• 20 . 06 . 05
  • A day trip with Jo-Anne to see what castles we could see.

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Castle Day

Castles abound in Japan, and are great because they give you a good reason to visit somewhere new and you can convince yourself that you are doing something culturally enriching. Critics might say that they all look the same, but ignoring this castle-ist viewpoint and going to visit them yourself gives you a good idea of the differences in structure and style and reminds you that, despite being built for the same purpose, no two castles are the same.

Owing to some extra holiday, today was an unexpected day off, so me and Jo decided to check out a couple more on an official ‘Castle Day’. Firstly, we went to Inuyama Castle, which is considered to be the oldest original castle still standing in Japan. It somehow wasn’t destroyed by firebombing or earthquakes like every other one, but did have massive parts destroyed by the Japanese themselves in the period of rapid modernisation that The Last Samurai is set against. The castle itself is in a good position on a mountain overlooking a river and affords good views of the surrounding area, even if most of that area is urban sprawl. But then, where isn’t it? Some strange things had been declared National Treasures, such as one of the gates, and a random barn, but I think this was because they’d survived some serious attempts at demolition.

In the afternoon, we headed across to Nagoya Castle, which I’d never actually been to, despite only being half an hour away. This castle is almost 100% rebuilt, having been levelled in the massive firebombings of the War, and is actually a museum inside now. It has models of how the town of Nagoya used to look, some old kitchenware and even a 3D movie theatre that gave us a history lesson on the castle. That was in Japanese, of course… The top of the castle was a little disappointing as, unlike Inuyama, you couldn’t actually go out onto a balcony, or even open the windows. The view, which should have been great (Nagoya castle is really big after all), was restricted to a couple of poor angles.

Inuyama is one of the big four castles in Japan, and worth visiting if you’re in the area. Nagoya, I’m less sure about. It was interesting, to be sure, and if you had time is mildly diverting, but its outer facade is much more appealing than the interior. The gardens are very pretty to walk around, though. Having now seen Hikone, Himeji and Inuyama, all that remains is Matsumoto Castle which apparently looks great with a snowy roof and ice-cold moat. I hope to see that on the way up to Nagano this winter, which would mean I’d seen all four and would be a nice achievement.

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