Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nagoya Castle (2) -Owari Nagoya city depends on existence of castle-

Nagoya Castle (2)

-Owari Nagoya city depends on existence of castle-


Brief History

Continued from Part 1

Throughout 16th century, the center of Owari country (western part of Aichi prefecture) was Kiyosu Castle (Kiyosu town). Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), a warlord of Owari, occupied Kiyosu Castle at 1555, and each commander continued to expand the castle. But as Kiyosu castle located on marshy area beside Gojyo river, it was appropriate for defense but also difficult to build large stone walls and heavy buildings. In addition to this, as Kiyosu was an old town and there were already many houses surrounding castle, it was difficult to expand it. 

Build of Nagoya castle by two excellent castle builders

Owari contry was an important place which can control both Tokaido way and Nakasendo way, both from Osaka or Kyoto city to Edo city. After the battle of Sekigahara at 1600, new ruler Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) appointed Yoshinao Tokugawa (1601-1650), his ninth son, as a governor of Owari domain in 1607. 

Even though Tokugawa Clan established its hegemony, Hideyori Toyotomi (1593-1615), son of former ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), still existed at Osaka castle. In addition to this, large lords such as Kato clan or Fukushima clan formerly promoted under Toyotomi government still remained in western Japan and there was a fear that Toyotomi clan and such large lords might ally and attack Tokugawa clan.

In such reason, during 1610’s, Tokugawa clan built or reformed many castles around Osaka, such as Sasayama castle, Iga Ueno castle, Hikone castle and Kano castle. And they considered Kiyosu castle was insufficient for this duty, thus decided to build a huge fortress on the edge of Nagono height, as a standing area for Tokugawa army.

In 1610, Ieyasu Tokugawa ordered lords of whole country to build a new castle on this location. Nagoya castle was planned by Takatora Todo (1556-1630), and the main tower and central area was built by Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611). These two generals were known as excellent castle builders, and the former built many castles such as Uwajima castle, Ozu castle, Imabari castle or Tsu castle, and the latter constructed Kumanoto Castle and  Nagoya castle (same name as this castle but located at Saga prefecture).

After two year construction, main part of the castle was completed at 1612, and Yoshinao entered the completed castle as a commander in 1616. All samurais and townspeople moved from Kiyosu to Nagoya, and this transfer was called as “Kiyosu goe”. There was a plan to build a outer barrier around the castle, but was cancelled due to the extinction of Toyotomi clan at 1615.

Structure of Nagoya castle

Nagoya castle has vast area and many buildings including a huge main tower of five stories and five floors with one underground floor, with splendid palaces. Equipped with tall stonewalls and wide water moats, Nagoya castle arrived at a perfection as a fortress. 

The central area located at the center of the castle is a square of 200 meter long. At the northwest edge of the area, there is a main tower of the castle. As Nagoya castle locates at the northwest edge of the corner of Nagoya height, the castle mainly spread to eastward and southward from central area. Secondary area covers eastern line, and Nishinomaru area guards southern front of the castle. 

Main gate of the castle is at the west part of southern line, and protruding secondary area enables side attack to the enemy approaches to the main gate. At the northwest side there is Ofukemaru area, which is build to keep the distance of main tower from backside of the castle.

Sannomaru area also spread from south to east of the castle. Sannomaru area is mainly guarded by clay walls and dry moats, but gates were guarded by stone walls. The size of inner area including is about 500 meter square, and total size including Sannomaru area is about 800 meter long square. The shape of the areas is totally linear, and different from other large Tokugawa castle such as Edo castle or Osaka castle. 

Different from these castles which were built utilizing proceeding castles, Nagoya castle was virtually newly built castle and could plan freely. Folding of the line to erase the dead angle is rarely seen in this castle, but tall stone wall and wide water moats made it impossible for enemy to climb up stone walls. 

Magnificent main tower and other turrets

The main tower was about 55 meter high including base, not highest but had largest volume in the history. It had an attached three story small tower as the gate, roofed by copper plates and had a pair of gold statue of grampus located on the each side of top roof (traditionally a pair of grampus is located on the top of main tower of Japanese castles, to drive away evils). The glimpse of gold grampus is said to be seen from distant Isewan Gulf.

Other than main tower, there were numerous corner turrets and gates in the castle. Especially one remaining corner turret named "Kiyosu turret" is a three story turret and was built using materials of dismantled main tower of Kiyosu castle (When a castle is built, sometimes buildings were moved from former castle, and materials and stones of abolished castle were also used to spare time and expense). This turret is larger than small size main towers and still shows the dignity of Owari domain now. Other than Kiyosu Turret, two turrets and two gates remain as original.

As a result, this castle was not involved in actual battle, but overwhelmed Chubu area with its imposing buildings. It is said that “Owari Nagoya city depends on its castle”.

Nagoya castle on and after Edo era

Owari domain, stem from Yoshinao, was ranked as the highest of three special close relative domains (Shinpan) of Edo shogunate along with Kisyu Domain at Wakayama castle and Mito domain at Mito castle. In the midst of 17th century, against to the tightened budget of 8th shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa (1684-1751, Muneharu Tokugawa (1696-1764), current load of Owari domain adopted active fiscal policy and grew Nagoya city to one of the big cities of Japan. But cautioned for its rank and wide territory by Shogunate, no Shogun appeared from Owari domain.

Subsequent to Meiji revolution, unlike other castle, almost all building remained and used as a regional headquarter of Japanese army. But owing to this, Nagoya castle was a target of bombing during WW2, and it was regretful that most buildings including original main tower and inner palace were burned down. But three corner turrets and three gates still remain as original.

In 1959, as a symbol of revival main tower was reconstructed in RC, and now central palace is under restoration in original wooden style and front porch is already opened. Replacement of main tower to original wooden style is now discussed.


10 minutes walk from Nagoya City Subway Shiyakusho station. 30 minutes drive from Tomei Expressway Nagoya interchange.

Related Castles

Mito Castle -Castle of three branch Tokugawa families closest to Edo- 
Wakayama Castle -Dragon on the back of Tiger hill-
Kiyosu Castle -Place of important alliance and conference-
Edo Castle -Inner area built by talented general-
Osaka Castle -Symbol of unification of Japan-

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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