Nagoya Castle: Japan’s National Treasure

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By Cher

Nagoya Castle is a magnificent structure located in central Japan that has stood as a symbol of strength and power for over 400 years. With its gleaming golden roof decorations, impressive stone walls, and sprawling castle grounds, Nagoya Castle is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. As the largest and most important castle in the Owari province, Nagoya Castle has a rich history that reflects the tumultuous transitions of power during Japan’s feudal era.

Nagoya Castle Strategic Stronghold

Nagoya Castle was built in 1612 by the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu, who later became the first shogun of the Edo period. Ieyasu chose the site of Nagoya Castle for its strategic location – it allowed him to control an important crossroads that connected the Nakasendo and Tokaido highways. These roads linked Kyoto and Edo, the old and new capitals of Japan.

Constructing the massive castle took 3 years and a workforce of over 100,000 men. Huge curved stone walls surrounded the inner castle buildings, creating an impenetrable fortress. The walls were topped with 18 turrets that allowed archers and gunners to defend the castle from all sides. At the center of the castle stood a towering 5-story keep, the largest in Japan.

Nagoya Castle became the stronghold of the Owari Tokugawa clan, one of the three most powerful Tokugawa families. For over two centuries, it functioned as both a residence and military base from which the Tokugawas exerted control over central Japan.

Nagoya Castle

Architectural Marvel

Nagoya Castle exemplified the architectural excellence of Japanese castle design. The ornate buildings combined delicate woodwork with strong defensive fortifications.

The lavish Honmaru Palace housed the lord’s residence and reception halls. Intricately painted sliding doors and coffered ceilings displayed scenes from nature and mythology. The Shogun himself would reside here when inspecting the castle.

Perched atop the soaring castle keep was a pair of gleaming golden shachi, tiger-fish ornaments said to protect against fire. Their shining scales could be seen from miles away, proclaiming the castle’s grandeur. The keep offered panoramic views of the entire castle town below.

Both the Honmaru Palace and castle keep incorporated hidden fireproofing and structural tricks that made them earthquake resistant – innovations that allowed these wooden edifices to survive for centuries.

Wartime Destruction

After standing strong for over 300 years, Nagoya Castle suffered immense damage during World War II. In one of the most devastating air raids on Japan, American forces bombed Nagoya in 1945, burning the castle keep, palace, and most other structures to the ground. Only a few turrets and gates from the original complex survived.

The beloved national treasure was further damaged by a 1959 typhoon, which toppled the remains of the keep. However, the ruins were designated a National Historic Site, affirming Nagoya Castle’s cultural significance. This spurred efforts to rebuild and restore the castle to its former glory.

Postwar Resurrection

Reconstruction of Nagoya Castle began in 1959 with the main keep. But instead of traditional wood, fireproof concrete was used to create an 18-story tower evoking the original. Inside, a museum displayed artifacts recovered from the ruins along with architectural models.

In 2018, the concrete keep closed for demolition, to be replaced with a new wooden tower by 2028. This ambitious project will authentically recreate the castle’s lost centerpiece using Edo-period techniques. Timber is being specially cultivated, and traditional workshop craftsmen are hired for the six-year endeavor.

The Honmaru Palace has already been gloriously restored according to its 1615 design. Reopened in 2018 after 15 years of construction, the restored palace gives visitors a taste of feudal nobility. The castle’s grounds, walls, and gates have been fully renovated to complete the exterior.

Cultural Legacy

Today, over 3 million people visit Nagoya Castle annually, making it one of Japan’s most popular attractions. The elegant golden tiger-fish still top the castle keep, now flanked by cherry trees that draw crowds during spring.

In addition to its striking architecture, Nagoya Castle represents an important part of Japanese cultural heritage. It remains a symbol of samurai legacy and architectural achievement. The care taken to rebuild Nagoya Castle reflects its status as both a national treasure and a historic site.

After surviving wars, natural disasters, and the passage of time, the phoenix-like resurrection of Nagoya Castle is a testament to its enduring cultural significance. Its reconstructed splendor lets modern visitors glimpse the might and beauty of feudal Japan. As one of the nation’s greatest castles, Nagoya Castle is sure to remain an awe-inspiring landmark for centuries to come.

Another famous Japanese castle worth visiting is Matsuyama Castle. For anyone interested in Japanese history and architecture, this is a must-see destination.

FAQ

1. What is Nagoya Castle?

Nagoya Castle is a historic castle located in the city of Nagoya, in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. It is considered a National Treasure of Japan and is one of the most iconic landmarks in the region.

2. Where is Nagoya Castle situated?

Nagoya Castle is situated in the city of Nagoya, which is the capital of Aichi Prefecture. It is conveniently located near Nagoya Station, making it easily accessible for visitors.

3. What is the significance of Nagoya Castle’s Main Tower?

The Main Tower, also known as the main keep or donjon, is the central and most prominent structure of Nagoya Castle. It was originally built in 1610 and serves as a symbol of the castle’s historical and architectural importance.

4. Can I visit the Hommaru Palace?

Yes, you can visit the Hommaru Palace within the Nagoya Castle site. The palace was originally built as a residence for the feudal lords during the Edo Period and showcased exquisite traditional Japanese architecture.

5. How much does it cost to enter Nagoya Castle?

The admission fee to enter Nagoya Castle is around 500 yen for adults. However, please note that additional charges may apply if you wish to access certain areas or attractions within the castle.

6. What can I see inside Nagoya Castle?

Inside Nagoya Castle, you can explore the historical exhibits, enjoy panoramic views from the Main Tower, visit the Tokugawa Art Museum, and admire the stunning cherry blossoms during the spring season.

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