Tokyobling's Blog

Hiroshima Castle At Night

Posted in Places by tokyobling on June 19, 2014

The original castle of Hiroshima actually predates the town itself. When it was built on the flat delta of Otagawa River the place was simply called Gokamura, meaning “five villages”. The castle made the place much more important and a name change was called for. Hiroshima sounded much more impressive, meaning “wide island”. Built in 1590, the original castle was destroyed in the atomic bombing of August 6th 1945. The castle we have today is a replica completed in 1958.

The castle grounds are very large and when I visited it was just after dark and in heavy rain so I had the entire castle grounds to myself, not a soul to be seen anywhere! It was also fun to add another castle to the list of castle blog posts here on Tokyobling. Use the tags below to find more of them!

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Inuyama Castle Town

Posted in Places by tokyobling on May 13, 2013

One of the biggest tourist attractions in northern Aichi prefecture is the Inuyama Castle and especially the castle town beneath it. I visited in on a weekday off-season but for most people that visit in the peak season or during the weekends I can imagine it being crowded place. The old castle town is full of preserved buildings, the classic machiya with their narrow fronts, shops and long garden in the back. A few of these machiya are open to the public and you can even check out the traditional bath tubs that were often heated by simply lighting a fire beneath (hence the wooden flooring so you wouldn’t burn yourself too badly). They also had an interesting piece of sidewalk in front of an old stables building with horse shoes embedded in the pavement.

Like most traditional towns though there are a few eye sores in the form of modern buildings, parking lots etc., but I got the feeling they are doing their best to get rid of those. There are quite a few traditional castle towns left in Japan and the one in Inuyama is probably one of the most famous. Most people who visit here also take a boat ride on the Kiso river.

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Inuyama Castle

Posted in Places by tokyobling on May 9, 2013

One of Japan’s most famous castle is in Inuyama City, right on the border between Aichi and Gifu prefectures. It was started in 1441 and is unique in that it was privately owned, by a continuos line of the noble family Naruse, until 2004. Like almost all original Japanese castles Inuyama Castle is built with a timber frame base, and there a great model showing the timber skeleton of the castle inside. Many of the trees used in the construction of this castle must have been many hundreds of years even at the time of construction. Like most castles in Japan it is surprisingly small once you get up close, it must have been very crowded in times of war! Inuyama Castle is an easy day trip away from the prefecture capital of Nagoya and easily one of the most visited tourist attractions in Aichi prefecture.

Inuyama Castle is heavily fortified and there are a number of traps built into the walls, like the opening in the wall visible in the third picture from the bottom, where defenders could drop rocks or burning oil onto attackers crammed into a narrow accessway beneath. There were many more traps but I didn’t get decent photos of them all, maybe next time!

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Hibiyabori – The Old Edo Inlet at Night

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 1, 2013

When the first Tokugawa shogun took over Edo in the first years of the 17th century he ordered the “beefing up” of the city castle’s defenses by expanding and improving on the moat. To this day central Tokyo is characterized by the old defensive moats that he ordered constructed even though they aren’t connected anymore and some parts of it have been filled in or dried out. Usually in order to get a moat you dig out a circle or square around the area you want to defend but back in the Edo era Tokyo the land was much different, a series of swamps, islands, rivers and inlets led all the way to what is today the Imperial palace in the middle of Tokyo. The biggest inlet, the Hibiya Inlet was partly filled in by the land from digging the moat around other parts of the castle, thus creating two large defensive moats using some of the old inlet.

I took this photo of the Hibiyabori, or the Hibiya Moat. This water used to be an inlet from the Pacific Ocean and the land that I stood on was shifted manually from an altogether different part of what was to become the Edo castle moat. It is interesting to imagine how much Tokyo has changed in the last 500 years, and to compare with the changes that is still going on and that you can see by yourself every day. The most major change in recent history is probably the Odaiba district which was nothing but flat ocean, a couple of defensive gun batteries and a garbage dump until the 1990s. It is still possible to see land reclamation on a large scale by traveling on the Yurikamome line around Odaiba. If you are into history, geography and civil engineering it could be a fun day out armed with the right set of historical maps and a compass. Or, you could at least go for an extended walk in the Hibiya and Marunouchi districts and enjoy how beautiful Tokyo can be at night!

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