The year 2013 will see another get-together of world tourists to Nagoya probably since 2005 when the Expo was held. It is not only the opening of Honmaru Palace of Nagoya Castle but another tourist attraction Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Garden will be much refreshed. Nagoya castle had two grand palaces, Honmaru Palace adjacent to castle keep and Ninomaru Palace with excellent landscape garden. Honmaru Palace is similarly styled as Nijo Castle with large-scale shoin-style buildings. Ninomaru Palace was demolished after Meiji Government took over the castle to build the garrison and will never be reconstructed. The opening of the Honmaru Palace on May 29 shows the Shoin Styled building as well as replica of sliding door paintings many of which are Important Cultural Assets designated by Japanese government. Full opening will have to wait until 2018. The first stage of opening includes the entrance gate and some of the rooms(about 1,000 square meters, 11,000 square feet).
**No extra admission fee is required other than that of Nagoya Castle(500 yen for adult).
Nagoya Castle is one of the former Tokugawa Castles. The original castle was actually built prior to the Tokugawa in 1518 by the Imagawa. It was conquered by Oda Nobuhiga but the castle was left to fall into disrepair until Tokugawa Ieyasu built a new Nagoya Castle here. The castle and the surrounding castle town grew considerably under Tokugawa rule. Nagoya Castle was the most important of the Tokugawa Castles (the other two were Wakayama Castle and Mito Castle).
Unfortunately, the honmaru was destroyed in WWII however, three of the gates and many of the castle's treasures were spared, so remnants of the original still exist. The honmaru was rebuilt in 1959. When I went, they were rebuilding the Honmaru Palace so I could see how they built parts of the castle.
Entrance is 500 yen.
Honmaru is the innermost enclosure of Japanese castle. It usually has a palace and a castle keep(donjon) called Tenshu(kaku). Some castles do not have any donjons but with a palace. Honmaru of Nagoya castle has both a donjon and a palace. While the donjon was reconstructed in 1959, palace building remained unconstructed. While many lost donjons has been reconstructed, the those of palaces has been newer phenomena. Notable cases of Palaces include Ninomaru Palace of Sasayama Castle(Hyogo prefecture) in 2000 and Homaru Palace of Saga Castle(as a Historical Museum) in 2004. Currently with huge support from Nagoya residents and castle fans, Honmaru Palace building has been under reconstruction. A part of palace will be opened on May 29th, 2013 and some towers nearby are also undergoing renovation.
Tenshu(kaku) is the Japanese castle fixture which draws huge number of tourists from all over the world. It is a main castle keep originally developed from watchtower of Central Enclosure(Honmaru). The first Tenshu for the castle was built by Nobunaga Oda in 1576, a seven-storied Azuchi Castle main keep. As time goes by Tenshu became more of the demonstration of power and wealth than for defensive function. Nagoya castle tenshu was built by the order of Iyeyasu Tokugawa in 1612. The original castle used to be the grandeur wooden castle even designated as National Treasure but it was burned down during the second world war. Current tenshu 48.27m in total height(35.85m from the castle base top) was rebuilt with reinforced-concrete in 1959. The newer tenshu is seven-storied and tries to keep the exterior of the original castle as much as they can. Tenshu of Nagoya castle is categorized as Renketsu style, joining with minor tenshu to enhance the defence. So you enter the castle from minor castle then you cross the joint corridor with a lot of defensive tricks to enter the larger tenshu.
The castle keep of Nagoya castle is seven-storied but since this is the third visit to the donjon there weren't so much particular things to see for me. What I found interesting is film-set like old Nagoya town on the third floor and the section to experience the pulling of large stone on the fifth floor. Also there is a mock shachihoko for memorial photo. On the first floor you can have a short 3D promotional film about Honmaru Palace a part of which will be opened on May 29, 2013.
From the top floor of the Nagoya castle donjon you can see not only the water moat, skyscrapers near Nagoya station and Nagoya TV tower, but mountains nearby and far away. When I visited the castle on August 25, 2012, I could find the Yoro Mountain range, Mount Ibuki, one of the most popular hiking destinations from Nagoya, and Mount Sanage, religious mountain somewhat like Mount Takao in Hachioji, Tokyo. On a clear winter day it is said you can even see Mt. Ontake, and Mount Ena from there. But unfortunately not Mount Fuji.
Umadashi is an outer fort area to enhance the defence of the castle. Ote Umadashi is the main defence for the entrance to the Honmaru area with Honmaru Palace and the castle keep(donjon). Currently Ote Umadashi area is used for the resting place and there is a kishimen noodle restaurant. Earthwork part of the umadashi is now a nice place to watch cherry blossoms during early April and the trees provide nice shade during mid-summer. The dry moat east of umadashi is noted as one of the nice viewing spot for cherry blossoms.
Some of the stonewall stones are marked to make it clear that the part was done by the particular feudal lord. The public works during Edo period was often done to weaken the economic power of the warlords formerly at the enemy side at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. It is one of the ways to appeal the contribution to the castle building project.
