Saturday, July 11, 2020

Lock Heart Castle -Only one genuine western castle in Japan-

Lock Heart Castle

-Only one genuine western castle in Japan-



Name: Lock Heart castle (Lock Heart-jo)
Place: Nakayama Takayama Village, Gunma
Type: Western style house
Built: 1829
Remaining remnants: House, tower and gate 

Brief History

Lock Heart castle (ロックハート城) exists at about 5 kilometer west from Numata city central at the side of Route 145, a part of “Nihon Romantic Kaido” (Japan Romantic Road) which runs over 300 kilometer between Ueda city of Nagano prefecture and Nikko area of Tochigi prefecture, as a castle theme park and sightseeing spot. 

According to the official homepage, Lock Heart castle was originally built in 1829 by William Lockhart (1789-1856) as “Milton Lockhart House” at Carluke town in the South Lanarkshire of Scotland. Precisely it is a “Country House” which lacks defense facilities compared with castles, reflecting peaceful situation in the countryside of Britain islands. But its original location over the small hill between U letter curved creak shows the tradition of castle.

Legend of heart box and key

According to the official homepage, the ancestor of William Lockhart was Sir Symon Locard (1300-1371) served to King Robert the Bruce of Scotland (1274-1329), a famous king who lead independence war against Britain, broke Britain army at the battle of Bannokburn in 1314, and established the foundation of Scottish Kingdom.

After the death of King Robert, following the will of the King, his heart extracted from the body put into small box locked and was planned to taken to Jerusalem. This mission was ordered to Sir James Douglas, and key of this box was kept by Sir Symon Locard accompanied to Sir James Douglas.

But situation at that time did not allow the order of the King. Thus Sir James Douglas and Sir Symon Locard turned to Spanish front line of Reconquista, but most of their army died in the close battle of Taba. The box was found at battlefield, and survived Sir Symon Locard brought back the box and key to Scotland after difficulties.

Purchase by Japanese and move

After putting the box into Melrose Abbey, commemorating this fact, Sir Symon Locard changed their surname to “Lockhart” expressing “Lock Heart”, and put the figure of the heart into his coat of the arm. The box included the heart was later found in the remnant of the Abbey after 500 years of bury. 

If William Lockhart is descendant of Sir Symon Locard or not is not clear, but William is an important person of the area who served Deputy Lieutenant for Lanarkshire or Member of the Parliament for Lanarkshire. William bought old house over the hill and broke it, then built his own house based on the latest Country House style. 

After 150 years from construction, in 1987, reflecting boosting economy of Japan at that time, a Japanese famous actor purchased the castle and brought it to Japan passing Siberian Railway. After many twists and turns, in 1993, the castle was reconstructed in the current place, about 10, 000 kilometer apart from its original location.

Structure of Lock Heart castle

The building of the castle is built by sandstone, and has three floors and one basement. Right half from the front side is the place consists of entrance, hallway and rooms for William families. Room for William Lockhart is at the front side of third floor, at the above of entrance hall.

Left half of the building from the front side including a dining room with fire place, hall room and other small rooms might be used by servants or used for households. But entrance into inside of this area is limited and structure is not clear. The house has two small towers which is about 20 meter height but entrance is also limited.

Different from main building seems large house, main gate which is under the arch of brick wall and watchtower of about 30 meter height still holds the atmosphere of the western castle. Loopholes toward outside are built at guarders place, and watchtower obstructs approaching enemy from upside.

Purchase and use of cultural assets

The move of the castle is realized by extraordinary good Japanese economy and relatively loose cultural asset protection 30 years ago, and will not be done again twice. From the perspective of castle lover it is desirable to see more castle like castle of large and old days but it is quite unrealizable, considering reverse situation.

30 years ago Japanese bought many landscapes of foreign countries such as Rockefeller center or Empire State building, but now we have to prepare reverse side purchase after long term economic slump. It is not clear if the purchase of this castle is acceptable, but once done it is a good opportunity to look genuine foreign castle inside of Japan.

Now utilizing its genuine atmosphere, other than sightseeing, the castle is used as wedding place, or shooting location of TV dramas or movies, and probably has higher popularity compared with original situation. It is desirable to careful and effective use of transferred cultural asset, for both side of import and export. In original place of Scotland, new house has close exterior was built recently.


30 minutes drive from Kanetsu-do Expressway Numata interchange via Route 145.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

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