Castle (shiro)


Castle (shiro 城)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


Japanese castles (城, shiro) were fortresses composed primarily of wood and stone. They evolved from the wooden stockades of earlier centuries, and came into their most well-known form in the 16th century. Like European castles, the castles of Japan were built to guard important or strategic sites, such as ports, river crossings, or crossroads, and almost always incorporated the landscape into their defense.

Though they were built to last, and used more stone in their construction than most Japanese buildings, castles were still constructed primarily of wood, and many were destroyed over the years. This was especially true during the Sengoku ('Warring States') period (1467-1603), when many of these castles were first built. However, many were rebuilt, either later in the Sengoku period, in the Edo period (1603-1867) which followed, or more recently, as national heritage sites or museums.

Today, there are around fifty castles extant, or partially extant, in Japan; it is estimated that once there were five thousand. Some castles, such as the ones at Matsue and Kōchi, both built in 1611, remain extant in their original forms, not having suffered any damage from siege or other threats. Hiroshima Castle, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was destroyed in the atomic bombing, and was rebuilt in 1958 as a museum.

Originally conceived of purely as fortresses, their primary purpose being military defense, Japanese castles were originally placed in strategic locations, along trade routes, roads and rivers. Though castles continued to be built with these considerations in mind, for centuries fortresses were also built to serve as centers of governance.

By the Sengoku period, they had come to serve as the homes of daimyo (feudal lords), and served to impress and intimidate rivals not only with their defenses, but with their size and elegant interiors, architecture and decorations. Oda Nobunaga was one of the first to build one of these palace-like castles, at Azuchi Castle in 1576; this was Japan's first castle to have a tower keep (天守閣, tenshukaku), and it inspired both Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Osaka Castle and Tokugawa Ieyasu's Edo Castle.

Azuchi served as the governing center of Oda's territories, and as his lavish home, but it was also very keenly strategically placed. A short distance away from the capital of Kyoto, which had long been a target of violence, Azuchi's carefully chosen location allowed it a great degree of control over the transportation and communication routes of Oda's enemies.

Read the details HERE

. Shiro - Japanese Castle Legends お城と伝説  .


Famous folding screen about the construction of a castle from the Momoyama period.
築城図屏風 / ちくじょうずびょうぶ

Click on the thumbnail to see the details, in Japanese.


Fukuyama Castle


Tsuyama Castle 津山城

It took lot of people to built a castle. The technical groundwork, water ways and stone walls were in the supervision of the fushin bugyoo 普請奉行, whereas the architectural works, buildings, watchtowers (yagura) and parks (goten) were in the supervision of the sakuji bugyoo 作事奉行.

It took Lord Moori 13 years to have the castle constructed, and it was finally finished in 1616. But in 1874 it was destroyed. Now we can still enjoy the stonewalls with 1000 cherry blossoms in spring. A new white watchtower was finished two years ago.

Take a walk in Tsuyama Castle with the Cherry Blossoms, 2007 !


 Edo Castle 江戸城 Edo joo
Das Schloss von Edo


Nagoya Castle 名古屋城 Nagoya joo

The Glory of Four Centuries Past, Revived
September 19, 2009 – November 23, 2009
Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Nagoya Castle is the preeminent symbol of Nagoya. To bring back the vibrant colors of 400-year-old artworks on the partitions that adorned the interior of the Hommaru (Castle Keep)Palace, the full-scale restorative reproduction project was commenced in 1992 (Heisei 4). This exhibition will captivate visitors with not only the artworks, but also the restorative reproduction process itself. In commemorative of the restorative construction of Hommaru (Castle Keep) Palace from January 2009, we will exhibit major works such as those in the entrance, the Omote-shoin (main drawing room) and the Taimen-jo (reception hall).

source : www.nagoya-boston.or.jp


Osaka Castle 大阪城

- quote -
Osaka Castle -- One Big Mistake
With the 400th anniversary of the battle and fall of Osaka Castle almost upon us, and despite being one of the iconic scenes of Japan, Osaka Castle's current Tenshu, a ferro-concrete tower reconstructed in 1928 is historically, very inaccurate, incorporating an interesting mix of old and new, and of differing clan and colors.
It was constructed based on the shape and design of the Toyotomi period Osaka Castle, but built on top of the 1620's reconstructed Tokugawa period Tenshudai, or tower base --a completely different shape! The original Osaka Castle featured black walls and dark grey roof tiles, but the current castle has been built in the white walled, green copper-sheet roofed design preferred by the Tokugawa clan. The Current Osaka Castle's uppermost floors have been painted black on the exterior, and golden decorations of tigers and cranes have been painted on to better resemble the original Toyotomi period castle. Despite it being a Tokugawa castle by appearance, it features the Toyotomi crest in various places.

