nagoya triplet (1): nagoya castle

03Mar10

Nagoya CastleNagoya-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.

That’s a Nikomat sitting with Mai on the kinshachi, and if you want to, you can see some of the photos that she’s taken with it.



6 Responses to “nagoya triplet (1): nagoya castle”

  1. Very enjoyable post. I especially love the “remodeled to the ground”. I most definitely did lol. And well left with regard to the Nagoya-jo pun.

    Sweet pix, sweet looking blog.

    • 2 Trane DeVore

      Dan — I’m happy that you liked this post. I had a fun time at Nagoya-jo and a fun time writing this as well — even though the – jo pun had to be abandoned in the end. “Remodeled to the ground” was a bit of dry humor on my part — of course, my real thought on the destruction of all these incredible sites is that it was a real tragedy. Humor helps to cover that up a bit, I suppose. As a person interested in Japanese castles you’ll know more than anyone how many of these were lost to fire — though not all from U.S. air raids, of course.

  2. Hey, my missus is a native of Nagoya too…. there are plenty of smart, classy and stylish ones out there, you know.

    ; P

    • “smart, classy and stylish” castles? I think so too. Inyama may be a bit plain but it has a nice personality. Osaka? All that make-up kind of turns me off. For me, Kumamoto castle has the brains and the looks?

      Thoughts?

      • 5 Trane DeVore

        Dan — I agree that Osaka-jo has way too much makeup, and it’s a bit heavy in the hips too. I’ll refrain from making the obvious analogy for fear of being beat up by a gang of Shinsaibashi gals wielding enormous brand-name purses with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

        Unfortunately I haven’t been to quite enough castles to make any genuinely definitely assessments, but I would have to say that Himeji-jo still tops my list, since it’s both beautiful, and still largely unmarred. I do love the rebuilt Kumamoto-jo though — it’s deeply impressive and really shouts “I’m a proper castle.” One of my favorite sections of Kumamoto-jo is the smaller tower that was rebuilt in the original building style. I loved walking around in there with the smell of wood infusing everything.

    • 6 Trane DeVore

      Darren — Hey, hey — nowhere was I claiming that all the ladies in Nagoya lacked class and style! All I was doing was trotting out the time-worn stereotype in the interest of making a pun that’s really too terrible to ever be made by anyone.

      Actually, I had a student in my class who (in a segment on regionalism) came out in defense of the stereotypical Nagoya-jo by claiming that even though their style might be a bit ‘over,’ they were still glamorous. The student also made the claim that crazy makeup and crazy hair was at least interesting, unlike the makeup and hair of all the boring old haters out there.


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