04 June 2013

Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle.
(Click on images to enlarge.)
On the anniversary of our 2012 trip to Japan, I am finally blogging about that adventure. Well, better late than never...  DH and I spent nearly 3 weeks in Japan on a textile study tour with 14 other textile fans from Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Switzerland and Canada, not to mention the US.  At times we were joined by Japanese textile scholars and artists as well as two American ex-pats.  A big group!

On one of our few unprogrammed afternoons we were given the opportunity to select from two trips, one to visit Nagoya Castle, the other to a town know for pottery. DH and I opted for the Castle, and, led by local volunteer guides, had a wonderful time.

Nagoya Castle was finished in 1612, but the site was long fortified as a key location on the road between Osaka and Tokyo.  Nagoya, in the southwest corner of Central Honshu province, remains a major transportation hub and industrial center and was heavily bombed in World War II, when the castle was destroyed.  The reconstruction dates from 1959.

c. 1880. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nagoya_Castle_1979.1.48P01B.jpg

Happy samurai greeter at entrance to Castle.

We were led by two volunteer guides from the Aichi Goodwill Guides Network named Chise and Mikari, both friendly women with excellent English skills. The Guides are volunteers; tourist pay the guides' expenses and a small gift or tip is appreciated.

Kiyomasa Kato.

The visitor crosses a dry moat, inhabited by Sitka deer, to access the castle's entrance. Along the route is a statue, pictured above, of someone we might call the head engineer for much of the work, Kiyomasa Kato, vassal lord to the first Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. In charge of moving enormous stones for the base of the castle towers, when transporting a huge boulder he stood on it, exhorting the workmen pulling the cart to ever greater efforts. He carries a staff and a fan, a reminder that fans were a masculine accessory and signalling device at one time.

Rocks with "inventory" markings.

The stone base of the castle survived the fire bombing of World War II.  During the original construction vassal lords were ordered to supply a certain quantity of stone. To ensure their contributions were correctly recorded, some of the stones were incised with a special mark and many of these crude but evocative carvings can be seen today.

Rocks with scorch marks from WWII fires.

Inward curving wall resists outward movement.

The donjon, or castle keep, is raised on an artificial mound of sand and earth fill material. The stone foundation walls retaining the sand and earth must resist the outward thrust of tons of material. To counter the outward push of all this fill, the foundation walls lean inward, in a tapering curve.  A sign at the castle states that this slope wall technique is called "ogi kobai" or "fan sloping," and is also know as a Kiyomasa-style Crescent Stone Wall, after the military leader and engineer we met earlier. This technique also proved very earth-quake resistant. To me, the curve looks like an upside down catenary, a logarithmic function which is the most efficient load-bearing arch shape. 

Two golden dolphins surmount each end of the ridge beam.

The famous golden dolphins which look so tiny in the image above are actually more than six feet tall and are covered in 44 kilograms, roughly 97 pounds, of 18-carat gold. The dolphin at the north end of the ridge is male and he protects the female dolphin at the south end from the North wind.

Onsite map of reconstruction area, shown in brown.

We were extremely lucky in our timing, as the palace compound is being reconstructed and the work is open to the public. DH and I, and our friend Pat, donned hard hats and went into the covered construction area.

Authentic roof materials and framing.

Concessions are made to a modern foundation.

View up the facade of the main castle keep, or donjon.

Sectional view of castle keep.

Copper roofs and dolphin statue.

Roof of smaller castle keep, looking down from donjon, or main castle keep.

Say cheese - visitor with samurai and attendant.

After enjoying the view from the top of the castle we headed to the nearby Tokugawa Art Museum, which has some beautiful artifacts, including a 12th illustrated hand-scroll of the Tale of Genji, sometimes called the world's first novel. Replicas of the delicate and priceless original are on view.

Banners at entrance to museum.

Tokugawa Art Museum.

The Museum has a good gift shop, but the best part for me was the garden, and we had just enough time to visit it.

 Garden path, Tokugawa Museum garden.

Upper left: Judy petting the colorful koi. Views of reflecting pond.

After soaking up a little carefully tended nature, we headed back to the Meitetsu Inn, a businessman's hotel near Kanayama station and our home base in Nagoya.  For you New Yorkers, note the subway station name.

Our group with guides Chise and Mikari (in hat.)

Our cheery band included ( back row, from left to right) Judy, Pat, my tall DH, Carolina and Pauline. Liz is in front of our two guides, Chise and Mikari.