NIPPONIA No.17 June 15, 2001


Special Feature*

Feudal Atmosphere for Modern Cities
If you stroll along city streets in Japan, there's a chance you'll suddenly come across a "castle" in a surprising place. It might look real at first sight, or it might be nothing more than a phone booth with a castle-like roof on top.
Whatever the type, they're all interesting, and they might make you laugh. These two pages show how neighborhood would-be castles can add fun to life.
Written by Torikai Shin-ichi and Sanada Kuniko
Photos by Sugawara Chiyoshi and Kono Toshihiko

Old-fashioned Treats For Sale in a Citadel
"Morihachi the Castle" is in Narihira, the eastern part of a quaint and cozy district in Tokyo called Asakusa. Actually, the real name of the "castle" is O-shiro no Morihachi. It stands there, a sight to behold, in an area where many homes and shops are packed close together. The main floor is a shop selling small traditional-style cakes. The shop's name is Morihachi, and it was first established in 1933.
The shop's previous owner first got the "castle" idea after he built a gate using the design of a real castle gate. Having gone that far, why not keep going? In 1981, the store ended up looking like the main tower of a Japanese castle. There are three stories inside for the shop and residence. We asked the present owner, Mori Yaichi, to tell us about the challenges of building it.
"My Dad went to different parts of the country looking at castles, then decided to build something that would suit his fancy. He asked a local architect to design it, and a lot of trial and error followed. The roof was the most complicated part, and Dad ended up asking the advice of a traditional carpenter who had worked on the reconstruction of the roof of Nagoya Castle."
There were other problems too. For example, they wanted to install a network of bars over the windows, like in a real castle, but under Japan's Fire Services Law the bars were only allowed after more emergency doors were added. One unexpected development led to another, pushing construction costs much higher than the originally budgeted 150 million yen. And new ideas cropped up too, like spectacular paintings on the shop ceiling. It seems that it's not easy to turn a dream into reality.
Image Image Image
(1) The Morihachi shop is certainly imposing. Anyone passing by is bound to look up.
(2) Manju cakes impressed with a castle image.
(3) Mori Yaichi in his shop. The ceiling is beautifully decorated.
Eat Like a Feudal Lord in a Castle
The "Toyota Castle" was built in 1997 in the city of Toyota, Aichi Prefecture. It's made of reinforced concrete, has four levels on the outside and five floors inside, and stands next to a national highway. It's really the Toyota branch of Sapporo Kani Honke, a national chain of restaurants serving crab. The main tower rises 23 meters into the air, and like any real castle there are two golden decorativeshachihokotiles on the roof.
The city of Toyota is now world famous as the home of an automobile manufacturer. The city used to have a castle. It was owned by the Matsudaira family, the ancestors of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo (Tokyo) at the beginning of the 17th century. This is why the restaurant here was given a castle design.
Meals that contain plenty of crab are often considered to be even more of a luxury than other types of traditional cuisine in Japan. Served in this castle, the crab must surely be fit for a feudal lord.
If there were no sign, you might think the magnificent Toyota Castle was the real thing.

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