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Hiroshima Castle

The Re-Constructed Castles

Castles play a very significant part of Japanese history. However, many were dismantled by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Of the ones that remained, nature took its toll on them with fires and World War II brought more calamity as some were destroyed by air raids. Today many have been reconstructed and serve as museums and centres of cultural education.

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Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is one of Japan's most famous and it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. In the autumn of 1496 a priest from the Jodo-shinshu Buddhist sect built monk's quarters near the site of the present day Castle. These quarters grew into a large temple called Osaka Hongan-ji. In 1580 the temple fell to Nobunaga Oda, a rising war lord. Only 2 years later Nobunaga Oda committed suicide after losing a battle, and in 1583 Hideyoshi Toyotomi took control and began building, with the assistance of some 60,000 labourers, the present day castle on the site of Osaka Honganji. The basic plan was modeled after Azuchi Castle, the headquarters of Oda Nobunaga. Toyotomi wanted to build a castle that mirrored Oda's, but surpassed it in every way: the plan featured a five-story main tower, with three extra stories underground, and gold leaf on the sides of the tower to impress visitors. In 1585 the Inner donjon was completed. Toyotomi continued to extend and expand the castle, making it more and more formidable to attackers. In 1597 construction was completed and Hideyoshi died. Osaka Castle passed to his son, Toyotomi Hideyori.

During the summer war of 1615 the castle was destroyed by fire. Reconstruction started in 1620, was completed in 1629, and 36 years later, in 1665, the castle was once again destroyed thanks to fire caused by a lightning strike. The castle was rebuilt and destroyed several times until 1931 when the main tower was rebuilt with a steel frame reinforced with concrete. In 1620, the new heir to the shogunate, Tokugawa Hidetada, began to reconstruct and re-arm Osaka Castle. He built a new elevated main tower, five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, and assigned the task of constructing new walls to individual samurai clans. The walls built in the 1620s still stand today, and are made out of interlocked granite boulders without mortar. Many of the stones were brought from rock quarries near the Seto Inland Sea, and bear inscribed crests of the various families who contributed them.

Under the Meiji government, Osaka Castle became part of the Osaka Army Arsenal (Osaka Hohei Kosho) manufacturing guns, ammunition, and explosives for Japan's rapidly expanding Western-style military. During World War II, the arsenal became one of the largest military armories, employing 60,000 workers. Bombing raids targeting the arsenal damaged the reconstructed main castle tower and, on August 14, 1945, destroyed 90% of the arsenal and killed 382 people working there. In 1995, Osaka's government approved yet another restoration project, with the intent of restoring the main tower to its Edo-era splendor. In 1997, restoration was completed. The castle is a concrete reproduction (including elevators) of the original and the interior is intended as a modern, functioning museum.

The museum is laid out across 6 floors, with the top floor being an observation deck and shop. The suggested route is to start at the top and work your way down. This is because the museum is laid out in reverse chronological order, i.e. the oldest displays are at he top. However this route requires a fair level of fitness, so we spent a few minutes enjoying the marvellous view from the observation deck wishing we'd taken the holiday route (one floor at a time starting from the bottom) instead.

The Castle is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm and costs ¥600 for adults and is free for children under 16. You can use the JR Osaka loop line getting off at Morinomiya Station (slightly longer walk), or, Tenmabash Station on the Tanimachi Subway line from Umeda Station.


Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle, sometimes called Carp Castle, was the home of the daimyō (feudal lord) of the Hiroshima han. The castle was constructed in the 1590s, but was destroyed by the atomic bombing on 6 August 1945. It was rebuilt in 1958, a replica of the original which now serves as a museum of Hiroshima's history prior to World War II. It is representative of a 'flatland' castle.

Mōri Terumoto, one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's council of Five Elders, established Hiroshima castle in 1589 at the delta of the Otagawa river. In the Nambokucho period (14th Century), the Mori family were overloads of Koriyama Castle in Yoshida (45km North of Hiroshima). During the Sengoku (Warring States) period Terumoto's grandfather, Montonari, became the fuedal lord of most of the Chugoku region. When Terumoto established the castle, in 1589, there was no Hiroshima city or town, and the area was called Gokamura, meaning 'five villages'.

Beginning in 1591, Mōri governed nine provinces from this castle, including much of what is now Shimane, Yamaguchi, Tottori, Okayama and Hiroshima Prefectures. When construction on the castle began, Gokamura was renamed Hiroshima, as a more impressive name was called for. "Hiro" was taken from Ōe no Hiromoto, an ancestor of the Mōri family, and "Shima" was taken from Fukushima Motonaga who helped Mōri Terumoto choose the castle site.

Following the abolition of feudal domains and the establishment of prefectures in 1871, the castle gradually came to serve more as a military facility. During the Sino-Japanese war (1894/95) the Imperial General Headquarters were established within the castle. During the final months of World War II, the castle served as the headquarters of the 2nd General Army and Fifth Division to deter the projected Allied invasion of the Japanese mainland, thus making a castle along with other military and industrial facilities in the city a legitimate military target. It was destroyed in the atomic bomb blast of August 6, 1945. For many years, it was believed the castle structure was blown away by the explosion that destroyed Hiroshima. Newly discovered evidence suggests the explosion only destroyed the lower pillars of the castle, and the rest of it collapsed as a result. The present tower, constructed largely of concrete, was completed in 1958.

