Sunday, October 31, 2010

Inuyama Castle

As I wrote in the previous post, on August 14th hubby and I visited his uncle’s home and my mother-in-law’s grave during Obon festival. Later we went to see Inuyama Castle in a nearby city about which I will write in this post.

Inuyama Castle is located in Inuyama city of Aichi Prefecture. The castle stands on top of a small hill next to the Kiso River. Inuyama Castle is considered to be the oldest castle in Japan and is said to date back to 1440. However, the exact date of its original construction is debatable. The present keep (donjon) of the castle was constructed in 1537 and represents the Momoyama Period defensive architecture. The castle is original and has never been destroyed, though extensive repairs have been carried out. The castle has three floors on the outside, four in the inside, and two below ground.The castle was designated as a national treasure in 1935.

The site of Inuyama Castle was initially occupied by a Shinto shrine named Harigane Jinja, which was moved to Shirayamadaira so that the castle could be built on the hill overlooking the Kiso River. The current castle tower was built in 1537 by Oda Nobuyasu, who was an uncle of the great Sengoku Period samurai Oda Nobunaga. The largest configuration of the castle was completed in the year 1600. In the years following its construction in 1537, lordship of the castle changed frequently. The lordship was bestowed on Naruse Masanari, a retainer of Matsudaira clan, in 1617 during the Edo Period and was maintained by Naruse clan until the Meiji Period when it was seized by the Japanese government in 1872. In 1891, the castle was damaged in the Great Nobi Earthquake, and it was returned to the Naruse family in 1895 under the condition that they repair and maintain it. The castle was privately owned by the Naruse family until 2004 when ownership of the building and grounds was transferred to a local civic foundation in Inuyama city.

Inuyama Castle is located about 26 kilometers away from hubby’s ancestral home. Hubby and I left home at about 10.45 am and it took us about 40 minutes to reach the castle by car. At the entrance of the castle premises we bought tickets worth 500 Yen per person as admission fee and started climbing up the path of stone steps that led to the castle gate. On our way we saw beautiful red colored torii gates of Sanko Inari Shrine. Unfortunately, we did not have much time, so we did not visit the shrine. After climbing the stone steps for about 10 minutes, we reached a reconstructed gate of the castle named Honmaru-mon. We showed our tickets to a castle staff at this gate and entered the castle precinct.
I am standing next to a stone inscribed with the words ‘Inuyama Castle’ in Japanese

Hubby climbing up the stone steps leading to the castle

Red colored torii gates of Sanko Inari Shrine

Hubby standing in front of the reconstructed gate Honmaru-mon

Honmaru-mon from inside the castle premises


On entering the castle precinct, we saw the wonderful main keep Tenshu (donjon) right in front of us. We took several photos of the elegant looking donjon as we walked towards the entrance of the main castle tower. The height of the stone walls is 5 meters above the ground and the height of Tenshu castle tower is 19 meters above the stone walls. The castle tower has a floor area of 698.775 square meters.
Several trees and the main keep Tenshu

Hubby standing in front of the Tenshu tower

Another view of the Tenshu tower

I am standing in front of the Tenshu tower

Entrance of the Tenshu tower


As I wrote earlier, the castle has four floors above ground and two basement floors. On entering the main entrance of the Tenshu tower building, we went to the first floor. This floor has an area of 282.752 square meters. At this floor, medieval period items like armors, swords and other weapons, various documents, and folding screens illustrating the rich history related to the castle are exhibited. There is also a display of ornamental roof tiles called shachihoko used in the construction and architectural design of the castle Tenshu roof. Shachihoko is an animal in Japanese folklore with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp fish and it was believed that this animal could cause the rain to fall. So the castles were usually adorned with shachihoko in order to protect them from fire. In this floor, we saw a matted chamber named Jodan-no-ma which was the room inhabited by the lord of the castle. The room is richly built and has a specially designed ceiling. At the back of this room is a barrack where the warriors hid themselves and guarded the lord in case of any emergency. We also saw a wooden model of Inuyama Castle that is scaled to 1/10 of the original size.
Medieval period armor

