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A Tour of Japanese Castles

Nagoya Castle (Aichi Prefecture)

photo Nagoya Castle, rebuild in 1959 (Nagoya Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Nagoya City is located in the center of Japan. And situated in the center of the city is Nagoya Castle, a stately plain-type castle known for the pair of golden shachihoko (imaginary sea creatures with tiger-like heads) that grace the top of the tower. There is a saying that "Owari Nagoya is sustained by the castle," attesting to the special place it has in the hearts of Nagoya's residents and the pride they take in it. The shachihoko carvings are enormous - 2.5 meters high and weighing 1.2 tons, and today they have come to be viewed as a symbol of the city.

Nagoya Castle is known as the place where Oda Nobunaga lived in his youth. Nobunaga was one of the most powerful warring lords in the sixteenth century. The castle was subsequently rebuilt as an important defense under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu after he reunified Japan. The six-story tower (with five external levels) burned down during World War II but was reconstructed in 1959.

Tea ceremony and calligraphy sets, clothes, and other everyday items used by the Tokugawa clan, as well as a picture scroll of the Tale of Genji and other historical works of art, are on display at the Tokugawa Art Museum, which is just a short ride from the castle.

In 2005 Aichi Prefecture, of which Nagoya is the capital, will host Expo 2005. To mark the occasion, the enormous shachihoko have been taken down from the roof and will be displayed in the castle grounds from March 19 to June 19.

photo The shachihoko were taken down for the first time in 21 years. (PANA)

About one hour from the Nagakute venue of EXPO 2005 is Komaki Castle, which provided the setting for an important historic battle in which Tokugawa Ieyasu helped Nobunaga's second son Nobukatsu to fight against Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Komaki Castle was rebuilt after World War II as a copy of another castle. It is now a museum. If you have time when visiting the Expo, you should make a trip to this castle, where you can experience firsthand the setting for a battle among the greatest warlords of the Age of Civil Wars.


Nagoya Castle is 15 minutes by subway from Nagoya Station. Get off at Shiyakusho Station.