- - Toyotomi Period Osaka Castle.

Incidentally, the Tokugawa Osaka Castle keep was constructed 50 meters west of the original Toyotomi period keep, and so the positions too are different. The only thing correct about the current concrete keep is that it has 5 floors on the outside, but 8 floors inside. The Toyotomi and the Tokugawa keeps both had 8 floors too. So, could Osaka Castle not be reconstructed? No. Not accurately. The reasons? First, Osaka would have to choose whether they wanted the Toyotomi or Tokugawa keeps rebuilt. The Toyotomi keep's base was destroyed by the Tokugawa in the 1620's, although the land is now left vacant. No plans for the original castle keep exist, which poses the biggest problem. If they chose to build the Tokugawa period Osaka Castle, the shape and size would be smaller than it is now, and again, as this was destroyed in 1665. No plans remain of the Tokugawa period castle either, and as no photographic evidence remains, by law, the castle cannot be re-built.

One positive side to Osaka Castle, 13 original Tokugawa Period structures remain, and have been designated as Important Cultural Assets.
- source : Samurai History and Culture -

Worldwide use

- Die Drei berühmten Schlösser Japans
Himeji-jō 姫路城
Kumamoto-jō 熊本城
Matsumoto-jō 松本城

Japanische Burgen / Shachihoko - der "Giebelkarpfen"

- Himeji Castle and
. Osakabe no kami おさかべの神 / 刑部明神 Osakabe Myojin .
長壁姫、小刑部姫、刑部姫、小坂部姫 Osakabe hime - Princess Osakabe

Things found on the way

道の駅 そばの城
Highway Service Area "Soba Castle"

This dish served with a little castle tower is called
TONOSAMA 殿様, Lord of the Castle.

There is also the possibility to make your own buckwheat noodles there.

Roadside stations (michi no eki 道の駅)

CLICK for more photos

信州そば三城 "Three Castles" Soba Shop

Castles and famous food

Himeji 姫路名物『お城やき』O-Shiro-Yaki

Hirosaki, Oden 弘前城名物
Kumamoto, Ikinari Dango 熊本城名物 いきなりだんご
Nagoya, Kishimen 名古屋城名物
Nagoya, Shachi 名古屋城(金シャチ焼本体)
Okayama, kohi senbei 岡山城名物
Osaka, soft cream 大阪城名物
. . . CLICK here for more Photos !


Click for more photos

tenshu, tenshukaku 天守 / 天守閣
the main castle tower

The first TENSHU was constructed by Oda Nobunaga, who felt himself as the "Lord of the Sky"
and wrote the word
天主 Tenshu.


This site is a Guide to the 136 castles in Japan.
also in 日本語.
My aim is to make this the most authoritative and comprehensive site available in English on Japanese castles.
Eric Obershaw
Corporate Librarian, Tokyo, Japan
source : www.jcastle.info


yûdachi ya tojô no nanushi kumigashira

a cloudburst--
running to the castle
village headman and sergeant

asa-gasumi tenshu no amado kikoe keri

morning mist--
the castle's shutters
bang open

Issa, Tr. David Lanoue

kumigashira くみがしら【組頭/与頭】
The leaders of a group of soldiers, for example foot soldiers 徒組, soldiers with bows 弓組 or soldiers with rifles 鉄砲組.
The system of "five are a group", goningumi 五人組 had a leader for each group.
The headman of a village was also called this way, or 長(おさ)百姓.
There are many books about these officials in the Edo period.


sudden rainstorm --
a headman and his assistant
visit the castle

This hokku is from the fifth month (June) of 1823, when Issa was in and around his hometown. The location seems to be a castle town in a rural feudal domain in the general area of Issa's hometown. Usually rain is plentiful in June, but apparently it has been dry in this area this year. The headman and assistant headman of a nearby village in the domain are making their way toward the domain castle gate dressed in formal robes, even though it has begun to rain. Presumably their helpers are holding up umbrellas for them, or perhaps they ride in palanquins. Issa only gives hints, but the word order suggests that the most likely reason for this sudden formal visit to the castle is to report on something related to the rainstorm.
Since their visit seems to be occasioned by a sudden downpour, it seems likely that the village earlier held a shamanic prayer ceremony, perhaps with singing and dancing or even a trance, asking for rain and dedicated to a local god or gods. Such festival-like prayers for rain were quite common in Issa's time, and they are still carried out occasionally in contemporary Japan. In this case the prayers seem to have been "answered" very dramatically, and the village officials hurry to inform the daimyo lord of the domain or, more likely, his representative of their success. It's not clear whether Issa believes in prayers for rain or not. He may be satirizing the way the village headman and the assistant headman seek to claim credit for what nature or the gods brought about and the way they try to curry favor with the domain lord. Probably a formal report isn't even needed, but the two village officials are trying to dramatize the situation and use the rain to promote themselves to the domain lord.