Iyeyasu ordered every feudal lord to build Nagoya castle naming its project as Tenkabushin, building works for the sake of the entire country something like public works. Kiyomasa Kato was assigned to build stonewall structure of the castle. Kiyomasa previously built Kumamoto Castle noted for its expertise in stonewall building. The statue curved by Shoji Ishiguro in 1979 former president of Nagoya Zokei University and currently resides in Nagoya is partly based on the old drawings. In Honmaru area of the castle such huge stone called Kiyomasa stone is placed. Unfortunately due to the construction works you cannot see the huge stone right now.
Ninomaru area of Nagoya castle is located east of the castle keep and it was formerly a site of ancient Nagoya castle built by Imagawa clan in early 16th century. Nobuhide Oda, father of Nobunaga captured the castle by feigning sickness and with his private army. Later Nobuhide made his son Nobunaga the lord of the castle. Nobunaga had been the lord of the castle until he moved to Kiyosu castle in 1555. Iyeyasu Tokugawa the first shogun of Tokugawa government decided to move the capital of Owari from Kiyosu to Nagoya so the castle was built on the remains of old Nagoya castle in 1612. In newer castle, Ninomaru area was used as the palace for retainers and the rest of the area was made into the Japanese landscape garden with some ponds and tea houses. The stone monument inscribing family strategy of alleging with the emperor is one of the remnants that the palace stood there. After the Meiji Restoration the Ninomaru Palace was demolished and at the site army barracks were built. Large parts of Japanese garden was destroyed as well and at that time some of the gardens were added. After the war Ninomaru Garden was made to the National Historical Site and in 1978 East Ninomaru Garden was rebuilt based on drawings and exavation findings. Today former site of Ninomaru Palace was used as the plaza for castle events. Ninomaru East Garden area is popular for its camelia garden, flowering in early spring.
#To find out more about Ninomaru East Garden and Ninomaru Garden also see my tips for "Parks" category of Nagoya things to do.
After getting out of the Ninomaru Tea House you will find a tower beyond the plaza. The open-field area is the former site of Ninomaru Palace. Today this plaza is used for events held in Nagoya castle. At the southeastern corner of the plaza there is a monument inscribing the family strategy of Owari Tokugawa Clan and promoting allegiance to the emperor. The tower overlooking the Ninomaru Plaza is called Southeast Tower(Tatsumi Tower).
Ofukemaru is the northwest corner of the Nagoya castle which is rarely visited unless there are special openings for tea houses, Nogi Warehouse, or Northwest Tower not usually opened to public. After passing the Fumeimon gate from the Honmaru area of the castle, you will find a neatly arranged set of stones. They are the foundation stones of the original castle donjon. Beyond the foundation stones you will find a cave like stone structure. It is the stone tomb from Danbara Kofun in Matsue, Shimane prefecture donated by a resident of Nagoya. Left of the stone tomb there are some tea houses in fenced area rarely opened to public. They are the four tea rooms of Nagoya castle. Right in front of the fenced area stands Ofukemaru Exhibition Hall used for minor-scale exibition. Left corner of the area stands the Northwest Tower, also nicknamed as Kiyosu Tower. Around the Northwest Tower there are some benches for viewing Cherry Blossoms during early April. Around the benches there is a small unnamed Japanese garden. Crossing the stone bridge of the garden you will see the old warehouse. It is Nogi House who saved a lot of historical assets of Nagoya Castle.
In Ofukemaru area, there are foundation stones of original donjon which was lost by the fire during the second world war. When the donjon was being rebuilt, the foundation stones of the original donjon was moved to the present place. Current donjon built with reinforced concrete was completed in 1959.
In Ofukemaru area of Nagoya castle, there is an ancient stone tomb which predates about 1,000 years the completion of Old Nagoya castle built by Imagawa Clan during early 16th century. It was donated by Nagoya resident, Hiroyuki Hasegawa. It is said to have excavated from Danbara Kofun(ancient burial mound) in Shimane Prefecture, 500 kilometers apart from the castle. When and how the ancient stone tomb was brought into the castle area is still a mystery. In 1988 experts confirmed that the stone tomb really might have belonged to the ancient burial mounds in Shinane. Since the current Danbara Kofun site is no longer there. It is ironically the precious artifact of lost historical site.
Nogi Warehouse located in the Ofukemaru of Nagoya Castle was originally built as a military explosives warehouse constructed of plaster-covered brick sometime between 1874-80 when the third division of Tokyo Garrison(later became Nagoya Garrison), was stationed in former Nagoya castle area. The warehouse was later nicknamed as Nogi Warehouse because the war hero had lived in Nagoya between 1868-1912. During the second world war lots of Important Cultural Assets of Nagoya Castle Palace had been stored in this warehouse and it is thanks to this warehouse these priceless decorated sliding screens, and wall panels escaped from fire damage due to air raids. It is opened to public unperiodically a few times a year.