statue of master Japanese castle architect Kato Kiyomasa who worked on both Kumamoto and Nagoya castles
A flat land castle, Nagoya Castle was defended by its massive, sloping walls and a series of wide moats, some of which came in close to the castle itself and are known as "Cormorant Neck" moats. The sloping walls were built using a technique called ogi kobai (fan sloping), whereby the upper part of the castle wall is curved outward in the shape of a fan. The technique also referred to as "Kiyomasa-style Crescent Stone Wall" (after Kato Kiyomasa) prevents swelling by curving the middle part of the wall inward to evenly balancing the weight of the huge stones against the earth and sand within.
The six floors of the huge interior and a basement house an interesting museum (9am-5pm; entrance 00) displaying Edo period armour, helmets, and other weapons including early Japanese firearms, fusuma-e (paintings on sliding doors), recreations of Edo period, tatami-floored rooms in the castle and other art treasures that remained unscathed from the bombing in World War II. Over 1,000 paintings survived the conflagration and these are being carefully restored to be exhibited in the completed Hommaru Palace.
A 3-D theater on the first floor explains the riches of the Hommaru Palace including the beautiful paintings of the Kano School including work by Sadanobu, Jinnojo, Tanyu and Mokunosuke Kano. The museum also details the terrible destruction that was dealt out to Nagoya Castle by incendiary bombing by a US B-29 aircraft in May 1945.
The top floor is an observation deck with panoramic views of Nagoya including the Twin Towers of Nagoya Station and the other skyscrapers in the Meieki area.
The three corner turrets, the second front gate and the massive walls and moats luckily escaped the wartime damage.
Ninomaru Garden just to the east of the castle is a beautiful, original Japanese-style garden with a contemporary teahouse, the Ninomaru Teahouse, serving green tea and traditional Japanese confectionary. The surrounding Meijo Park with over 2,000 cherry trees is a pleasant place to relax and a popular picnic spot in early spring when the cherry blossom blooms.
Nagoya Castle is famous for its huge, fan-shaped sloping stone walls
One of the four "Cormorant Neck" moats at Nagoya Castle
The area around Nagoya Castle remains a center of government for the city of Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture. Nearby are Nagoya City Hall, Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, venue for the annual Nagoya Sumo Tournament in July, the Nagoya Noh Theater (Nagoya nohgaku-do) and to the east near Ozone subway station the renown Tokugawa Art Museum (10am-5pm, closed Monday; entrance 200), which contains the Owari family legacy of art and heirlooms - including maki-e lacquer work, samurai armour, Noh theater costumes and the original twelfth-century painted scroll of The Tale of Genji by Takayoshi Fujiwara. Adjacent to the Tokugawa Art Museum is the Tokugawa-en strolling garden. The Nagoya Immigration Office has now moved to a new location on the Aonami Line from its original location in Marunouchi.
The original Hommaru Palace, which was completed in 1615 and was situated to the south of Nagoya Castle, is presently under re-construction and it is hoped the building will be open to the public by 2018.
Though destroyed in World War II many of the famous Kano School screens and fusuma-e were saved from the fires and will be placed in the restored palace including works by Sananobu, Jinnojo and Tannyu Kano. Visitors to Nagoya Castle can observe the ongoing work on the Hommaru Palace, which includes skilled crafts people shaping and planing hinoki (cypress) timbers and a video corner related to the construction.
The Aichi International Plaza to the south of Nagoya Castle has tourist and resident information, a library and satellite TV.
Nagoya Castle plays host to a summer festival in August, the Natsu no yoru no busho matsuri. There are displays of Edo period firearms, a night market, Bon dancing and beer hall as well as illuminated lanterns. The castle has a special night opening and the keep is lit up.
The beautiful grass lawns of the Ninomaru Garden at Nagoya Castle
The walls and inner moat at Nagoya Castle
The Westin Nagoya Hotel
Less than five minutes walk from Meijo Park and Shiyakusho-mae subway station, the luxurious Five Star Westin Nagoya Hotel makes for an excellent central base for any business or pleasure trip to Nagoya.
The hotel has a magnificent view of Nagoya Castle set amidst lush green trees. Facilities include a fully-equipped business center, a choice of restaurants, a superb bar with views of Nagoya Castle and an indoor swimming pool.
The nearest subway stations to Nagoya Castle are Sengen-cho on the Tsurumai Line and Shiyakusho (City Hall) on the Meijo Line.
The Meguru Loop bus stops outside the main entrance to Nagoya Castle on a circuit that includes Nagoya Station, Noritake Gardens, the TV Tower in Sakae and Hirokoji Dori. The Meguru Loop bus fare is 500 yen for a one-day pass or 200 yen for a single ride. Otherwise take buses #13 or #27 to the main entrance from Sakae bus terminal, bus #12 to Sengen-cho subway station from Nagoya Station or bus #2 to the City Hall.
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