Chris Drake


tenshu yori tsuki ni nagetaru ezara kana

from the castle tower
towart the moon I throw
a plate with a picture

Oya Tatsuji (Ooya) 大屋達治 (1952 - )

ezara, plates with colorful paintings
. . . CLICK here for Photos !


looking up
at the castle tower -
I am the ANT

Look with me ! Gabi Greve

Related words

***** Samurai, Warrior

***** Kiken Castle (kikenjoo 善見城)
kigo for late spring


. Shiro - Japanese Castle Legends お城と伝説  .

- #castle #japanesecastle -


Gabi Greve said...

the castle in Toky


Gabi Greve - PMJS said...

Discussion about Japanese castles at the PMJS google group


Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho at Yamashiro and Ide (south of Kyoto)

Yamashiro e Ide no kago karu shigure kana

to Yamashiro
I had to use a sedan chair from Ide
because of the winter sleet . . .

Yamashiro, lit. Mountain Castle

Gabi Greve - Masaoka Shiki said...

Masaoka Shiki

Matsuyama ya aki yori takaki tenshukaku

"Oh Matsuyama,
the castle tower looks higher than the autumn sky."

Gabi Greve - Masaoka Shiki said...

Masaoka Shiki

Matsuyama no shiro o miorosu samusa kana

this coldness
looking down from the castle
of Matsuyama

His hometown, Matsuyama

Gabi Greve - Masaoka Shiki said...

Masaoka Shiki

harukaze ya shiro arawaruru matsu no ue

spring breeze -
the castle shows
above the pines

Gabi Greve - Masaoka Shiki said...

Masaoka Shiki

o-shiro kara miru ya tanemaku sanjuu ri

from the castle
I see them sowing seeds -
for 30 ri

Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規

one RI is about 4 km.
Here Shiki is taling about the castle of Matsuyama and the surrounding fertile plains.
seeds in spring

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

shiro-ato ya furu-i no shimizu mazu towan

about the ruins of Inabayama castle 稲葉山城.

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

quote Japan Times

Kyoto construction site yields apparent ruins of Hideyoshi’s ‘phantom castle’

KYOTO – Parts of stone walls and gold-plated roof tiles believed to be the ruins of Shigetsu Castle have been discovered at the construction site for a new apartment complex in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, a private research firm has announced.

Feudal leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi began construction on the castle in 1592, a year after he ended his regency. But it was called a “phantom castle” because it was said to have been destroyed by an earthquake in 1596, and no remnants had ever been found.

Researchers have excavated some 36 meters of stone wall about 0.5 to 1 meter high and 2 meters thick, more than 100 fragments of gold-plated roof tiles, and the remains of a 5- to 7-meter-wide, 2-meter-deep moat, according to Kyoto-based firm Kyoto Heian Bunkazai.

more on facebook

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Miyagi

志津川町 Shizugawa

Saint Mongaku 文覚上人 and Taro-Bo / Jiro-Bo cedar
At the 滝不動 Fudo Waterfall at 滝沢神社 Takizawa Jinja priest Mongaku had placed a Statue of Fudo, which he had made himself. There were also tow old cedar trees, Tarobo-sugi and Jirobo-sugi. In the year 1609 when large pillars were needed for the rebuilding of Sendai castle these two trees were felled and should be transported to Sendai. But the boat sank to the ground near Natorigawa and the two huge tree trunks were lost.
So now they are called "the sunken Taro and Jiro, 太郎礁 Tarone and 次郎礁 Jirone.
More legends to explore (800)

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Kobayashi Issa

hito yosenu sakura saki keri shiro no yama

cherry trees in bloom
with no crowds...
castle mountain

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Edo goyaku 江戸五役(ごやく) the five official worker groups of Edo castle
Positions for lower Samurai, involving for example cleaning and keeping the castle of Edo and its gardens clean.
御駕籠之者(おかごのもの)okagonomono, o-kago no mono
御中間(おちゅうげん)ochuugen, o-chugen
御小人(おこびと)okobito, o-kobito
黒鍬之者(くろくわのもの)kurokuwa no mono
御掃除之者(おそうじのもの)gosooji no mono, go soji no mono
The character 御 o expresses respect for the group.