Another dawn rises on a megacity…
The last time I visited Nagoya Castle, I was in a little hurry and didn’t have time to visit the grounds themselves. That is the best part of the castle, I can now say.
Long after Nagoya Castle ceased to have significance as a center of feudal power, the grounds continue the tradition. What were once the residences of nobles and courtiers are now the office complexes of the postwar Japanese bureaucracy. Pretty much all of Aichi prefectural government is housed in the old castle grounds, in an odd moment of the past being the present. I didn’t take any pictures of the offices because there was nothing to take- a soulless sprawl of early postwar office blocs. Trust me, nothing to see.
I was here for the real history.
Nagoya has long been considered the “Middle Capital” of mainland Japan. That goes back to the founding days of the Tokugawa, when it was their directly-controlled fortress city watching over the highway between Osaka and Edo. Back then, the city had roughly 140,000 people, making it one of old Japan’s greatest cities. Nagoya, though, was important even before that. Osaka was the very last stronghold of the House Toyotomi, whom Tokugawa Ieyasu needed to destroy to control Japan. Not knowing when he would defeat Toyotomi, Ieyasu founded Nagoya Castle as a westward bulwark against them. In the end, the Toyotomi were destroyed at Osaka in 1615, in a battle Ieyasu personally fought, and was rumored to have secretly died in.
So there’s a lot of history here too, and it all ties together. Just as Tokyo (Edo) has been Japan’s first city since the 17th century, and Osaka the second, Nagoya has been Number Three since just as long, with only a few fluctuations in the 20th century. And it all ties back to this castle, which was an estate of the warlords besides its role as a military fortress.
During the United States’ campaign against Japanese civilians, Nagoya was heavily targeted by air assault, and the ancient castle was incinerated (among the city’s many losses), to be rebuilt at the turn of the 1960s. With study, the old estates were restored.
As one of the warlords’ directly owned capital fortresses, Nagoya Castle had many amenities, chief among them the gardens.
One of the unique centerpoints was a “dry pond”, with no water, only stone.
The castle gardens contained their own artificial nature, with little mountains, caves and grottoes.
The complicated contours of the garden apparently also hid the entrance to a secret passage through the walls, by which the lord could outwit his assailants in a siege and escape the fortress.
Honestly, those were the last pictures I took in Nagoya, despite having another day and doing plenty of wandering. I revisited all the great sites I saw the last time. Not that they wouldn’t be great to look at again, in another light.
No, simply that there’s a certain kind of simple joy to being able to experience something without constantly trying to commit it to data, always judging your world by how photogenic it is. The first time I visit something, I let my camera take it in. The second time I leave for my senses alone.
Trust me though, there’s much more to see.