Whilst it doesn't have the historical appeal of the 'Original' castles, the displays within the castle are excellent. The historical background to the castle and castle life is well presented. There are the obligatory displays of Samurai armor, swords etc, and even the opportunity to get photographed in traditional outfits. The Observation Floor (5th Floor) offers excellents views fromt he surrounding Hiroshima City. The Trams do not run close to the HiroshimaCastle, so it is a 25min walk N.W. from the JR Station, or, a 20min walk N.E. from the Peace Museum. At only ¥360 for adults & ¥180 for Kids (as at Sept-15) its worth a visit.

Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle, The area surrounding the castle is one of the oldest settled areas in what is modern day Nagoya. Built in 1612 the old castle town borders correspond to what is today known as Naka ward. The area has traditionally been the centre of government for the city and for Aichi Prefecture in general. You will find a range of government institutions and a number of historically and architecturally significant buildings, so don't limit yourself to a Castle visit alone.

Nagoya Castle, following the Edo and Nijo Castles, was the last great castle constructed by Ieyasu Tokugawa and is of significant historical value as it determined the castle style of the Edo shogunate. Particularly the Hommaru Palace, a typical samurai residence with rooms such as the entrance hall, main hall and meeting hall placed in succession, was renowned as a masterpiece of modern castle palaces built between the Azuchi-Momoyama period and the beginning of the Edo period; which ran from the mid 16th to the early 17th century.

Foundation works for the castle started in 1610. The donjons and towers were completed in 1612, and the Hommaru Palace in 1615. Originally the Hommaru Palace was used as a residence and government office of Lord Tokugawa of the Owari Clan but later served as quarters for shoguns who stopped over in this area on their way to Kyoto. The most magnificent building, the Joraku Hall, where the 3rd shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa stayed, was added in 1634.

After the Meiji Restoration, the Nagoya Detached Garrison was stationed on the castle grounds and the Army Ministry administered the castle. In 1893, the Imperial Household Ministry assumed the responsibility for the Hommaru and Nishinomaru Palaces and the castle served as the Nagoya Imperial Villa. Brought under the administration of the City of Nagoya in 1930, the donjons and the Hommaru Palace have since been protected as National Treasures.

The castle suffered major damage in May 1945 during an air raid. Most of the structures including the main and small donjons and the Hommaru Palace, were burned down. Fortunately however 3 corner towers, 3 gates, the tea house and gardens, along with most of the paintings on the sliding doors and walls in the Hommaru Palace survived the fire. Although the donjons were rebuilt in 1959 to their original appearance, only the founding stones of the Hommaru Palace are visible today.


Okayama Castle

Okayama Castle, (岡山城, Okayamajō), also known as "crow castle" due to its black exterior, was built in 1597 in the style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. Because the castle was oriented to the west, Hideie undertook a major project to pull the nearby Asahigawa River to flow along the eastern end of the castle to ward off enemies from entering through the rear. The original castle was destroyed in the last year of World War 2, but was reconstructed in 1966. The castle is located on the Asahi River, which was used as a moat. Korakuen Garden is located just across the river.

The base is an irregular pentagon, on which three different sized two-storey building were built, one on top on the other. Thus the donjon is three tiers with a total of six stories. When built the castle comprised 35 turrets and 21 gates; it has noted for its extentive complex at the time. There are also reconstructions and unearthed foundations of former buildings, which help illustrate the former extent of the castle's complex of buildings. The keep's interior is modern and displays exhibits on the history and development of the castle.

Only one of Okayama Castle's original buildings escaped destruction during the war - the Tsukimi Yagura ("moon viewing turret"), which dates back to 1620. This kind of turret is extremely rare anywhere in Japan. Whilst the turret provided the best place for moon viewing, its main purpose was to protect the northwest corner of the middle level. As such it processed facilities such as weapons stores, eyelets, and stone throwing devices.

Korakuen is about 1.5 kilometers or a 25-30 minute walk east of Okayama Station. Trams on the Higashiyama Line can be taken to Shiroshita stop (5 minutes, 100 yen, frequent departures) from where the castle keep can be reached in a 10-15 minute walk.

Kakegawa Castle

Kakegawa Castle, was built from 1469-1487. Imagawa Yoshitada had his retainer Asahina Yasuhiro build Kakegawa Castle, about 0.5km to the northeast of the present castle, to help control this vital point of the Tokaido road. In 1569, his descendent, Asahina Yasutomo, lost the castle to Tokugawa Ieyasu's forces. In 1590, the area was absorbed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who stationed Yamanouchi Kazutoyo here when Tokugawa moved to Edo (Tokyo).

Yamanouchi built the main keep on the current site and renovated the castle and town into a more modern castle. After the Battle of Sekigahara, Yamanouchi was moved to Kochi. Yamanouchi's main keep was destroyed in an earthquake in 1604 but was soon rebuilt. The new keep lasted until 1854 when it destroyed by another earthquake. It was not rebuilt and the castle was dismantled in 1869.

The restored Kakegawa Castle is a short 600-800m walk from the main train station. The keep has good views over the town and the usual displays of weapons, photographs of other Japanese castles, documents, tiles and armor. Of more historical interest is the superb, original goten or palace, which was restored by the feudal lord Ota Sukekatsu after the 1854 earthquake and mostly dates from that period.

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