Another medieval period armor

I am standing next to a folding screen

Folding screen and an armor on display

Display of ornamental roof tiles shachihoko

Jodan-no-ma chamber

Model of Inuyama Castle


After seeing various exhibits in the first floor, we climbed the steep staircase leading to the second floor. The second floor has an area of 246.006 square meters. The center area of this floor has an armor room known as Bugu-no-ma. This room was used to store armor and weaponry with storage shelves installed along every wall except the one facing south. Presently, many photographs of various castles of Japan are exhibited in this room. We loved the display of the photographs of the castles. There is also a model of Inuyama Castle that is scaled to 1/10 of the original size and shows the interior superstructure crafted from large wooden beams connected without nails or glue. Surrounding this room, there is 3.6 meters wide wooden floor called Mushabashiri that was used for the running of the warriors. Hubby ran on this wooden floor pretending to be a warrior of the bygone era. This floor has several small windows from where hubby took a few photographs of the beautiful outside view.
Armor room with an exhibition of photographs of various castles of Japan

Hubby reading the history of various castles of Japan

Model of Inuyama Castle showing the wooden beams

Hubby standing at a corner of the second floor of the castle

Hubby walking in the Mushabashiri area of the second floor

Outside view from a window of the second floor

Outside view from another window of the second floor


Next, we climbed the staircase leading to the third floor. The staircases inside this castle are extremely steep and I had some difficulty in climbing up the steps. The third floor is known as Hafu-no-ma (gable chamber) and has an area of 81.936 square meters. In addition, located on the north and south of this floor, there are rooms of Karahafu-no-ma, which are gracefully curved Chinese shaped gabled chambers. 77 years after the donjon was constructed in 1537, extension work on the Karahafu was commissioned during the 70 year rule of lord Naruse and his son.
Steep steps of the staircase (for going up)

A portion of the third floor of the castle

I am walking on the third floor of the castle


Finally, we climbed the staircase leading to the uppermost fourth floor. This floor is really small with an area of 49.835 square meters. This floor is known as Koran-no-ma or the balcony chamber and has balconies installed on all sides of the floor. Inside the room, there is a gallery exhibiting portraits of the various lords of the castle along with their brief history. Hubby enjoyed reading about the history of the lords. Next, we went to the observation deck of the balcony which offered a wonderful sweeping view of the outside. The balcony handrail is very low and I was a bit scared to walk around. Hubby took a video of the outside view as we walked on this balcony.
Hubby seeing the gallery of portraits of the various lords of the castle

I am standing at the balcony of the fourth floor

View from the observation deck


A compiled video of the outside view as viewed from the balcony of the top floor


After spending about ten minutes at the top floor, we walked down the stairs and reached the exit of the Tenshu tower. Just before exiting, we saw the stone walls of the castle from inside the tower. The stones are unprocessed natural stones and a process called Nozura-zumi was used to lift these stones into place.
Hubby standing next to a stone wall of the castle inside the Tenshu tower


Afterwards, we walked back to the car parking area and reached hubby’s ancestral home at about 1.45 pm.
Hubby walking down the path of stone steps


In the evening my father-in-law dropped us at Komaki airport. We took a flight that reached Akita airport at about 8 pm. Finally, we reached back our home at about 9.30 pm. We had a nice trip to Tokyo as well as hubby’s ancestral home in Nagoya during Obon holidays.

5 comments:

Laya's Blog said...

Lovely post Manisha, the castle not just has historical significance but also has scenic beauty. I loved the pictures and also the insides of the castle. Everything looks so timeless.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Laya.
This castle is really a beauty!!

During Obon fesival, my father-in-law remembered my late mother-in-law and told us many stories related to their several visits to this castle. In fact, he recommended hubby and I to visit this castle. I am really thankful to him as I feel that I saw one of the timeless treasures of Japan during this trip to Nagoya... Unfortunately, hubby and I did not have much time to see all the artifacts and structures inside the castle complex....We loved this castle...

YADAV PATHOLOGY LAB said...

Hello Manisha !!!
Just wonderful,absorbing and a refreshingly new post for me.I had read about castles somewhere long ago but had not much idea about them.
From your post it appears to me that this is a wonderful defensive Japanese architecture with its long glorious history.Displays of samurai armor,folding screens,and other documents were fascinating and interesting.I also liked the fantastic red torii gates and some red banners ?.
The picturesque and panoramic view of surroundings esp.Kisso river and the town, from atop through the video was just mind blowing and a real treat to watch.
All in all, a great historically teaching post for me.
Thank you Manisha for sharing it.
With regards and love,
dr.s.s.yadav

YADAV PATHOLOGY LAB said...

Maniha Kundu-Nagata,

"Happy Deepawali to you and your family."

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comments Dr. Yadav. Nice to know that you enjoyed reading the history of Inuyama Castle. It is really a wonderful castle.

And thank you very much for the Diwali wishes. Wishing you and family also a very Happy and Prosperous Diwali.