nagoya triplet (1): nagoya castle
Nagoya Castle — Nagoya-jo (名古屋城) in Japanese — is, like most of the castles in Japan, a reconstruction. Originally built sometime around 1525 it underwent several expansions and and radical remodelings, until it was finally remodeled to the ground in 1945 during a U.S. air raid. The current castle structure is made from concrete and sports many contemporary amenities, including the all-important elevator.
I visited Nagoya-jo with my friend Mai — a native of Nagoya — who was kind enough to guide me around a tourist attraction that she’d probably already had to visit quite a few too many times. I wanted to start this entry involving a bad pun linking Nagoya-jo (the castle) and Nagoya-jo (名古屋女) — Nagoya women who are famous for spending a lot of time and money on gaudy clothes and hair — but Mai doesn’t really fit into the category of the overly elaborate, overly branded, overly made-up Nagoya gal. Also, any joke I might have made involving a pun between the two terms was bound to be overly elaborate, overly labored, and probably not funny in the least, so in the end I decided to leave it be.
The entry to the donjon, the central building of the castle, is through a very short door that requires you to stoop before you make your way into the thin, exterior corridor that leads to the main gate of the donjon. This type of mildly tortured entry is a common feature of Japanese castles; the stooped and confined spaces make it difficult for any attacking party to proceed rapidly to the doors and simplify the defense of the castle (as well as making a cavalry-based attack virtually impossible).
Inside the donjon there are several floors dedicated to the history of the castle, including several sets of armor, plenty of architectural models, and a wide variety of paintings and documents. One of my favorite exhibits is the giant stone block with a rope attached that you can drag a few meters in order to feel the intensity of the labor that went into moving the stones that make up the foundation of the castle.
Mai may not be a Nagoya-jo — she’s far too classy and truly stylish for that — but she could easily qualify for membership in the far more exclusive tribe of camera-joshi (カメラ女子): fashionable young women who use photography (often in the form of a vintage film camera) to document their lives. There’s even a magazine.
That’s Mai sitting on top of a replica of one of Nagoya-jo’s famous kinshachi (金 鯱) — the “golden grampus” — that adorn the top of the castle. The grampus has become a kind of symbol for Nagoya city (the local soccer team, once managed by Arsene Wenger himself, gets their name from this beast) and you’ll run into golden tchochkes in the shape of this fish all over the place.
Filed under: architecture, culture, history, Japan, photography, travel | 6 Comments
Tags: カメラ女子, camera-joshi, castle, donjon, 金 鯱, golden grampus, grampus, kinshachi, Nagoya, Nagoya castle, 名古屋, 名古屋城